Treatment Options for Malignant Mesothelioma
For people suffering from any type cancer, early treatment is essential. This is especially true with malignant Mesothelioma, a type of cancer caused by exposure primarily to asbestos products. One of the biggest problems with this disease is the length of time it takes between exposure to the hazardous materials and any development of symptoms. Treatment generally does not begin until an afflicted person notices symptoms of pain, lumps, swelling or unexplained weight loss.
An aggressive form of cancer, malignant Mesothelioma often is deadly. This type of cancer is found in thin layers of tissue that cover most internal organs. The tissue is called mesothelium. Treatment is available, and in some cases is successful, but in many cases a cure is not. This is in part due to the fact that Mesothelioma symptoms take so long to develop. By the time symptoms are noticed, the disease may already be deadly.
People are at risk of developing malignant Mesothelioma if they have ever been exposed to, or handled, certain materials that contained amounts of asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral. There are several minerals included in this class, in addition to asbestos. The other asbestos minerals are chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite and actinolite.
In addition to those persons with direct material contact, others may be affected from second hand exposure. For example, someone who works with asbestos products may bring minute fibers that cling to clothing or hair home to their family members. The fibers disperse into the air and then can be inhaled or ingested by other people.
Another factor that is noted in this type of cancer is a familiar history of Mesothelioma. It is possible that the cancer can have genetic causes within a family. Prompt attention to any type of tissue swelling, lumps or pain is an important move to make at all stages of cancer development.
Once the cancer symptoms are detected, it may be too late to stop the damage done to the body. The cancer can also spread to other organs in the body. As with all types of cancer, early detection is important to increase survival possibilities. The delay in detection of Mesothelioma symptoms contributes to the poor prognosis for survival.
Treatment Options for Malignant Mesothelioma
Once the symptoms are detected and the affected person seeks medical attention, treatment options are available. The type of treatment varies, according to the extent of damage, and other factors like the patient’s health, age and stage of Mesothelioma. The most aggressive treatments may be used during the earliest stages of cancer. When aggressive therapies are offered, they may include drastic measures like extrapleural pneumonectomy, the removal of an entire lung, the pericardium, pleura and diaphragm.
There are several possibilities for medical treatment of malignant Mesothelioma. These include traditional cancer treatment approaches, including:
- Surgery – Surgical removal of all or parts of the affecting organs, also including portions of any adjacent organs that may show signs of cancerous cells. With malignant Mesothelioma, this involves the pleura, peritoneum or pericardium.
- Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy may be used in conjunction with surgery, to ensure that any leftover cancerous cells are destroyed. Chemotherapy kills fast growing cancer cells throughout the body.
- Radiation – Radiation therapy is used in conjunction with and after other main treatments like surgery or chemotherapy. It will shrink tumors and prevents cancerous cells from spreading again.
Treatment for malignant Mesothelioma is expensive, but there is some financial assistance available to help offset costs for treatment, travel and lodging. There are Mesothelioma funds available and other grants may be applied for to help with expenses of treatment. Unfortunately, many insurance companies may not cover costs related to diagnosis, clinical trials or experimental therapy treatments.
Additional treatments may include biologic and targeted therapy. Participation in clinical trials is another option. When clinical trials are proven successful, those therapies become standard use, so by participating in the trials, you may get a jump on treatment success.
Treatment & Survival Rates
Treatment and survival rates always are best when the cancer is discovered early. Unfortunately, with malignant Mesothelioma, discovery more often is very late in the progression of this disease. It could be as much as 50 years after exposure to asbestos that the damage is discovered when symptoms finally appear. For this reason, the survival rate for malignant Mesothelioma is devastatingly low.
When treatment involves removal of the affected tissues, survival rates are higher. Unknown factors include survival rates for persons participating in clinical trials. If those trials result in better treatments, the participants obviously would benefit from that experience. Overall, treatment success and survival rates for people suffering from malignant Mesothelioma are rather limited. Most doctors involved in cancer treatment use a 5 year survival rate for comparison of treatment methods. This rate reflects the percentage of people who survive for at least 5 years following diagnosis with their cancer. Many subjects live longer, and many do not make it that far. Without treatment, survival rates are minimal.
Data from a National Cancer Center program shows a relative 5-year survival rate for persons with malignant Mesothelioma to be between 5% and 10%. Positive variations occurred in patients who were diagnosed at younger ages. Treatment methods are most successful when they are started as early as possible. Survival rates vary by stage of the cancer, from 12 to 21 months average survival time. People who have Mesothelioma cancers that can be operated on generally survive longer than when the cancer has spread too far to be removed.
Getting treatment for malignant Mesothelioma is essential if the person desires to live longer. Some treatments extend an already short life expectancy due to this cancer. Other more aggressive treatments can completely eradicate the cancerous cells and that person would have a far greater chance of living to their normal lifetime expectancy.
Malignant Mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure has already taken the lives of over 37,000 persons between the years of 1999 and 2013. Since millions of persons were exposed to products containing asbestos materials in the mid-20th Century, it is expected that many of those people may develop Mesothelioma symptoms and cancer in the next several decades. Early treatment is always the best option for anyone with a history of exposure to asbestos, those who live with persons who have worked with asbestos materials and others who develop typical cancer symptoms.