Receiving any cancer diagnosis is frightening. Receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis, however, can be frightening and confusing. This is because mesothelioma cancer is a rare, lesser-known cancer that most people do not understand.
Mesothelioma is a rare form of lung cancer that develops from asbestos exposure. Since asbestos exposure is pretty much the only way to develop this cancer, only certain groups of people will get this disease. However, just because this cancer is rare does not mean it is not deadly.
Below, we discuss the lethality of mesothelioma compared to other cancers, and what your options are if you have developed this disease.
Mesothelioma is a particularly dangerous form of cancer because of its long latency period. The latency period refers to the amount of time that elapses between the manifestation of the disease and the appearance of symptoms.
Sometimes, for example, mesothelioma can lay dormant in the body for decades before it exhibits symptoms. This means that most of the time, mesothelioma is not discovered or diagnosed until the disease is in an advanced stage, which makes treatment more difficult.
This affects mesothelioma’s overall survival rate. When it comes to mesothelioma cancer, doctors use a term called the “survival rate.” The survival rate refers to the percentage of people who are still alive for a certain period of time after they were diagnosed with cancer.
Often, doctors use the survival rate in combination with a certain period of time, typically five years. The five-year survival rate, in this instance, refers to the percentage of patients who will survive five years or longer with a certain form of cancer.
According to a 2015 study published in Translational Oncology, the five-year survival rate for mesothelioma is 12% for pleural mesothelioma and 52% for peritoneal mesothelioma.
Different types of mesothelioma cancer has different survival rates. The four main types of mesothelioma include the following:
- Pleural mesothelioma: Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of mesothelioma and affects roughly 70-80% of mesothelioma patients. It affects the pleura, which is the lining around the lungs.
- Peritoneal mesothelioma: Peritoneal mesothelioma is the second most common type of mesothelioma and occurs in roughly 20-30% of mesothelioma patients. It develops in the peritoneum, which is the lining that protects organs in the abdomen.
- Pericardial mesothelioma: Pericardial mesothelioma affects roughly 5% of mesothelioma patients. It involves the pericardium, which is comprised of the membranes that surround the heart.
- Testicular mesothelioma: Testicular mesothelioma is the rarest form of the disease, with only 100 documented cases in the United States over the last 20 years. It typically presents in the form of lumps or tumors in the testicular area.
Mesothelioma’s long latency period makes it difficult to cure. However, it is not impossible. The likelihood of curing mesothelioma depends largely on the stage when it gets diagnosed. This will also affect the treatment a patient receives.
The three main treatments for mesothelioma include the following:
Surgery is often recommended for mesothelioma patients whose cancer is diagnosed in an early stage when the mesothelioma cancer has not metastasized to other parts of the body. During a surgical procedure, it may be possible to remove all the tumors in a localized area, potentially curing the cancer.
The type of surgery a mesothelioma patient receives depends on the form of cancer they have. Those with pleural mesothelioma, for instance, may undergo one of the following:
- Pleurectomy/decortication: This is a two-part procedure that involves the surgical removal of part of the lining of the chest wall and heart, as well as the pleura that lines the diseased lung while keeping the lung itself intact.
- Extrapleural pneumonectomy: This procedure removes the diseased lung entirely along with the pleura that lines the chest wall, the lymph nodes between the lungs, the sac around the heart, and most of the diaphragm.
Those with peritoneal mesothelioma may undergo the following:
- HIPEC procedure: After the tumor(s) is removed in the abdominal cavity, the patient may undergo hyperthermic intra-operative perfusion of intraperitoneal chemotherapy, in which a sterile solution containing a chemotherapy drug is heated to a temperature above the normal body temperature and circulated in the abdominal cavity. This may remove any cancer that was not removed surgically.
Mesothelioma often requires different treatments used in conjunction with each other. Chemotherapy is one such treatment. It is often used after an initial surgical procedure to kill or manage any remaining cancer cells in the body.
There are two ways to administer chemotherapy, including the following:
- Systemic chemotherapy: The drugs are taken orally or injected into the veins so the drugs can travel through the bloodstream and kill cancer cells anywhere in the body. This method is used when the cancer has metastasized or when a tumor cannot be used surgically.
- Regional chemotherapy: The drugs are administered directly into the cavity where the cancer grows. This is used in “localized” mesothelioma, when the cancer has not spread to distant parts of the body.
Chemotherapy is not for everyone. It is a harsh treatment that can have detrimental effects on the elderly and those in poor health. A doctor will be able to determine whether you are an ideal candidate for chemotherapy.
Radiation may be a more appropriate treatment for mesothelioma patients who are older or who have compromised immune systems. Radiation is still an effective therapy on its own and can achieve a localized alleviation of symptoms in about 50% of patients.
Like any cancer treatment, radiation has certain side effects. These include the following:
- Skin redness near the radiated site
- Nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite
- Hair loss
If you have developed mesothelioma, you may face costly medical bills and lost wages. It may seem overwhelming having these mounting costs pile ever higher, when all you want to do is focus on your health—as you should.
It’s important to keep in mind that most cases of mesothelioma are preventable when building managers or employers protect tenants and workers, respectively, from asbestos exposure. Their failure to uphold this responsibility may have contributed to the development of your disease.
So, you have the right to seek legal action for these breaches in duties of care. In most cases, you have two years from the date of the discovery of mesothelioma to file a claim against negligent parties. This is known as the “statute of limitations.”
However, since mesothelioma has such a long latency period, the statute of limitations may be extended depending on your particular case. It’s in your best interest to contact an experienced attorney who can advise you on your lawsuit eligibility.
If you or someone you love developed mesothelioma after asbestos exposure, our attorneys at Shrader & Associates L.L.P. are here to help. We have the skills and experience needed to take on your mesothelioma claim, and we have helped countless clients in similar situations as you.
Call Shrader & Associates L.L.P. at (713) 787-3733 to schedule a consultation with our team.