Mesothelioma Diagnosis & Treatment
Unfortunately, there is still no cure for mesothelioma. This is in part due to the relative rarity of mesothelioma as compared to other cancers resulted in smaller funding for research studies. But there is hope.
Despite the lack of a cure, there are many treatment options and clinical trials that you or your loved one with mesothelioma can be involved in – both to give your family more time and to improve your family member’s quality of life.
Since mesothelioma is such a dangerous and rare cancer, you may want to work with a mesothelioma cancer specialist to ensure that you are receiving the best possible treatment. There are several mesothelioma specialists across the country, including Dr. Sugarbaker in Houston, Texas (near our main office location) and others on the East Coast. The team at Robins Cloud has worked with many of these doctors.
While there is no cure, there are various treatment options, including: radiation, chemotherapy, surgery and palliative care that attempt to make life as comfortable as possible. In addition, clinical trials may be an option for some people suffering from mesothelioma. Participating in a clinical trial may not only give patients access to potentially cutting-edge treatment options, but also gives them the opportunity to help future mesothelioma patients by progressing mesothelioma cancer research.
You can visit the most current medical trials on the U.S. National Institutes of Health website here.
The physical and emotional toll on asbestos victims and their families cannot be overstated. When the huge burden of mesothelioma becomes too much, we are here to help.
There are also several support groups for mesothelioma patients, and we highly recommend these for our clients.The largest non-profit advocacy group working to ban asbestos is the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) and they have an inspirational program called “Tell Your Story.”
Since mesothelioma is so rare, it is sometimes hard to get an accurate diagnosis. Below are the key symptoms of this cancer. We advise you to tell your doctor if think you might have been exposed to asbestos.
- The initial symptoms of mesothelioma may be confused with other, less serious health complications. From aches and pains to a slight cough, it can be difficult for patients to have their symptoms taken seriously at first. These symptoms may include difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, pain in the abdomen or chest area, and pleural effusions (fluid buildup between the lining of the lungs).
Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma is an asbestos-related disease of pleura caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers. People who worked in jobs with high asbestos dust exposure are at the greatest risk of developing Pleural Mesothelioma. However, exposure to asbestos can occur anytime asbestos fibers have been released into the air. This can happen during the renovation or maintenance of buildings when asbestos containing materials are disturbed or as they age and weather over time. Anyone who disturbs the asbestos containing materials during home maintenance and renovation can inadvertently inhale asbestos fibers. Unlike other types of diseases caused by asbestos, a relatively small exposure to asbestos fibers can cause Pleural Mesothelioma.
Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer of the mesothelial cells of the pleura. Pleural Mesothelioma is the most common type of Mesothelioma. It represents about 75 percent of diagnosed cases of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma can appear from twenty to fifty or more years after the initial exposure to asbestos.
The symptoms include:
- shortness of breath
- fluid buildup around the lungs
Other symptoms may include fatigue and weight loss.
Diagnosing Mesothelioma is often difficult as the above symptoms can be attributed to many other maladies and often take twenty to fifty years to manifest themselves. Physical examination, lung function tests, and radiographic study can provide clues. But a biopsy is needed to confirm a diagnosis of malignant Pleural Mesothelioma.
Unfortunately, Pleural Mesothelioma has a poor prognosis, with most patients dying within 1 year of diagnosis. It is considered incurable, but with early detection and an appropriate treatment protocol, survival times can be increased. There are a few cases where longer survival times, in one case 20 years, have been achieved.
Treatment of Mesothelioma
Treatment for Mesothelioma includes surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of those therapies. The proper treatment strategy will depend on a variety of factors, like the age and gender of the patient, general overall health of the patient, and the stage of the disease. If the Mesothelioma is diagnosed early enough, survival time can sometimes be increased.
Studies indicate that a cocktail of chemotherapy can increase median survival times. Median survival times were 12.1 months for the pemetrexed plus cisplatin t and 9.3 months for the cisplatin alone. See “FDA Drug Approval Summaries: Pemetrexed (Alimta®)” Maitreyee Hazarika, Robert M. White, John R. Johnson, Richard Pazdur, FDA Commentary: The Oncologist 2004; 9:482-488; doi:10.1634/theoncologist.9-5-482
Several tumor biomarkers are also being evaluated for possible early detection of Mesothelioma.