Calculating Mesothelioma Prognosis
Being diagnosed with mesothelioma can be a traumatic experience. To face one's own mortality in such concrete terms can be difficult to grasp emotionally and psychologically. Unfortunately, in the case of mesothelioma, it is difficult for oncologists to give a definitive answer concerning a patient’s prognosis. Cancer is an unpredictable malady and the long latency periods associated with mesothelioma often inhibit an early diagnosis.
The American Cancer Society notes that the average survival times following diagnosis is between 4 and 18 months. Approximately one out of ten mesothelioma patients lives at least five years after being diagnosed. These numbers can hopefully improve as diagnosis and treatment methods continue to advance.
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Several factors are considered when a doctor issues a prognosis concerning a patient’s diagnosis of mesothelioma. These elements are detailed below:
- Types of mesothelioma – Mesothelioma can be classified by three types, the most common of which is epithelial, accounting for about 50 percent of all cases. Sarcomatoid mesothelioma is diagnosed in approximately 15 percent of patients, and 35 percent have a variant mixture of the disease, known as biphasic. Because epithelial is the most frequent form of the disease there is a greater opportunity to study it, thus giving it the highest survival rate.
- Location of the cancer – The location of the disease is also critical to determining prognosis. Pleural mesothelioma attacks the lining of the lung. It is responsible for eighty percent of all mesothelioma cases, and has the best rate of survival. Peritoneal mesothelioma, found in the abdomen, strikes 10 to 15 percent of mesothelioma victims. This and other forms of mesothelioma, including pericardial and testicular, are much rarer and thus difficult to treat.
- Stage of mesothelioma – The prognosis for mesothelioma cancer is largely contingent on the progression of the disease. Naturally, cancer that is detected earlier has a higher chance of success. However, because mesothelioma can lay latent in the body, symptoms may not show until it has reached stage III or IV. Mesothelioma, like many forms of cancer is diagnosed in four stages. For the most part, stage I mesothelioma is the only stage in which complete surgical resection of the malignancy is a possibility. Unfortunately, many of the symptoms of mesothelioma mimic those of other illnesses, such as the flu. This and the long latency period of the disease can lead to delay in proper diagnosis.
- How the cancer spreads – As time passes, a cancer spreads or metastasizes throughout the rest of the body, to nearby organs and lymph nodes. The extent of this metastasis will largely determine how favorable a patient’s prognosis is.
General patient health – The final determining factor is the patient's general health. Younger and stronger patients afflicted with mesothelioma on average live longer, partly due to the fact that they can endure more difficult treatments and can withstand higher doses of therapy without having other vital organs fail.
Most prognoses for cancer are given in what is known as the five-year survival rate. This indicates the number of patients who manage to survive five years after the initial diagnosis. For mesothelioma patients, that number is only 10 percent. The one-year survival rate, on the other hand, is approximately 40 percent of patients.
The American Cancer Society advises that while current statistics and survival rates can aid in providing the patient with information, each case is unique. Statistics cannot predict exactly what will happen in each individual’s case.
In the past few years, scientists and researchers have been working on new procedures to diagnose mesothelioma earlier, thus increasing the chance of survival. New chemotherapy drugs are also being developed to combat tumors without damaging other critical systems. With each day, progress is being made in the hopes that mesothelioma patients will be able to live long and productive lives.