Mesothelioma is an asbestos-associated malignancy, often originating in the linings of the internal organs such as lungs, abdomen, and heart. These linings are usually on the inside of the organs and are very thin in structure. In mesothelioma, these linings get thick due to abnormal cell growth without the necessary cell death in their lifecycle.
Mesothelioma is primarily caused due to prolonged exposure to asbestos, often taking 10-15 years before showing its symptoms. Asbestos fibers reach the delicate internal linings through airways when patients breathe into the air containing these fibers. Reaching the pleura, the asbestos fibers cause cell damage, leading to abnormal multiplication and growth. It is impossible to diagnose mesothelioma in the earlier stages in most instances. With their discovery in the later stages, there is not much that doctors can do except improve the patients’ symptoms with various treatments.
Mesothelioma was unknown in the previous century but became mainstream at the turn of the twentieth century as mesothelioma cases became more prevalent. The scariest fact about mesothelioma is that it doesn’t stay contained to one location in most cases. Instead, it starts affecting the nearby tissues, organs, and nerves, leading to serious repercussions.
- Type Of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is categorized into four different types according to its place of origination. Some of these mesothelioma types are more prevalent than others. Here is a summary of the various types of mesothelioma.
- Pleural Mesothelioma
Among all types of mesothelioma, malignant pleural mesothelioma is the most common, which occurs on the lining of the lungs. It is found in 70-75 percent of the total mesothelioma patients presently. More clinical trial studies have been conducted on pleural mesothelioma than any other type. At earlier stages, aggressive surgical treatments have the best outcomes for curing pleural mesothelioma.
- Peritoneal Mesothelioma
The next type is peritoneal mesothelioma which occurs on the inside lining of organs in the abdomen. Unlike pleural mesothelioma, it is not very prevalent and only accounts for 10-20 percent of the total mesothelioma diagnosis. But a silver lining is that the prognosis for this mesothelioma is better than other cancer types. Doctors often use heated chemotherapy, with surgery for patients showing symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma.
- Pericardial Mesothelioma
It is among the two rare types of mesothelioma that occur on the outer lining of the heart, known as the pericardium. Only a few hundred patients have been diagnosed with pericardial mesothelioma so far, accounting for 1 percent of mesothelioma cases altogether.
- Testicular Mesothelioma
The rarest type of mesothelioma is testicular mesothelioma, occurring on the outer covering of the testes. The number of patients diagnosed with testicular mesothelioma is not more than a hundred. Most commonly used treatments for this type of mesothelioma include chemotherapy and surgery.
- Symptoms Of Mesothelioma
A person can be exposed to asbestos for decades before showing symptoms associated with mesothelioma. Moreover, most mesothelioma-like symptoms often occur in less serious diseases, so the patient can brush them off until the issue becomes really serious. The symptoms can also vary depending on the type of mesothelioma one might have.
The common symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include weight loss, fever, fatigue, pain in the chest. Fluid also accumulates in the pleura. When accumulation gets significantly big, it leads to shortness of breath. In peritoneal mesothelioma, a patient may experience loss of appetite, bloating, bowel changes, and swelling. Some patients may also experience anemia and fever. If cancer has spread to other areas inside the body, the swelling of the neck, face, or swallowing difficulties may also happen. In pericardial mesothelioma, patients experience irregular heartbeat, chest pain, difficulty breathing, and a cough that won’t go away.
- Mesothelioma Prognosis
Prognosis estimates how your mesothelioma will develop over time and a person’s life expectancy. In most cases, mesothelioma patients do not have a favorable prognosis. But, advancements in medical sciences have made it possible to have a better prognosis due to new treatments, clinical trials, and new diagnostic methods.
Many factors also contribute to estimating the prognosis of a patient. The factors include the type of cancer and cell type, the location of mesothelioma, the patient’s health, metastasis, and the person’s diet. Moreover, early detection of mesothelioma significantly improves the prognosis in a person. In pleural mesothelioma, a person can live for as long as 18 months. Some treatments like chemotherapy, surgery, or multimodal treatments (a combination of many treatments) have improved the life expectancy of many patients. A patient diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma can survive for two to six years. The application of surgery with heat therapy has successfully improved the life expectancy in 87% of the patients who qualified for this treatment.
Pericardial mesothelioma is an infrequently occurring mesothelioma and has the least favorable prognosis. The patients can live for only six months after their diagnosis.
- Mesothelioma Treatments
Various mesothelioma treatments are being employed to treat patients diagnosed with this cancer. Some of these are categorized as traditional treatments, while others are known as emerging treatments.
- Traditional Treatments
The treatments that have been employed for a long time, such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, are categorized as the traditional treatments. All these treatments are employed individually or in combination with others as multimodal treatment plans. Sometimes, chemotherapy and radiation treatments are used before and after the surgery to shrink or kill the remaining cancer cells missed by surgical treatments. Chemotherapy used before the surgery is employed to shrink the cancer cells, and the procedure is known as neoadjuvant treatment. On the contrary, when used after the surgery, it is known as adjuvant therapy and kills the remaining cancerous cells.
- Emerging Treatment
With advancements in medical science and technology, new treatments are increasingly giving hope to the patients. The emerging treatments include Cryo-therapy, which uses nitrogen gas to freeze the cancer cells; Gene Therapy includes genetically modifying cells and viruses to control the spread of cancer. Other treatments include Photodynamic Therapy which injects light-sensitive drugs into the patients to kill the cells.
Mesothelioma is fatal cancer that often travels to other body parts from its initial occurrence. Patients diagnosed with mesothelioma must know its type to undergo the proper treatment and improve prognosis. Some mesothelioma types, such as peritoneal mesothelioma, have a better diagnosis than others, such as testicular mesothelioma. In all cases, early diagnosis can immensely improve a patient’s chance of survival.