For any patient, being told they’ve been diagnosed with any type of cancer is a difficult, life-changing experience. Getting a malignant mesothelioma diagnosis can be particularly hard to bear, partly because it is still comparatively rare, but mostly because it can be a capricious cancer due to its unpredictable and hard-hitting nature. This unpredictability, coupled with its aggressive character and long period of dormancy, makes it difficult for doctors to provide consistently predictable progress.
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Mesothelioma is a cancer that results from mostly long-term exposure to asbestos fibers. It has different versions which affect various parts of the body. It’s not always easy for healthcare providers to give an early enough diagnosis to catch and treat the disease in time for a positive prognosis.
As with all types of cancer, each individual case is unique and a patient’s longevity is determined by several different factors. Early detection is perhaps the most important factor of all. Furthermore, the type of mesothelioma and where it is found in the patient’s body also weigh heavily on how well – and how long – someone will live after treatment begins.
Generally, the earlier a diagnosis is made the better the chances are for a mesothelioma patient to get effective treatment and to live longer. This is of course true in all cancer cases, but getting a positive mesothelioma prognosis is usually more unpredictable because there are several variable factors involved.
Different Strains of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma has several different strains, each of which affects different parts of the body. The most commonly diagnosed mesothelioma is the type known as pleural mesothelioma. This type of mesothelioma affects the pleura, the lining of the lungs and internal chest wall. Once this strain gets severe, it can expand past the chest wall and into other organs, such as the abdomen and heart.
The other major strain is called peritoneal mesothelioma; it affects the lining of the abdominal cavity (peritoneum) and can damage major organs there. Asbestos typically reaches the peritoneum area via ingestion or inhalation. Asbestos fiber are almost impossible to expel once they get caught in the peritoneum area of the body.
Other areas which are susceptible to mesothelioma are the pericardium, which is the sac which surrounds the heart, and the tunica vaginalis, which surrounds the testes. Pericardial mesothelioma, although, rare, cause a substantial amount of damage to the pericardial lining of the heart. As of today, pericardial mesothelioma represents only 10% of the total mesothelioma cases.
The most positive prognosis of mesothelioma occurs in patients with the pleural strain. It’s the most common type of mesothelioma and can be treated due to its easily accessible location: the lining of the lungs.
Mesothelioma Cell Types
There are three cell types which are associated with mesothelioma cancer. The most common is the epithelioid mesothelioma; it occurs in between 50 and 60% of all diagnosis and it is the most responsive to medical treatment. These cells, when viewed through a microscope, appear stretched out.
The second most common cell type is biphasic mesothelioma; this cell type combines genetic characteristics of epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells and occurs in 30 to 40% of mesothelioma cases. The rarest cell type, sarcomatoid, looks like fibers and appears only in about 10-20% of all cases.
Determining Factors for Mesothelioma Prognosis
There are several determining factors that will play a part in a patient’s prognosis, including the following:
#1- How Soon Mesothelioma is Detected
A positive prognosis, a physician’s estimate on how long and how well a patient will live with mesothelioma, depends on how soon this type of cancer is detected. If caught early enough, some patients can live for several years depending on what stage the cancer is and where it is located. Again, patients with pleural mesothelioma usually stand a better chance of living longer because of the cancer’s easier-to-treat location.
As aforementioned, mesothelioma lies dormant for long periods of time and eludes quick diagnosis. Symptoms of mesothelioma can take up to 50 years to surface. It’s also hard to detect because the process of finding its presence is a matter of finding out what disease it’s not rather than what it is.
Mesothelioma symptoms can often be confused for less serious health issues, especially respiratory illnesses such as the common cold, pneumonia, or influenza. In fact, many victims will contract pneumonia which even further confuses a proper diagnosis.
By the time a doctor realizes that a patient has developed asbestos cancer, it is usually already in Stage 3 of development due to its long latency period. This means that even if a patient asks about his or her prognosis, doctors can only give educated guesses, not definitive answers.
#3- Patient Health
The last determining factor is how young and how fit the patient is at the time of the initial diagnosis. Generally, a 30-year-old patient who doesn’t smoke, exercises regularly, and is in good physical and emotional health has better longevity odds than an older patient who smokes and is in poor physical condition. However, keep in mind that mesothelioma has intrinsic issues that defy easy diagnosis. As previously mentioned, its symptoms can be confused for common respiratory ailments.
Furthermore, mesothelioma is still rare even though more cases are diagnosed each year, and its characteristics are incredibly variable. Some patients might look as if they have been given a death sentence and then rally due to successful treatment. Others might look extremely healthy during one visit to their doctor or a specialist, only to succumb within a short period of time to a fast metastasis of the cancer when it spreads from its original location to other parts of the body.
Remember to fill out our from to get your free Financial Compensation Packet, with information on top asbestos and mesothelioma lawyers in your area. Keep in mind that if you have mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, or asbestosis, you may be eligible for considerable compensation. For additional assistance, contact us at 800-793-4540.
Page Reviewed and Edited by Mesothelioma Attorney Paul Danziger
Paul Danziger grew up in Houston, Texas and earned a law degree from Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago. For over 25 years years he has focused on representing mesothelioma cancer victims and others hurt by asbestos exposure. Paul and his law firm have represented thousands of people diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer, recovering hundreds of millions of dollars for injured clients. Every client is extremely important to Paul and he will take every call from clients who want to speak with him. Paul and his law firm handle mesothelioma cases throughout the United States.