Everything You Need To Know About Mesothelioma Cancer

What is Mesothelioma Cancer?

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that develops in the inner lining of lungs or abdomen. If developed in the lining of the lungs it is called pleural mesothelioma and if developed in the inner lining of abdomen it is called peritoneal mesothelioma. It is a very rare kind of cancer and till now there is no known cure for this kind of cancer.

Symptoms of Mesothelioma:

The symptoms of Mesothelioma are very common and also look like symptoms of other diseases. These symptoms include:

  • Trouble breathing or chest pain
  • Effusion (fluid buildup) in the lungs or the abdomen cavity
  • Anemia especially in women
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weight loss

As a result of such common symptoms doctors often face difficulty diagnosing this disease.

Different Types Of Mesothelioma

There are two main ways to classify mesothelioma. The first way is the location where the cancer tumors are located and the second is by the cell morphology and its structure. 

Different Types By Location Of Tumors

Mesothelioma develops in the inner lining of different organs. Depending on that the mesothelioma can be categorized into three different types

  • Pleural mesothelioma
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma
  • Pericardial mesothelioma

Pleural mesothelioma

It develops in the inner lining of lungs and is caused by inhalation of asbestos fibers.

Peritoneal mesothelioma

It develops in the lining of the abdomen. It is caused when the asbestos fibers get trapped in the lining of the abdomen.

Pericardial mesothelioma

When is the rarest of rare cases the asbestos fibers get trapped in the pericardium i.e. the lining around the heart cavity, pericardial mesothelioma is caused. 

Mesothelioma by cell morphology or by structure of cells

Mesothelioma can also be classified by its cell structure. Based on this there are following types of mesothelioma. The cell type is studied by a process called histology, a process that involves microscopic examination of the tissue extracted by biopsy of the tumor.

  • Epithelioid Mesothelioma
  • Sarcomatoid Mesothelioma
  • Biphasic Mesothelioma
  • Other cell types

Epithelioid Mesothelioma

This is the most common type of mesothelioma according to the cell structure. The cell structure is elongated and all the cells are of similar shape and size.

Sarcomatoid Mesothelioma

Sarcomatoid Mesothelioma is not so common and is mostly resistant to all the different types of treatments of mesothelioma.

Biphasic Mesothelioma

These types of mesothelioma cells show the structure and morphology of both Epithelioid and Sarcomatoid mesothelioma and exhibit characteristics of both of them. 

Other cell types

This type of mesothelioma includes the types where variation in the cell morphology of both Epithelioid and Sarcomatoid mesothelioma exist. For example, desmoplastic type that is a variation of Sarcomatoid mesothelioma cells and deciduoid type that is a variation of epithelioid mesothelioma cells. 

Stages of Mesothelioma:

Depending on the spreading of the tumors and other factors the oncologists have divided mesothelioma into four stages

Stage 1

The tumor has not spread and is located at the area of its origin

Stage 2

The tumor has spread from its area of origin, but, has spread to nearby area and lymph nodes.

Stage 3

The tumor has spread to various nearby areas and to the lymph nodes

Stage 4

At this stage the tumor has spread to multiple areas and through the lymphatic system has spread to other important organs of the body.

Diagnosis of Mesothelioma Cancer

The symptoms of Mesothelioma are very common to other diseases. Hence it is advisable that if a person experiences any of the following symptoms for a prolonged period of time he or she should visit the physician immediately. These symptoms are:

  • Trouble breathing or chest pain
  • Effusion (fluid build up) in the lungs or the abdomen cavity
  • Anemia especially in women
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weight loss

After visiting the physician will determine the diagnosis process and according to that he or she will decide whether these symptoms are of a normal disease or he should be doing further more diagnosis and then decide the treatment plan.

Diagnostic procedures for Mesothelioma

If the physician has a doubt of Mesothelioma than the following diagnostic procedures are to be followed

  • Imaging tests
  • Blood marker tests
  • Biopsies

Imaging tests

Imaging tests are used to know the location of the tumor. The imaging tests include the following test procedures like

  • X-ray
  • CT scan
  • PET
  • MRI
X-ray

This test is used to obtain the two dimensional image of a human body and to study the location of tumor and fluid deposition. This can be used in the diagnosis of all three kinds of Mesothelioma.

CT scan (Computed Tomography Scan)

CT scan provides more detailed three dimensional structure of the abnormal growth found in the X-ray. This test is mainly used to diagnose pleural Mesothelioma.

PET (Positive Emission Tomography Scan)

In this test the patients are given a small quantity of radiopharmaceutical chemicals. After this the PET scan is performed. This helps to study individual cancer cells with the help of radiology and hence is helpful to know the spread of cancer and to decide the stage of Mesothelioma.

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

MRI helps to observe the detailed structure of the tissue and hence helps the doctor in studying the damage the tumor has done to the tissues of the nearby organs.

Blood Marker test

The doctors decide to perform the blood test inorder to know the extent of patients Mesothelioma and to better decide the treatment plan for the patient.

Biopsies

The doctors extract fluid or tissue from the body and perform a pathological examination of the extracted tissue or the fluid. This helps the doctor to know if there is the presence of cancer cells or not. Biopsy helps the doctor in making a conclusive decision.

These are the diagnostic procedures used by the doctors all over the world for Mesothelioma and mostly all other types of cancers. 

What is prognosis?

People usually get confused about the difference between the prognosis and diagnosis. No, prognosis and diagnosis are not similar there is a lot of difference between the two.

Prognosis where we can study or can get the likely outcome of a disease that a patient is suffering from, whereas diagnosis is the finding which tells us which disease a person has. Prognosis helps us in understanding the outcome a person may face with the current disease a person has. 

When the data is obtained considering a large amount of population, we get a more accurate study result. 

Prognosis of Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a highly aggressive disease. Malignant mesothelioma has a long latency period. It remains undetected for a long period of time and is not detected till the cancer has reached advanced stages. As a result usually there are unfavorable results with the prognosis of Mesothelioma and the patients usually have a survival rate of about a year. The maximum a patient having good health otherwise can survive for about two years.

But nowadays, a lot of improvement is seen in the prognosis of Mesothelioma. Due to the development of new experimental methods, diagnostic procedures and further research that is being done in clinical trials, there is slow and gradual improvement in the prognosis of Mesothelioma.

Factors affecting the prognosis of Mesothelioma

There are five main factors that affect the prognosis of mesothelioma. In most of the cases these factors play an important role in the prognosis of mesothelioma. These factors are as follows

  • Location of mesothelioma
  • Metastasis
  • Stage
  • Cell type
  • Overall health of patients

Location of mesothelioma

Prognosis of Mesothelioma is depending on the site of the body where mesothelioma has started. Patients with peritoneal mesothelioma have a better prognosis as compared to patients with pleural mesothelioma. Patients suffering from pericardial mesothelioma have poor prognosis of all the three types of mesothelioma. 

Metastasis

Prognosis for any kind of cancer has a better result only if it is located at the particular site where it originated. The same is the case with mesothelioma. If the mesothelioma has metastasized from the site of its origin and has spread to other parts of the body, then the prognosis is the worst. There is hardly any chance to save the patient with any kind of treatment like chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Cell type

Depending on the cell type there are mainly three types of mesothelioma epithelioid mesothelioma, Sarcomatoid mesothelioma and biphasic mesothelioma. Of all of these, epithelioid mesothelioma has the best prognosis rate as compared to Sarcomatoid and biphasic mesothelioma.

Stage

If mesothelioma is diagnosed earlier then it has a chance of better prognosis. But, mesothelioma usually has a trait of latency and hence is diagnosed at Stage III or stage IV and hence has poor prognosis. 

Overall health

Patients who are young and have good health have a better rate of prognosis. These patients can handle all the new treatments effectively due to overall good health. Older patients usually also have other diseases, which make them highly vulnerable to side effects of new treatments and procedures and hence they have a lower rate of successful prognosis.

How to improve the prognosis of mesothelioma

There is a lot of research and development going on in the field of mesothelioma. Due to these, the prognosis of mesothelioma has definitely improved slowly and gradually. But, from the studies that are performed it shows that the best way to improve the prognosis is to have earlier diagnosis of mesothelioma

People should be educated by their physician and they should understand the relationship between asbestos and mesothelioma. So that if people are exposed to mesothelioma, and if they experience certain symptoms, they can directly talk to a mesothelioma specialist immediately. Clinical trials can also play an important part in improving the prognosis of mesothelioma.  

What is the survival rate?

Survival rate is the study performed during any clinical trial or in a group of people under treatment. It is the group of people still alive for a given period of time after the diagnosis of a particular disease. The study of survival rate helps us in determining the success of the treatment and in the prognosis of that particular disease. But, when the survival rate is calculated in the entire population the individual survival rate may differ from each other depending on the overall health of the patient and also on the new treatments available. Hence, this may not be comparable to the previous statistical data.

Mesothelioma survival rate

It is studied that on an average about 40 percent of patients survive the first year of mesothelioma. Nutritional changes, treatment from a specialist and alternative medicine affects the survival rate. 

How is survival rate measured?

The survival rate is usually calculated by researchers in the slot of years. Most researchers look at one year survival rate after diagnosis. They also look at the data of two year survival rate and more.

Average survival rate of mesothelioma patients

As said, depending on various factors about 40 percent of patients survive the first year of diagnosis. But, during the second year this rate is reduced to almost fifty percent of the first year survival rate i.e. the rate is 20 percent and during the third year of study it is still reduced to 8 percent.

Factors that affect the survival rate

Many people wonder if mesothelioma is curable or not. The survival rate of mesothelioma depends on factors like

  • Age
  • Cancer stage
  • Cancer type
  • Race
  • Gender

Age

In mesothelioma the survival rate is higher in younger patients as compared to the older patients. The main reason behind this is because younger patients are more susceptible to surgery and other kinds of treatments. Younger patients usually do not garner other diseases like diabetes, blood pressure, etc. while older patients do garner other diseases and hence are less subjects for surgery and other new treatments. About 50 percent of patients below the age of fifty live for one year and about 33 percent of patients above the age of 75 live the same amount of time.

Cancer stage

Any type of cancer when diagnosed and treated in early stage has a better survival. If the disease is diagnosed in an early stage before spreading to other organs it is easy to perform surgery and other treatments can be more effective. Mesothelioma is usually diagnosed in its stage 3 or stage 4 hence it becomes difficult to treat. The more the cancer has spread, the more difficult it is for treatment.

Cancer type

The type and location of cancer also affects the spread of cancer and hence the survival rate. There are various types of mesothelioma. Among the two main types Pleural mesothelioma and Peritoneal mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma has a higher survival rate. Pericardial mesothelioma has a survival rate of about six to ten months.

Race

Mesothelioma is most prevalent among whites. African americans and Hispanic individuals amount for only 8 percent of mesothelioma patients.

Gender

During the study of survival rate, it is noted that women have a better survival rate than men. Asbestos exposure is more prevalent at industrial sites where usually men work and hence men are more prevalent to mesothelioma as compared to women.  The survival rate of women in pleural mesothelioma patients is 13.4 percent, while for men it is 4.5 percent.

What are clinical trials?

Clinical trials are a very essential and important part of research against any disease in the medical field. Clinical trials help in developing and finding new treatments against any disease and help in increasing the life span of patients.  Clinical trials offer research and treatment options that are still in the testing phase. But, the patients get better options. One benefit is that when you are visiting a cancer hospital or a specialist there are chances that the doctor or the hospital may help you get involved in a clinical trial and you might be the lucky one to get better treatment options and opportunity. The treatment medications and the procedures used are of very high quality and are safe to use. There are various reasons why the physician may recommend being enrolled in a clinical trial.  These reasons are as follows

  • New treatment options
  • Special treatment
  • Better cure options

New treatment options

Some trials may still be undergoing research trials and may not be approved by FDA. These treatment options are available in clinical trials. Also, each and every treatment that is prevalent today has undergone clinical trials. 

Special treatment

Patients get special care and treatment. When under clinical trial patients receive good care with proper hygiene, they get good and proper nutritive food and proper and effective treatment. 

Better cure options

Since these treatments are still under approval and are not available to each and every individual, the patients that are enrolled in clinical trial get better and various options that can properly cure them.

The process in which clinical trials work

The clinical trial usually proceeds in four different phases. Before any kind of drug or treatment procedure becomes available to the public, it has to undergo a rigorous clinical trial procedure. After completing the first three phases of clinical trial, usually the FDA approval is received. The clinical trial is divided into four different phases

  • Phase I
  • Phase II
  • Phase III
  • Phase IV

Phase I

In any kind of clinical trial, phase I of the trial is usually conducted on a very small group of people. This is done to study the effect, dosage and form of treatment that is to be used. For example a particular drug can be more effective in various different forms like pills, syrups, IV fluids or suppository. It also helps in determining the safety of the treatment procedure.

Phase II

Phase II is more specific. It helps in determining the effectiveness of a chosen treatment option. For example in Mesothelioma patients it helps in determining how the chosen treatment option affects the organs or the area with Mesothelioma.

Phase III

Phase III of clinical trials usually involves a large group of people. Some people are not given any medication and they serve as a control group for the doctors to study. The other group is given the medication and a comparative study is performed for reference.

Phase IV

This is the FDA approval phase. In this phase once the FDA receives satisfactory data of the clinical trial, they give approval for the drug or diagnostic procedure to be available for the local public.

Who qualifies for a clinical trial?

Participating in a clinical trial is totally dependent on a patient’s wishes. The doctor gives detailed information to the patient regarding the clinical and the patient has to sign a consent form to participate in a clinical trial. The patient can leave the clinical trial at any time he or she wants. The various factors that help in the consideration of patients for clinical trials are as follows

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Health of the patient
  • The stage of Mesothelioma

Benefits of participating in clinical trial

The first and foremost benefit as mentioned earlier is that people get various new and different treatment options to follow. The patient’s safety is strictly observed during a clinical trial. Also there are many insurance agencies that cover clinical trials. This information can be achieved by speaking directly to a specialist who is familiar with the clinical trial and the insurance agency procedures.

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