Sarcomatoid Mesothelioma Cancer
If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with sarcomatoid mesothelioma, you are probably wondering what this means and how you can best make a plan for treatment and living the best life possible with the time you have left.
Sadly, sarcomatoid mesothelioma is the hardest kind of mesothelioma to treat, as the cells are most resistant to all known types of therapy. However, knowing what you’re up against, how the disease works, and what your medical visits will be like from here on out is an excellent way to feel prepared and make the most informed decisions. Treatment will depend largely on the stage of your cancer and your overall health up to this point, but it also depends on knowing about your disease and the options available to you.
Today we will discuss this type of cancer, what causes it, some of the symptoms typically associated with it and the various therapeutic options available today to help you manage pain and extend your life. Note that while diagnosis is challenging for this disease, there are some telling hints, and with the right physicians at your side, you should be able to make the best of it.
What Is Sarcomatoid Mesothelioma?
Sarcomatoid mesothelioma is a cancer that affects the tissue surrounding certain organs, including the lungs, heart, stomach, genitals and genital abdominal cavity. While most types of mesothelioma affect the lining tissue itself – referred to as epithelial mesothelioma – sarcomatoid mesothelioma affects the cells that form connective tissue.
These connective cells are elongated, forming a crisscrossing pattern that results in a tumor-like mass, which is referred to as a histiocytoma. While epithelial cells may be present in small quantities in the tumorous mass, in order for you to be diagnosed with sarcomatoid mesothelioma, the mass must be composed of at least 90 percent sarcomatoid cells.
Sarcomatoid is the rarest form of mesothelioma, comprising only about 10-15 percent of cases. Roughly 50 percent of cases are epithelial, while the remaining 30-35 percent are biphasic, meaning both sarcomatoid and epithelial cells are present in the cancerous growths. All types of mesothelioma are linked to asbestos exposure, and it is crucial that you understand this connection in order to watch out for symptoms and make the best possible treatment plan.
Mesothelioma and Asbestos
Asbestos is a naturally occurring fiber that has been used in a variety of industrial applications since the late 1800s, though it was most heavily used from the post-WWII era to the mid-1970s. The fibers are long and microscopically thin, and are extremely friable, meaning they break very easily when jostled. Because they are so small, they also become airborne easily, where they are inhaled and lodge in the lining of the lungs. They may also be accidentally swallowed. Their presence in the body causes damage and inflammation over time, and eventually leads to cancer.
However, it takes a very long time for the presence of asbestos particles to make themselves known in the form of symptoms.
Sarcomatoid Mesothelioma Symptoms
The time between exposure to asbestos and symptoms developing is called the latency period. Typically this period is between 20 and 50 years, though it may be longer or shorter depending on the level and frequency of exposure. Because the gap between initial exposure and when symptoms appear is so long, patients are often surprised to discover they have a type of cancer linked to asbestos. If you or a loved one suspects you may have been exposed to asbestos (or knows so), it’s very important you are aware of what the initial symptoms are so you can get diagnosed and treated more quickly.
In the initial stages of mesothelioma, symptoms are very mild, and get more severe as the disease worsens. The most common signs include shortness of breath, persistent coughing, hoarseness or wheeziness, anemia, unexplained weakness or weight loss, nausea, fatigue, coughing up blood or a feeling of pressure or fullness in the abdomen. Because mesothelioma can appear in several places, these symptoms vary in degree depending on location.
Sarcomatoid Mesothelioma Diagnosis
Diagnosis of sarcomatoid mesothelioma is tricky, as the disease may masquerade as one of several others, including epithelial mesothelioma, lung cancer and emphysema. Getting a correct diagnosis is important, however, if you are to make the best possible treatment plan, so you should allow your physicians to run all the tests they need to determine the cause of your illness.
Your doctors may use a variety of test methods to figure out what disease you are suffering from, including CT and PET scans, which generate images of the inside of your body, as well as discussing your specific symptoms and drawing blood for tests.
Sarcomatoid Mesothelioma Stages
Mesothelioma progresses through relatively predictable stages. At each stage, the disease becomes harder to treat and the prognosis is worse. Nevertheless, though it may be hard to think about the progression of the disease, it’s very important to know what the stages are so you can best select treatment options.
- Stage 1: In the first stage of sarcomatoid mesothelioma, the tumor or cancerous tissue is very localized. It has not yet spread to lymph nodes or other organs, and many people at this point are not aware they have cancer. The cancer is much more responsive to surgery at this stage, and if caught quickly, patients may even go into full remission.
- Stage 2: At this stage, surgery becomes harder. The cancer has typically spread from the lining tissue to the lung or other organ, and may be affecting lymph nodes.
- Stage 3: In stage 3, the cancer has typically spread to fully invade a region of the body, usually including the lining of the affected organ, the organ itself, the lymph nodes and the chest wall. Surgery is usually no longer an option at this point.
- Stage 4: Now the cancer has spread to multiple regions, is impossible to remove and life expectancy is short.
Sarcomatoid Mesothelioma Prognosis
Unfortunately, sarcomatoid mesothelioma is very resistant to treatment. If you have biphasic mesothelioma, meaning a combination of epithelial and sarcomatoid, you may have more luck keeping the disease at bay, but probably not by much. Typically patients who are diagnosed with this disease have less than a year to live, and it is best to get your affairs in order. Most treatments are palliative, helping you mitigate the pain and live the best possible life you have left.
Sarcomatoid Mesothelioma Treatments and Alternative Treatments
With sarcomatoid mesothelioma, there are a few therapeutic options that may extend your life slightly or make you more comfortable. Immunotherapy involves ramping up your own immune system, while gene therapy is an experimental treatment that may genetically alter your cancer. Supplements like Spirulina and cannabis oil also both have good track records for staving off tumor growth and minimizing pain.
Sarcomatoid Mesothelioma Survival Rate
Survival rates for mesothelioma are fairly grim. Only about 40 percent of patients will make it past the first year after diagnosis, while only 20 make it past two years. By year three, the rate is down to 8 percent, and by five years only a handful of patients survive. Sarcomatoid mesothelioma rates are, unfortunately, even worse. If you have been diagnosed with this disease, you should work to get your affairs in order quickly and focus only on enjoying the time you have left with friends and family.
The good news is that only 10 to 20 percent of mesotheliomas are composed of sarcomatoid cells, which means if you have received a basic mesothelioma diagnosis and haven’t yet been diagnosed with sarcomatoid, you may have longer to live.
A cancer diagnosis of any type can be extremely frightening, so it’s important to learn all you can as soon as possible. We would love to help you, so please feel free to get in touch with questions, concerns or ways we can help.