Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
Mesothelioma is a deadly cancer caused by exposure to the human carcinogen asbestos. There is currently no known cure for the disease and patients are generally given a life expectancy of approximately 4 to 18 months after diagnosis. The prognosis and life expectancy for this disease is generally low because it is usually not detected until the cancer is in the latter stages. Only about 10 percent of mesothelioma patients will go on to live more than five years after their diagnosis. Physicians, scientists and researchers are currently working to develop methods of treatment and therapy that will enhance the patient’s prognosis.
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Currently, treatments for mesothelioma are more palliative than curative in nature. This means that these methods of treatment aim to improve the patient’s overall quality of life and well-being. This is usually reached by relieving the discomfort and pain associated with the patient’s symptoms.
Life Expectancy Influences
Like many other forms of cancer, malignant mesothelioma is diagnosed in four stages. Detection of this cancer during the earlier stages is paramount to a better prognosis and longer life expectancy. Rarely, a patient is diagnosed in the first stage, when removal of the malignancy is still possible by surgical means, allowing for the best prognosis. As the cancer develops into the later stages, the malignancy not only grows in size but also spreads to other locations in the body. In stages III and IV it is highly likely that the lymph nodes have become involved, further spreading the disease throughout the body. It is likely at this point that palliative measures will be taken, in an attempt to make the patient as comfortable as possible. The stage that the cancer is diagnosed in is directly related to the patient’s life expectancy.
The type of mesothelioma a patient is diagnosed with will also have an impact on the patient’s life expectancy. Pleural mesothelioma affects the tissues surrounding the lungs and is the most common form of the disease. Because it is more common than the other types, there is more information and extensive research as a result. This allows doctors to have more options as far as methods of treatment. Other forms of the disease include peritoneal and pericardial mesothelioma, which carry a poor prognosis as doctors don’t have the same opportunity to analyze treatments as they do in the pleural form. The type of mesothelioma with the poorest prognosis is the extremely rare form known as testicular mesothelioma.
Some other factors that can be linked to longer survival rates are:
- The patient’s ability to perform daily tasks
- A lessening of chest pain
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Normal levels of a substance called LDH, located in the blood
- Red and white blood cell counts at normal levels, as well as normal blood platelet counts
Mesothelioma is a unique cancer in that the disease’s symptoms may not be present until several decades after the initial exposure to asbestos. This extended latency period is unfortunate in that it allows the cancer to grow and spread, undetected. This is also directly related to the patient’s life expectancy, as their treatment options are not aimed at fighting the onset of the disease. The latency period and pattern of treatments associated often lend to mesothelioma’s poor life expectancy.
Statistics for mesothelioma show the average patient age to be around 60 years old, with men over the age of 55 being affected in 75 percent of all cases. The general age of mesothelioma patients is connected to their life expectancy because older patients are typically not able to undergo more aggressive treatments or posses as strong of an immune system as younger patients. This disease is largely considered an occupational disease, as patients were usually exposed in the workplace. Historically, males have possessed the jobs in which asbestos materials were located, causing them to be the predominant gender affected by this disease. However, some females develop mesothelioma through paraoccupational secondary exposure, as asbestos particles can come into the home on the hair and clothes of family members. For reasons still unclear, women tend to receive a better prognosis regarding life expectancy than men do, in regard to mesothelioma.
Prolonging Life Expectancy
With mesothelioma, new ways to improve life expectancy and patient quality of life are constantly being researched. Clinical trials bring hope to patients by testing the efficacy of new drugs and treatments. However, improving diagnosis is agreed upon by many medical professionals as a direct link to stronger prognosis and possibility for curative measures. As mesothelioma is an asymptomatic disease, overcoming the long latency period will be paramount to treating the disease and increasing life expectancy.
For those diagnosed with mesothelioma, there are actions that can be taken in an attempt to increase life expectancy. Investigating alternative therapies, becoming involved in clinical trials, improving nutrition or taking supplements to improve the immune system are all options patients can consider.
Being diagnosed with mesothelioma can be a frightening experience and sometimes difficult for patients to process. Typical prognosis for this form of cancer can be bleak; however, new research, medicines and treatment options all combine to make the future of mesothelioma diagnosis a more positive one.