Mesothelioma Prognosis The science of recovering lives
A whopping 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma is on the rise in United States of America. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer and it is an aftereffect of the asbestos exposure. The cancerous cells tend to destroy the mesothelium, which is a protective sac that holds the internal organs of the body. Initially, pleura or peritoneum are affected and then it spreads to the other parts of the body. It is a fatal disease and the survival time of the victim is almost one year from the time of diagnosis depending on the treatment and other contributing factors.
What is mesothelioma prognosis?
Prognosis for mesothelioma is solely dependent on the merit of diagnosis and the treatment. If treatment is provided with much delay then the survival chance of the victim grows slimmer. Then again, survivability depends heavily on factors like treatment, type of mesothelioma as well as patients health and morale. The stage of the disease during diagnosis is the most crucial factor that decides the prognosis and the minimum survival expectancy of the victim. But disappointingly, mesothelioma unlike other cancers is somewhat difficult to stage. This is because the symptoms of mesothelioma are non-specific due to which the cells are already matured at the time of diagnosis.
What are the determining factors that lead to prognosis?
The early detection of the disease is imperative for pursuing any kind of treatment. The location and size of the cancer, response of the cancer to the treatment, the extent to which the cancer has spread, what impression does the cells give under the microscope and the patients age are some of the contributing factors that determine prognosis. It should be pointed out that diagnosis of the disease is not a childs play. Further more it becomes all the very more difficult because of the deceptive nature of the subtle symptoms of mesothelioma. Like for example, if you are coughing and you might never know that you have contracted the disease unless and until your doctor clarifies it all by providing a mesothelioma prognosis.
Amongst the staging systems the oldest of them all is the Butchart system, based on the extent of mass, primary tumor and segregates the cancer into four stages. The TNM system is a more recent one while the Brigham system is the latest. It uses respectability and lymph node involvement for staging mesothelioma. The traditional kinds of treatments are also prevalent in case of malignant mesothelioma. Radiation therapy exercises high-energy X-rays to eradicate cancer cells while chemotherapy does it through use of drugs. Immunotherapy helps to strengthen the immune system; photodynamic therapy uses light energy while the genetic therapy resurrects the inherent genetic defects of the patient to fight the disease.
The process of removing fluid from the chest is known as thoracentesis while fluid reduction from the abdomen is known as paracentesis. Conventional surgeries and effective drugs like L-NDDP or Plater, Endostatin and Lovastatin somewhat come to the rescue of the victims of mesothelioma. The surgical removal of a part of the chest or the abdominal lining is called pleurotomy and if the lung is removed, then the operation will be termed as pneumonectomy.
Of all the cancers caused by asbestos dust (mesothelioma), pericardial mesothelioma is the most rare, accounting for a fraction of all cases (5%). It is a cancer that grows on the pericardium (the lining of the heart). This is a delicate ‘film’, and any infection on the pericardium can have deadly consequences.
Once an individual has been diagnosed with pericardial mesothelioma they are offered three different treatment options. These are radiation, surgery and chemotherapy. Pericardial mesothelioma is extremely difficult to treat (due to the intricacies involved in removing the tumors from the pericardium), and a patient’s chances of survival are slim. All three methods have a poor success rate mainly due to the fact that pericardial mesothelioma is detected in the mature stages of development. (The reason for this is because in the early stages of the cancer the symptoms resemble those of diseases such as pneumonia). The prognosis for a patient undergoing treatment at this point (mature stage) is usually less than a year.
Before treatment, the patient requires a doctor’s evaluation in order to determine which of the three treatments are suitable for him/her. Details such as age, weight, medical history, and general well-being are considered prior to the commencement of treatment. So, how do you treat pericardial mesothelioma ?
Radiation – As with all cancer treatments that use this method, large doses of radiation are used to kill the cancerous cells on the pericardium. The downside to radiation treatment is that not only are you killing off the cancerous cells, but you are also damaging the vital organs in close proximity to the heart, namely the lungs. The heart also gets damaged (due to the large doses of radiation).
Surgery – We can break this down into two parts; aggressive surgery and palliative procedures. Aggressive surgery involves the removal of the cancerous cell. Since these are very close to the heart and lungs, this makes it an extremely precarious procedure and one that requires an extremely skilled surgeon.
Palliative procedures are used in the latest of stages of pericardial mesothelioma and serve the sole purpose of reducing the symptoms. Usually at this stage the cancer is practically incurable.
Chemotherapy – This is the most widely-used of cancer therapies which involves the use of drugs to kill the cancerous cells. Unfortunately, the majority of drugs used have a low success rate with pericardial mesothelioma. Research is being conducted to come up with a cocktail of drugs that have a more favorable outcome.
There does exist another form of treatment which involves using all three aforementioned treatment options. It is known as Dual Therapy. Surgery is used to remove the cancerous cells, then chemotherapy and radiation are used to kill the remaining cells. The success rate for this method is higher than just using radiation, surgery or chemotherapy alone, but can still be dangerous.
What is pericardial mesothelioma ?
It is a cancer caused by the inhalation of asbestos dust, and is the most rare of mesothelioma cancers. It accounts for about 5% of all cases.
Its period of latency (time it takes for the symptoms to show) is approximately 30-50 years. Symptoms are similar to other diseases such as pneumonia whilst in the early stages. This makes it rather difficult to diagnose and treat.
What are the treatment options for pericardial mesothelioma ?
There are three options available for an individual diagnosed with this cancer; surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. A patient will first require a doctor’s evaluation to determine which treatment option is suitable for him.
What are my chances of survival from pericardial mesothelioma ?
It is important to stress that once you start experiencing the symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma (shortness of breath, chest pains, coughing up blood, and palpitations) you should immediately seek specialized help.
The prognosis of pericardial mesothelioma depends largely on how early the cancer is detected. Should you be diagnosed in the later stages of development, your chances of survival could be very slim (usually a few months).
Can you go through each of the treatment options ?
Radiation – large doses of radiation are used to kill the cancerous cells on the pericardium. The disadvantage of using radiation to treat pericardial mesothelioma is that the vital organs close to the heart are also being damaged.
Surgery – this can be divided into two parts; aggressive surgery & palliative procedures. Aggressive surgery involves the removal of the cancerous cells from the pericardium. This procedure is only performed by an extremely skilled surgeon as the cells are usually located in close proximity to the heart and lungs. Any small mishap can have a fatal outcome.
Palliative procedures are used in the latest stages of pericardial mesothelioma. They serve the sole purpose of relieving the symptoms since the cancer is almost incurable at this stage.
Chemotherapy – drugs are used to kill the cancerous cells. Unfortunately, the majority of drugs used to treat pericardial mesothelioma have an extremely low success rate. Pharmaceutical companies are conducting trials to come up with the right combination of drugs that can produce better results for treating pericardial mesothelioma.
You also have dual therapy which is just a combination of the three methods. Cancerous cells are removed by means of surgery, then the remaining cells are killed off by radiation and chemotherapy. Although still dangerous, dual therapy has demonstrated a higher success rate than using the three individual methods alone.