Receiving a diagnosis of malignant pleural mesothelioma is bound to be a frightening time for both the victim and his or her family. In the aftermath of this difficult news, one of the most important things to do is learn about mesothelioma—it’s causes, treatment options and prognosis.
Mesothelioma is a rare but life-threatening type of cancer. Pleural mesothelioma affects the protective lining around the lungs and chest wall, called the pleura, and is not to be confused with the much more common cancer of the lungs.
By becoming educated about the disease, victims of mesothelioma may regain some sense of control and better plan for the future. The following article is designed to provide information about mesothelioma, for anyone experiencing or anticipating a diagnosis.
1. Mesothelioma is directly linked with exposure to asbestos.
Asbestos exposure is the number one cause of malignant pleural mesothelioma, as well as peritoneal mesothelioma—a similar and equally serious diagnosis. Asbestos enters the body either through inhalation or ingestion, causing damage to the affected internal organs.
Most victims of mesothelioma came into contact with asbestos at work, making it one of the most prominent occupational hazards of the 20th century. The EPA banned its use in 1989, but only after millions of people had been exposed to the dangerous carcinogen. Some of the jobs most likely to have involved regular contact with asbestos include navy shipman, auto mechanic and construction worker.
2. Treatment for mesothelioma is most effective when begun early.
Treatment options for malignant pleural mesothelioma include radiation, surgery and chemotherapy. Regardless of which treatment plan is selected, early detection is vital for recovery. Late-stage mesothelioma is almost always fatal.
Mesothelioma is considered an especially dangerous form of cancer, because its symptomatology closely imitates many other conditions—among these, seasonal allergies or “hay fever” and the common cold. Many people do not recognize the signs of mesothelioma until it is too late.
3. The prognosis of mesothelioma may depend on numerous additional factors.
The likelihood of successful treatment for malignant pleural mesothelioma can be dependent on other risk factors, especially whether or not the person is a smoker. Cigarette smoking greatly increases the likelihood of developing mesothelioma in someone who has been exposed to asbestos.
Additionally, a patient’s mesothelioma prognosis is likely to be affected by his or her age. Those who are diagnosed under the age of 45 have a better chance of living five years or longer than those who are older at the time of diagnosis.
Overall health is another factor that often influences the treatment outcome of patients with mesothelioma. The better health a person is in, prior to developing the disease, the longer his or her life expectancy is likely to be. Additionally, certain health concerns can exclude treatment options, further limiting the potential for their success.