Mesothelioma is a rare cancer caused solely from exposure to asbestos, a mineral prized for its heat resistant properties. Because of this unique trait, asbestos was used in virtually anything from household items like oven mitts to massive military aircraft carriers. Due to the regulation of the use of asbestos today, the risk of exposure is much smaller, but still possible in older structures and items.
Majority of mesothelioma cases are in senior citizens because mesothelioma has a long latency period and its symptoms can take between 20-50 years to appear. Exposure to asbestos was possible for everybody, but those who worked blue-collar jobs such as in shipyards and construction sites or served in the military were at the highest risk of exposure and comprise nearly 75% of total mesothelioma cases.
The most common type of mesothelioma is pleural mesothelioma (around the lungs), but other types include peritoneal (around the lungs) and pericardial (around the heart)
How is Mesothelioma Diagnosed?
Doctors use several methods to test for malignant mesothelioma, but only a biopsy can truly confirm a diagnosis. This usually comes after a series of other tests and scans once symptoms arise.Because mesothelioma is rare, the cancer is often misdiagnosed as less serious conditions such as the flu or pneumonia.
Anyone who thinks or knows they were exposed to asbestos at some point in time should immediately notify their primary care doctor about their exposure history. This will ensure mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases are not ruled out as the cause of the symptoms.
Blood tests are also available, but they do not confirm the presence of mesothelioma. Research is underway to determine if blood tests can aid in early diagnosis for at-risk former asbestos workers.
If cancer is suspected, doctors will recommend taking a tissue sample, also known as a biopsy. Doctors use biopsies to definitively confirm the presence of mesothelioma cells.
The leading treatment options for mesothelioma include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Many specialists prefer to combine two or more of these treatments, which is an approach known as multimodal therapy. Numerous studies show this approach improves survival rates.
Surgery can be used for diagnostic or aggressive and potentially curative purposes. It offers the best chance of long-term survival for pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma patients eligible for surgery.
Chemotherapy can alleviate symptoms, improve quality of life and extend survival, but it can carry unpleasant side effects.
With fewer side effects than chemotherapy, radiation can help shrink tumors and relieve pain. It can be performed at all stages.
o Multimodal Treatment
A combination of two or more traditional treatments, including chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. Studies show multimodal therapy can improve survival.
Heated or Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC) is a multimodal treatment that involves heating chemotherapy drugs and delivering them to the abdomen after surgery.
– For more information visit The Mesothelioma Center. They are a 100% free resource center for those suffering from mesothelioma and their families. They have the most up-to-date information on asbestos and mesothelioma as well as offer 1-1 consultation with their Patient Advocates who will help find local treatment centers, doctors, and support groups.