Military veterans comprise the largest occupational group to be impacted by asbestos toxicity and its related medical conditions—including a fatal form of cancer known as mesothelioma.
The following six-part series is dedicated to them.
A highly hazardous carcinogen, or cancer-causing agent-asbestos was used in countless construction projects of every U.S. Military branch, with a particularly high incidence of usage within the U.S. Navy.
Decades after asbestos-containing materials were banned by the military across the board, thousands of vets have been diagnosed with a range of exposure-linked illnesses, incurring millions of dollars in medical costs and an immeasurable amount of pain and grief for both the service men and women affected and the military families forced to endure the tragedy along with them.
In PART FOUR, we’ll focus on the most advanced stage of mesothelioma – considered universally terminal. Beyond helping you understand the grave prognosis attached to this advanced form of cancer, we’ll also examine the medical treatment protocols for cases of such condition.
By the time they have reached stage 4 mesothelioma, patients are usually considered to have only a few months left. It is shocking for many people to find out just how many of the 3000-plus victims diagnosed annually do not even realize that they are sick until they are already at this advanced point in the cancer’s progression. For those individuals and their families, coping with the shock of the news and its grave prognosis is a difficult ordeal, marked by a myriad of emotions – not least of all, grief.
Months Left to Live
When a seemingly healthy person is suddenly diagnosed with the most advanced stage of an aggressive cancer, it is hard for the patient – as well as his or her loved ones – not to wonder how and why. The sad truth is that, because of its long latency period and seemingly innocuous early symptoms, it is actually quite easy to receive multiple misdiagnoses before finally getting a conclusive answer of stage 4 mesothelioma. And even more sadly, it happens to veteran victims all the time.
The reason for the grave mesothelioma life expectancy given at stage 4 is based in the manner that the cancer progresses. By its late stages, malignant cells have metastasized – or spread throughout the body – affecting even distant organs like the brain and spine. This process usually occurs via the bloodstream, which, once infected with cancer cells, carries them to other parts of the body – thus rendering the cancer inoperable and universally fatal.
Palliative Care for Terminal Mesothelioma
At stage 4, mesothelioma is not eligible for “curative” treatment measures, which are intended to produce a state of remission. Instead, the only available treatment for mesothelioma in its most advanced stage is considered palliative in nature.
Palliative care is often administered in a hospice setting, or sometimes even in the patient’s own home. Its purpose is not to eradicate or slow the growth of cancer cells but solely to increase patient comfort and decrease pain for the duration of the time he or she has left.
Types of palliative treatment for those with stage 4 mesothelioma range from traditional modalities like chemo and radiation therapy to far less invasive methods, such as the administration of pain medication or use of a fan to help ease difficulty in breathing. In patients affected by pleural effusion, doctors may recommend a procedure to drain some of the fluid around the lungs in order to aid lung function and also decrease pain and discomfort.