According to the American Cancer Society, around 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year in the U.S. The incidence rate of new cases has gone down in recent years compared to the time between the 1970s to the early 1990s, primarily due to imposed regulations and declining usage of asbestos.
The majority of the diagnosed mesothelioma cases were men, aged 45 and above, according to a study published in F1000 Research. The probable reason behind the statistical figures is work-related exposure to asbestos, an identified significant risk factor for this rare type of cancer.
How Mesothelioma Is Diagnosed
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that occurs at the lining of internal organs, such as the lungs and abdomen. However, its rarity compared to other types of cancer does not mean it is not fatal or has a better outlook. That is because physicians often misdiagnose the disease for other conditions with similar symptoms. Shortness of breath, persistent coughs, and chest pains look identical to the symptoms of lung cancer.
Consult a doctor if you have warning signs that indicate mesothelioma, especially if you have previous asbestos exposure. They will conduct a physical exam and order imaging scans, including chest x-rays and C.T. scans, to check for abnormalities.
If you have fluid buildup possibly related to mesothelioma, your doctor will take a sample to examine for cancer cells.
Early Diagnosis Improves Prognosis
Like other cancer types, diagnosing mesothelioma at its early stages is essential in improving a person’s chances of recovery. Moreover, a diagnosed patient will have more options for treating such an aggressive disease.
The prognosis for mesothelioma is often bleak, especially when diagnosed late. At advanced stages, the disease progresses more quickly, and the survival rate stands at around 10%. Apart from the extent of the cancer and size of the tumor, other factors that can impact prognosis are as follows:
- General health, including the condition of heart and lungs
- Type of mesothelioma cells
- Amount of fluid in the chest or abdomen
- Whether the cancer was recently diagnosed or has recurred
For instance, younger, healthier patients are more likely to survive from mesothelioma, especially when they received treatments before the malignancy affected nearby tissues and organs.
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Treatment for Mesothelioma
Fortunately, mesothelioma is treatable. However, it does not have a cure. Diagnosed patients at early stages typically have a better prognosis because of available treatments that prevent the spread of the disease. Where possible, your doctor will recommend multiple approaches to address your cancer. Your treatment plan may include the following:
Surgical procedures have different treatment goals. In many cases, it aims to prevent cancer from spreading by removing as much malignant tissue as possible. It also helps to alleviate mesothelioma-related symptoms, such as pain and difficulty of breathing.
As a cancer treatment, radiation therapy makes use of high-energy x-rays, given either externally or internally. This procedure, often applied after surgery, aims to eliminate cancer cells and stop them from growing. At advanced cancer stages where surgery is not feasible, it can relieve symptoms.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to treat mesothelioma, but the combination will depend on the cancer stage. These drugs approved for treatment hinder the growth of cancerous cells by killing them or preventing their reproduction. Your doctor will decide between systemic and regional chemotherapy as the more effective method.
Ask your doctor about newer approaches in treating mesothelioma. Targeted therapy uses drugs that attack specific vulnerabilities in cancer cells, resulting in less harm to healthy cells than chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Consider immunotherapy and clinical trials if you want to try other treatment methods.
Causes of Mesothelioma
The primary risk factor for mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Most people with mesothelioma have worked with or in places with asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral with microscopic fibers. When inhaled or swallowed, it irritates the lining that may lead to mesothelioma, often decades after being exposed. People living with asbestos-exposed workers also have an increased risk of developing the fatal disease.
Other possible causes of mesothelioma include zeolites, radiation therapy to the chest, and genetic predisposition.
How an Attorney Can Help You
If you diagnosed with mesothelioma this year, know that you can recover damages from liable parties, especially if the disease was due to occupation-related asbestos exposure. If determined as a personal injury case, you or your loved one will receive compensation, including medical expenses, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and other losses.
Let the lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm help you in exploring your legal options. They will also provide representation should your case go to trial. To get started, reach out at (800) 307-3113.