Cases per Year: 3,000
Developing Mesothelioma: 20 million
01. Symptoms & Causes
What Are the Symptoms of Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma symptoms can take 10 – 50 years to emerge after initial exposure to asbestos. Symptoms are often mistaken for less serious illnesses, which can complicate early diagnosis. When symptoms present, patients should seek medical attention, as early detection may improve mesothelioma prognosis.
Common Symptoms of Mesothelioma
- Chest pain or abdominal pain
- Shortness of breath
- Fluid buildup
- Fever and night sweats
- Weight loss
Causes of Mesothelioma
Asbestos is the only definitive cause of mesothelioma. When asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested, they may become embedded in the lining of the lungs, abdomen or heart. Over time, the fibers cause inflammation and scarring. This irritation can eventually lead to the development of mesothelioma tumors.
Who Is at Risk of Developing Mesothelioma?
Any amount of asbestos exposure can cause mesothelioma. However, certain occupations may experience higher rates of exposure. Loved ones of these workers also face a higher risk because of secondhand exposure.
Workers may be exposed to asbestos on the job. High-risk occupations include shipyard workers, machinists and mechanics.
Asbestos may be brought home on workers’ hair, skin and clothing, exposing loved ones to the fibers.
Types of Mesothelioma
There are four main types of mesothelioma based on tumor location. The most common type is malignant pleural mesothelioma. The mesothelioma tumors are made up of different cell types. The three most common mesothelioma cell types include epithelioid, sarcomatoid and biphasic. Symptoms, prognosis and treatment options vary depending on mesothelioma type and cell type.
Resources for Mesothelioma Patients
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After recognizing symptoms, doctors will perform a variety of tests and procedures to confirm a mesothelioma diagnosis. Biopsies are the only way to definitively diagnose mesothelioma Other diagnostic tools may help determine location and staging. Once a mesothelioma diagnosis is confirmed, doctors will classify the disease into one of four stages. Mesothelioma staging will help determine prognosis and treatment options.
At stage 1 or 2, patients have the most treatment options. By stages 3 and 4, treatment options are generally more limited, as the cancer has spread.
- Cancer is localized.
- Aggressive treatment options are still viable, including surgery.
- Average life expectancy is around 21 months.
- Cancer has spread to nearby organs and lymph nodes.
- Aggressive treatment options remain viable.
- Average life expectancy is around 19 months.
- Cancer continues to spread to nearby organs and tissue.
- Treatment options become limited.
- Average life expectancy is around 16 months.
- Cancer has spread nearby and distantly.
- Palliative care may ease symptoms.
- Average life expectancy is around 12 months.
Staging, tumor location and cell type help determine a patient’s mesothelioma prognosis. Due to these and other factors, prognosis will vary depending on the individual. When discussing a patient’s prognosis, mesothelioma doctors may also mention life expectancy and survival rates as related terms. Average life expectancy is 18 – 31 months.
Did You Know?
Standard treatments for mesothelioma include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The most common option is a multimodal approach, which combines two or more standard treatment options. Combining treatments has been shown to increase patient survival times. Mesothelioma doctors also continue to research new treatments through clinical trials.
FINDING MESOTHELIOMA TREATMENT
Many doctors do not have experience treating mesothelioma because of its rarity. Patients should seek care from a doctor who specializes in mesothelioma. With specialized care, doctors can develop personalized treatment plans for patients that may extend survival.
Support Throughout the
Finding community with other patients, survivors and people who understand the intricacies of a rare cancer like mesothelioma may ease the heavy burden. There are numerous ways to get involved within the mesothelioma community to show support. Below are ways to engage with others who understand mesothelioma diagnosis, treatment and survivorship.
Common Questions About Mesothelioma
Is mesothelioma treatable?
- Although there is no cure for mesothelioma, there are treatment options available, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
What are the most common symptoms of mesothelioma?
- Mesothelioma symptoms vary based on type, but commonly include coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain or abdominal pain and buildup of fluid.
What is the main cause of mesothelioma?
- The only known cause of malignant mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos.
Is mesothelioma a form of cancer?
- Malignant mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer. There are different types of mesothelioma, including pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma.
What type of cancer is mesothelioma?
- Mesothelioma affects the mesothelium, or thin linings covering organs, such as the lungs (pleural mesothelioma) and abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma).