How Is Mesothelioma Different From Other Cancers?
Mesothelioma is different from other cancers in several ways. First, mesothelioma is very rare. Only about 20,000 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed every year.
Second, the cause of mesothelioma is often clear. Virtually all cases of mesothelioma result from exposure to asbestos, a toxic silicate material that was widely used in construction prior to the 1980s.
Third, mesothelioma has a long latency period. This is the amount of time that elapses between asbestos exposure and symptom presentation. Often, mesothelioma is not diagnosed until decades after exposure. This greatly increases the fatality of this condition.
Despite all these differences, there is one element that makes mesothelioma similar to other cancers. Like other cancers, mesothelioma has four main stages. The stages of mesothelioma differ significantly in the symptoms the patient will experience and the treatments the patient will undergo.
Understanding the Four Stages of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma has four stages, called Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3, and Stage 4. While every mesothelioma patient experiences their condition differently, there are some similarities between each stage:
Stage 1 Mesothelioma
In the first stage of mesothelioma, the cancerous tumor is confined to a single area — the pleura, in this case. This stage is the best chance that mesothelioma patients have at making a full recovery because the tumor may be removed through a surgical procedure.
Unfortunately, however, surgical procedures rarely happen during this stage because it is rare for mesothelioma to be diagnosed by this point. Most mesothelioma patients do not experience any symptoms during Stage 1, so they do not know to go to the doctor and have their lungs examined.
Stage 2 Mesothelioma
In the second stage of mesothelioma, there may be more than one cancerous tumor, and these tumors may begin to spread beyond the lungs’ lining and to the nearby lymph nodes. Still, the prognosis is generally favorable during Stage 2 mesothelioma. This is because it is likely possible to remove the cancerous growths if they have not traveled to the lymph nodes. The tumors are also small enough to make a surgical procedure possible.
Some symptoms may begin to present themselves during the second stage. These symptoms may include difficulty breathing and a mild cough. However, these symptoms are often mistaken for the common cold, so it’s rare for patients to seek medical care.
Stage 3 Mesothelioma
In the third stage of mesothelioma, symptoms typically begin to appear. These symptoms may include persistent coughing, fever, chest pain, and more.
Even if patients notice enough troubling symptoms to seek treatment, the cancerous tumors have often spread to distant parts of the body, so medical intervention is no longer as helpful. Surgery alone will not remove or cure the cancer. Mesothelioma patients often have to undergo several different treatment options to manage the cancer, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and/or gene therapy.
Patients may wish to participate in clinical trials or undergo experimental treatments to manage their condition. However, many patients instead elect for palliative care to reduce pain during this stage.
Stage 4 Mesothelioma
In the final stage of mesothelioma, the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body. The cancer could affect vital organs, such as the brain, liver, and more. Patients in the fourth stage of mesothelioma often experience painful symptoms including fatigue, anemia, nausea or vomiting, abdominal pain, night sweats, coughing up blood, and more.
Surgery is not often used at this stage. However, patients may undergo chemotherapy, radiation, or other treatments to control painful symptoms.
How Is Mesothelioma Diagnosed?
Cancer is complicated. Doctors may use a variety of diagnostic tests to determine a patient’s stage of mesothelioma. These include the following:
- Butchart staging system: This is the most widely used staging system for pleural mesothelioma. This system determines the cancer’s stage by analyzing the tumor’s size and spread.
- TNM staging system: This system is similar to other systems used to diagnose different types of cancer. This system weighs the condition of the tumors and the effect the cancer has on the lymph nodes.
- Brigham staging system: This is the most modern staging system for mesothelioma. This system differs from the other two in that it assesses the projected effectiveness of surgery at every stage.
Diagnosis is the first step to determining a patient’s treatment regimen and their odds of recovery.
What Are the Odds of Recovering from Mesothelioma?
Since mesothelioma is often not diagnosed until the later stages, the likelihood of recovery is low. Most of the time, those diagnosed with mesothelioma will undergo treatments to manage their painful symptoms rather than look for a cure. However, recovery from mesothelioma is not impossible. According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rates for mesothelioma are as follows:
- Localized cancer: 18%
- Regional cancer: 12%
- Distant cancer: 10%
- Overall: 10%
Given the generally poor diagnosis for mesothelioma, many may wonder if there is anything they can do to prevent it.
Can You Prevent Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos. So, limiting exposure to asbestos is the best way to prevent the development of mesothelioma. While asbestos was strictly regulated in the 1970s and 1980s, some older buildings — particularly military buildings — may still contain the substance.
It’s up to property managers and employers to identify and remove asbestos from their premises to protect tenants and workers. If they cannot remove asbestos from their premises immediately by hiring a professional asbestos removal contractor, then they should clearly mark off the hazardous area so those nearby will not get exposed.
This is more common in certain industries, particularly in industrial work or emergency services. Those most likely to get exposed to asbestos include:
- Construction workers
- Shipyard workers
- Industrial workers
- Military personnel who served before the 1980s
Sadly, however, many property managers or employers do not perform their due diligence when it comes to asbestos removal. This can result in tenants and workers coming down with a preventable, deadly condition.
Suffering from Mesothelioma After Asbestos Exposure? Contact Us Today
One of the most devastating things about a mesothelioma diagnosis is that it could have been prevented. If you or someone you love developed mesothelioma after asbestos exposure, our attorneys at Shrader & Associates L.L.P. are well-versed in this area of the law, and we have helped countless clients recover the compensation they need for medical bills, lost wages, and more.
We understand that taking legal action may seem overwhelming when you just want to focus on your health. However, with the right legal team on your side, the process may be easier than you think. Our team will take this matter out of your hands while you keep your attention on the most important thing — your health.
Call Shrader & Associates L.L.P. at (713) 787-3733 to schedule a free consultation.