Mesothelioma is a rare but dangerous form of lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Mesothelioma is particularly dangerous due to its long latency period. This latency period means that someone who experienced asbestos exposure may not present symptoms of mesothelioma under decades later—making treatment for the disease much more difficult.
Learn what mesothelioma patients may expect during the treatment process and whether this disease can ever be cured.
Can Mesothelioma Be Cured?
Mesothelioma is a form of lung cancer that affects the lining of the cells, heart, and abdomen. This cancer causes the cells in these areas to divide at an abnormally fast rate, leading to the development of potentially deadly tumors.
Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to the toxic substance asbestos. Asbestos is a mineral that was commonly used for industrial and commercial purposes due to its insulation properties. Although the dangers of asbestos have been known for more than a century, the material is still being used in some areas of the U.S. today.
Most people are exposed to asbestos on the job. Certain professions, such as construction workers, firefighters, plant workers, and more, are at a greater risk of asbestos exposure.
Due to mesothelioma’s long latency period, the symptoms of the disease may not present until decades later when the cancer is in its later stages. This makes treatment more complicated and a cure less likely.
The stage of mesothelioma a patient has, as well as the patient’s overall age and health, will determine the type of treatment they receive.
What is Mesothelioma Treatment Like?
In general, there are three main forms of mesothelioma treatment: surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.
Surgery may be beneficial for mesothelioma patients whose cancer has not spread. In this situation, a pleurectomy may be performed to remove pleura (the lining of the lungs) and the cancerous tumor. Unfortunately, this is a rare solution since, in most cases, microscopic cancer cells have already spread throughout the body.
Other surgeries may be performed to manage or improve a patient’s symptoms. For example, thoracentesis is a minimally invasive procedure in which a needle is inserted into the chest cavity to drain excess fluid and provide relief to the patient suffering from pleural mesothelioma.
Chemotherapy is usually prescribed when the cancer is more advanced. This treatment is meant to slow the division of cancer cells and halt the progression of the disease. During chemotherapy, drugs are administered intravenously in order to kill cancer cells. Depending on the stage of the mesothelioma, chemotherapy may be given as the primary treatment or in conjunction with other treatments.
Similar to surgery, chemotherapy may also be used as a palliative treatment rather than a curative treatment. Chemotherapy can relieve the pain that patients experience from mesothelioma.
Radiation is often prescribed to patients who are not strong enough to undergo chemotherapy. However, for other patients, it may be used in conjunction with surgery and chemotherapy.
Radiation involves bombarding tumors with X-rays to kill cancer cells. Radiation can also be used as palliative therapy to relieve mesothelioma symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, and bleeding.
What’s the Success Rate for Mesothelioma Treatment?
When talking about the survivability of cancer, medical professionals use a term called the “relative survival rate.” This rate compares people with the same type and stage of cancer to people in the overall population. For example, if the 5-year relative survival rate for a specific type of cancer is 30%, that means people who have that cancer are, on average, about 30% as likely as people who don’t have that cancer to live for five years after being diagnosed.
According to the American Cancer Society, the 5-year relative survival rate for malignant pleural mesothelioma is 20% for localized cancer, 12% for regional cancer, and 8% for distant cancer.
It’s important to remember that these numbers are not set in stone. Your relative survival rate will depend on many factors, including:
Your overall health
The type of mesothelioma you have
How well the cancer responds to treatment
How early you were diagnosed
There are certain measures you can take that may increase the success of your treatment, including the following:
Trying clinical trials
Seeking referrals for exercise and rehabilitation to rebuild strength
Making nutritional changes to improve health and well-being
Trying alternative therapies in conjunction with conventional cancer treatment
There are several experimental treatments available for mesothelioma. While research does not support these methods as curative treatments for the disease, they can be used to enhance the quality of life. However, it’s important to consult with your doctor whenever you decide to seek a new form of treatment for mesothelioma.
A mesothelioma diagnosis can be confusing and devastating. In the wake of such a diagnosis, it’s natural that you would have many questions—and you’re not alone. Below, we have compiled the answers to common questions about mesothelioma.
Are Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer the Same Thing?
No. The main difference between mesothelioma and lung cancer is that mesothelioma develops on the outside of the lung, and lung cancer develops inside the lung. As such, these two diseases affect different cells and require different treatment.
Can You Prevent Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma cannot be prevented for workers who were exposed to asbestos decades ago when it was still widely used. However, companies today can prevent future cases of mesothelioma by prohibiting the use of the material in all production.
Does Everyone Who Gets Exposed to Abestos Develop Mesothelioma?
No. Just like not everyone who smokes develops lung cancer, not everyone who is exposed to asbestos develops mesothelioma. In fact, it’s quite a rare disease with only about 2,000 cases per year in the U.S. However, this does not mean that the cases of mesothelioma that do develop are not extremely dangerous.
What Are the Symptoms of Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma may not present symptoms for decades. But, when they do appear, they may include a dull pain in the chest, difficulty breathing, and a deep cough. Few cases of mesothelioma get diagnosed in the early stages because most people mistake these symptoms for the common cold.
Who is Responsible for My Exposure to Asbestos?
Asbestos is no longer used in consumer applications in the U.S. However, some older buildings may still contain the toxic substance. Additionally, asbestos is still used in some developing countries, so it may be possible to become exposed to it when traveling abroad.
If you developed mesothelioma after asbestos exposure, your employer may be held liable if they did not provide proper protective equipment to you while on a hazardous job site, or a property owner may be held liable if they did not remove asbestos from their premises.
It’s in your best interest to work with an experienced attorney who can launch an investigation, identify any and all liable parties, and help you recover the compensation you need for your medical treatment.
Did You Develop Mesothelioma After Asbestos Exposure? Contact Us Today
If you or someone you love developed mesothelioma after asbestos exposure, our team at Shrader & Associates L.L.P. is here to help. Our team is well-versed in this area of the law, and we have helped countless clients across the country cope in the wake of a mesothelioma diagnosis.
Contact Shrader & Associates L.L.P. at (713) 787-3733 to schedule a consultation.