Mesothelioma is a type of aggressive cancer that affects the membrane that lines the abdomen and the lungs. This is the most serious of the diseases that are related to asbestos. Being exposed to asbestos is the primary risk factor and cause of this cancer.
At this time, mesothelioma has no cure but chemotherapy and surgery can assist in both improving the prognosis and increasing the life expectancy.
According to Mesothelioma.com, this cancer is rather rare and only 2,500 – 3,000 people being diagnosed in the US each year. Some of the symptoms are blood in the fluid of the lung, effusions of the abdomen and chest, chronic cough, and chest pains.
Even though there is no cure for this type of cancer, there are treatments. Surgery, chemotherapy and even radiation therapy have all been used as treatments. Right now, the only chemotherapy regimen that is approved by the FDA is a combination of cisplatin and Alimta®. There are clinical trials being conducted to find out if other treatments might work. The main drugs being tested are Onconase® and gemcitabine.
Cancer survival rates are typically given in what is called the 5 year survival rate. This rate is indicative how many patients who remain alive after being diagnosed 5 years prior. Right now, Mesothelioma.com puts that rate at 10%. While this number is one that is disappointing, it does represent an improvement from only 10 years ago and compared to 20 – 30 years ago, it is a marked improvement.
Currently, the 1 year survival rate for people with mesothelioma is at around 40%. This number has also increased over the last 10 years. That being said, according to the American Cancer Society, the average rate for survival is only 10 – 11 months.
Improving the Prognosis
Over the past decade, the plight of patients suffering from mesothelioma has garnered more attention and as a result, more research money has been spent funding the study of this cancer and in the quest for new drugs and treatments that can help to provide a hope for an improved prognosis for patients who are afflicted with this cancer.
New tests are being developed that will be able to diagnose Mesothelioma faster. For example, there is a simple blood test called the Mesomark® assay. This test will measure the rates of SMRP that are in the blood. SMRP is a biomarker that is released by Mesothelioma cells and it can be seen in the blood years before any symptoms appear and mesothelioma is diagnosed.
There are also experimental treatments such as: photodynamic therapy, gene therapy and immunotherapy that are being tested of potential options for treatment.
Each step in this field improves the prognosis and gives patients more hope for the future.