Mesothelioma and Life Expectancy: What to Know Post-Diagnosis

There are many complex factors affecting mesothelioma and life expectancy, making an accurate prognosis a somewhat complicated endeavor. Understanding what mesothelioma is and how it affects the body is important in order to understand what to expect after receiving a medical diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a rare and severe type of cancer that develops after a toxic carcinogen called asbestos enters the body through either ingestion or inhalation. There are two most common types of mesothelioma connected with asbestos: peritoneal and pleural mesothelioma. The former affects the lining of the abdominal cavity, and the latter affects the lining of the lungs. Both types of the disease are generally considered terminal, but mesothelioma and life expectancy may be affected by a number of contingencies.

Early Detection is Key

The most important factor in a mesothelioma case is when the disease was diagnosed—more specifically, how far advanced it is by the time doctors catch it. Mesothelioma is very often difficult to detect, a fact attributable to its ambiguous and seemingly benign early symptoms. Mesothelioma and life expectancy are directly linked with those first cues to seek medical consultation.

Once the disease has been diagnosed, treatment can begin. Almost without exception, treatment that is begun early has better results than treatment that is begun in the more advanced stages.

Lifestyle Choices Matter

Both the initial prognosis and continuing outlook of mesothelioma is affected by the overall health of the patient. Health is affected by a number of lifestyle choices, including nutrition. Once diagnosed, it is of vital importance that patients keep their weight up. Nutrition should be tailored to maintain weight through healthy eating.

Both pre- and post-diagnosis, smoking can also be a major influence on the development of mesothelioma. It is important to note that cigarette smoke is not attributed as a cause of mesothelioma. It does, however, have a bearing on mesothelioma and life expectancy; exposure to both cigarette smoke and asbestos together also increases the likelihood that lung cancers will develop.

Of course, for anyone living with mesothelioma, living as healthfully as possible is perhaps the best action for improving quality of life.

Treatment Options and Success Rates are Limited

It is important to know that mesothelioma is considered a particularly harsh type of cancer and that treatment is designed to prolong life, not to cure the disease. Chemotherapy, radiation and surgery are all traditional treatment options.

Many patients also explore alternative treatments—examples include acupuncture and relaxation training. While none of these non-traditional methods have been proven to eliminate the disease, they have shown some effectiveness in controlling it.

While most cases receive less-than-favorable long-term survival odds, there have been exceptions to the common medical thinking about mesothelioma and life expectancy. Notable survivors have lived with the disease for several years. Additionally, new research is ongoing, and treatment advances are occurring all the time. As medical science develops, the future of how mesothelioma is treated could change in coming years.