The prognosis of mesothelioma can be influenced by various factors, like size, type, and place of the tumor. This article provides information on the prognosis of mesothelioma and how it is different from asbestosis.
The inhalation or ingestion of microscopic asbestos fibers over a period of time can lead to mesothelioma cancer. It is a non-cancerous, chronic lung ailment. Excessive asbestos exposure, though rare, can result in such a deadly condition. The prognosis informs you about the likely course and outcome of the disease. However, it is just a prediction, and no one can tell the exact advancement of the cancer or the effect of the treatment for a particular patient. Prognosis depends upon various factors such as how long has the person been exposed to asbestos, for how long the symptoms of mesothelioma persisted, how the person responds to the treatment, his overall health, stability of his mind, etc.
The inhaled or ingested microscopic asbestos fibers settle down and stick firmly to the lungs, affecting the lungs, heart, or the abdominal cavity. When the lining of the lungs is affected by this cancer, it is called pleural mesothelioma. When the cancer affects the lining surrounding the stomach, it is called peritoneal mesothelioma cancer.
In case of pericardial mesothelioma, the lining surrounding the heart is affected. Direct or indirect exposure to asbestos can cause this condition. Asbestos mine workers, ship builders, construction workers, ship breakers, clutch or brake liner workers, building renovators, and mechanics can come in contact with asbestos fibers directly. Their hair or clothing can carry the fibers, and they can be passed on to all those who come in contact with them. Fever, weight loss, fatigue, anemia, and digestive and respiratory disturbances are some of the main symptoms of mesothelioma. Other symptoms will vary according to the type of this condition. For instance, abdominal pain, abdominal mass, increased abdominal girth, distention of the abdomen, and ascites (fluid in the abdomen) will be noticed in case of peritoneal mesothelioma.
Overexposure to asbestos can cause these fibers to lodge firmly into the lungs, leading to lung scarring. This causes a drastic reduction in the breathing capacity. It is not a cancer, but as in case of mesothelioma, the signs and symptoms of this condition appear years after asbestos exposure. So, in most cases, it is diagnosed when the condition of the patient gets worsened drastically, leading to permanent disability and even death. Severe asbestosis can result in lung cancer, heart complications, increased blood pressure within the lungs, and mesothelioma. The health effects of this condition include constant cough, constant chest pain, dry crackling sound while breathing, fatigue, etc. Medications and vaccination are the available treatments for this condition. Pulmonary hypertension is also noticed in some cases.
As the lungs deteriorate to a great extent, even a minor cold can create a severe complication. Its prognosis will depend upon the extent of the scarring of the parenchymal tissue of the lungs, which has damaged the lungs. It is detected with the help of an X-ray, CT scan, or MRI scan. The damage done cannot be reversed, but excessive lung fluid can be drained, and inhalers can be used to improve breathing. The prognosis is rarely positive, as the disease is diagnosed when the condition of the patient has worsened.
Prognosis of Malignant Mesothelioma
In the United states, about 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma cancer are diagnosed each year. The factors that influence the prognosis are:
- Stage at which the cancer is diagnosed
- Type of mesothelioma
- Size of the tumor
- Location of the tumor
- Whether the tumor can be surgically removed
- Extent of other symptoms, like fluid in lungs or abdomen
- Whether the patient quits smoking or not
The stage at which the condition is diagnosed is very important; however, it is not diagnosed until the advanced stages (stage 3 or 4). It may take 30 to 40 years after the initial exposure to asbestos, for the cancer to display its symptoms. Even when the symptoms are noticed, they can be misguiding as they often resemble less serious conditions. As a result, the prognosis of this disease is usually poor and the life expectancy is also very low. It is generally diagnosed in people over 55 years of age.
American Cancer Society’s statistics about mesothelioma prognosis inform us that the five-year relative survival rate for such patients is around 10%. The one-year survival rate is now about 40%, and this rate has increased in the past five years. Throughout the 1990s, it was considered as an exceptional case, if the patient could survive for more than a year after diagnosis. The new techniques to cure this condition are being researched, and some of the clinical trials show promising results. Individuals suspecting any kind of asbestos exposure in the past, should also consult the doctor immediately as the latest exposure treatment can help prevent serious health problems. The mesothelioma life expectancy can be improved to a remarkable extent if it is detected earlier.