The fibers become lodged in the lining of the lungs, abdomen or heart and can lay dormant for decades before symptoms start to show. Mesothelioma can accurately be described as a deadly and aggressive form of cancer.
Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer primarily caused by inhaling or swallowing certain carcinogens at home or on the job. With 3,000 cases diagnosed each year, mesothelioma affects men and women of all ages.
The long latency period means you could be exposed to carcinogenic fibers as a teenager and be unaware you have mesothelioma until much later in life.
What Causes Mesothelioma Cancer?
Mesothelioma develops from the fibers building up inside the thin membrane lining of vital organs, causing inflammation and scarring. The membrane layer that carcinogenic fibers accumulate inside of is known as the mesothelium.
The mesothelium membrane around your lungs, abdomen, heart and testicles provides a lubricating fluid that allows the organs to expand, contract and move against each other with ease.
Over time, the chronic inflammation from the asbestos fibers inside the internal organ tissues forms into cancerous mesothelial cells. The cellular damage to DNA from carcinogens can alter how cell growth functions and cause a tumor to develop.
Mesothelioma Cell Types
Mesothelioma tumors can contain up to three different cellular variations that will affect the cancer patient’s prognosis and treatment options. Determining the cell type, epithelioid, sarcomatoid, or biphasic, is one of the primary steps in confirming a diagnose. Often times, the cell type is determined by collecting a tissue sample for a biopsy.
- Epithelioid cells account for three out of four of all mesothelioma diagnoses. The cells have an elongated, uniform shade and are often associated with lung cancer. These cell types typically have the best response to treatment.
- Sarcomatoid cells account for approximately 10 percent of all mesothelioma cases. These spindle-shaped cells typically grow, in a haphazard arrangement, from supportive structures like bones and muscles. Sarcomatoid cell types are often the most difficult to diagnoses and their prognosis is often the most fatal.
- Biphasic cells account for around 40 percent of all mesothelioma cases. Biphasic cells are made from a mixture of sarcomatoid and epithelial cell types, but the two often stay differentiated. The prognosis for biphasic is often better than sarcomatoid cells, but worse than epithelioid cells.
Mesothelioma and Asbestos Exposure
The leading cause of pleural mesothelioma, the most common form, is inhaling the asbestos fibers used to construct many of the buildings we live and sleep in.
The microscopic fibers are inhaled, penetrating the lung until they are caught in the protective lining of the pleura. The fibers could remain lodged in lung tissue undetected for 10 to 50 years before any mesothelioma symptoms start to show.
Direct exposure from the local environment, like working with products containing asbestos or inside a workspace where airborne asbestos can be inhaled or swallowed, is the most common way people develop this disease.
Secondary exposure, like family members being exposed to an asbestos worker’s clothing and equipment, or other compounding factors, like family history, is also relevant to whether or not mesothelioma develops.
If the asbestos fibers are swallowed, mesothelioma in the testes or abdomen is more likely. However, not everyone exposed to asbestos will develop mesothelioma in the future.
- Mid-1850s asbestos first came into commercial use.
- 1918 the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report on the abnormally high rate of early death associated with asbestos workers.
- 1930 the first clinical examinations of asbestos workers published that 25 percent of these employees were afflicted with asbestosis.
- 1933 the first case of asbestosis affecting a U.S. worker occurred.
- 1935 companies like General Motors and Johns-Manville were already inspiring on how to manage the liabilities associated with exposing their workforce to harmful asbestos.
Mesothelioma Latency Period
The latency for mesothelioma typically lasts from 10 to 50 years from the date of exposure. This means that the scarring and inflammation of the mesothelium can go on for decades before any symptoms are detected by the victim. The average latency period for patients with malignant mesothelioma is 35 to 40 years.
The latency period for Mesothelioma begins once the microscopic fibers have begun to biologically damage the body. The widespread use of asbestos has declined recently, but the number of mesothelioma patients continues to steadily increase due to the extremely long latency period. For anyone with a history of extensive exposure to asbestos, the latency period may be shorter.
Mesothelioma Prognosis and Life Expectancy
If you are diagnosed at a younger age, you have a better chance of surviving longer. The long latency period makes providing an accurate prognosis difficult for many physicians. Many times, mesothelioma has already developed into the advanced stages by the time it’s actually detected. The five-year survival rate for people diagnosed with mesothelioma ranges between 5 and 10 percent.
For people diagnosed with stage I, the median survival rate is 21 months. If you’ve received a diagnosis of stage II of mesothelioma, the median survival rate is 19 months.
Generally speaking, patients with mesothelioma cancer too far spread to remove have a lower survival rate than those who can still be operated on. For later stages of a mesothelioma diagnosis, the median survival rate is 12 to 16 months, respectively.
Who is at Risk of Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma affects people of all ages exposed to asbestos and other carcinogens, including children and senior citizens. However, children only account for up to 4 percent of all mesothelioma cases.The average age of patients diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma is 69, and most patients are at least 40-years-old. Overall, males seem to be more affected by mesothelioma than females.
According to the CDC, there were nearly 2,600 deaths attributed to malignant mesothelioma during 2015. Most cases involved patients between 75 and 84, who were most likely exposed before 1980 when asbestos was still widely used in hundreds of consumer products and construction materials.
Nearly 700 of the cases involved patients ages 24 to 44, who born after most asbestos-related materials and products were banned by the EPA.
Historically, the rate of mesothelioma has also been higher for people who identify as white or Hispanic, than those identifying as Asian American or African American. People with a family history of mesothelioma may also be at greater risk.
However, up to 80 percent of all mesothelioma cases are attributed to asbestos exposure that occurred on the job. Some of the common places to be exposed to asbestos include:
- Public buildings
- Older houses and buildings
- Auto repair shops
- Industrial workplaces
- Mesothelioma Risk in Different Industries
Anyone employed in industries involving asbestos exposure, along with their family members, may face a high risk of developing mesothelioma later in life. This is largely due to the fact that thousands of companies were involved in the chain of exposure that led to asbestos being used in over 3,000 different types of products.
Workers handling the asbestos materials during this time period were unwittingly suffered an unhealthy amount of asbestos exposure. This is the main reason why most mesothelioma patients today are around 70 years old now.
Types of Mesothelioma
The main types of mesothelioma are pleural, peritoneal and pericardial and testicular mesothelioma. The pericardial and testicular varieties are extremely rare and only account for approximately 1 percent of all mesothelioma cases.
- Pleural mesothelioma is the most prominent variety and accounts for around 75 percent of all cases. With this type of mesothelioma, the carcinogenic fibers and disease are found in the pleura lining of the lungs. A number of clinical studies are currently underway to help develop better treatment options available and improve survival rates.
- Peritoneal mesothelioma accounts for up to 20 percent of all diagnosed cases. With this type of mesothelioma, the scarring and inflammation from inhaling or swallowing asbestos fibers are forming cancerous mutations in the perineum that lines the abdominal cavity. Peritoneal mesothelioma is best treated with a combination of heated chemotherapy and surgery.
- Pericardial mesothelioma is one the rarest varieties a patient can receive a diagnosis for. With pericardial mesothelioma, the protective tissue that sustains the scarring and inflammation serves as the lining of the heart. This is especially hard to treat due to the sensitivity of the area that needs to be treated.
- Testicular mesothelioma accounts for less than 2 percent of all mesothelioma cases. Many physicians believe the mesothelioma forms in the lining of the testes as a result of ingesting asbestos. This variety typically responds better to treatment than pleural mesothelioma.
Symptoms of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma symptoms can be difficult to diagnose because they are easily mistaken as being related or caused by another condition. Anyone with symptoms and an employment history related to a high-risk occupation should not hesitate to see a physician to receive a physical assessment for any illnesses related to asbestos exposure.
It’s better to try and catch mesothelioma symptoms early, rather than suffer the consequences of discovering them too late. Some of the most common mesothelioma symptoms to be aware of include:
- Unintended weight loss
- Vomiting or nausea
- Fluid buildup, or effusion, in the abdomen or lungs
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, wheezing
- Difficulty swallowing
- Dry cough
- Consistent fatigue
- Heart issues
- Diagnosis of Mesothelioma
If you or a loved one are suspicious of potential mesothelioma symptoms, contact a medical professional right away.
Mesothelioma is often difficult for physicians to diagnose, and they use a combination of methods to confirm their findings:
- Biopsy: A number of different nonsurgical and surgical biopsy procedures may be required to confirm the diagnosis and outline the appropriate treatment options.
- Imaging and Scanning: MRIs, X-rays, CT scans and PET scans are typically involved in the first steps of the diagnostic process. In order to properly diagnosis and treat the condition, physicians use these tools to learn how far the mesothelioma has developed and where the tumor is located.
- Blood Tests and Biomarkers: In order to confirm the diagnosis or a physician’s suspicions, blood tests like CA125, Fibulen-3 or Mesomark can be used to measure biomarkers and confirm if the patient has mesothelioma.
Aside from the long latency period, mesothelioma has a high rate of misdiagnosis because the symptoms often resemble common conditions like pneumonia, cold and flu. If you think you have the symptoms and asbestos exposure in your past, contact Mesowatch today and we’ll direct you to a reputable mesothelioma cancer treatment facility to receive specialized care from the proper specialists.
Treatment Options for Mesothelioma Patients
Mesothelioma has no known cure, but there are treatment options to help alleviate the symptoms and improve survival rates. In addition, cancer specialists have been looking for alternative therapies and innovative options for treatment.
The options for treatment are dictated by the stage the patient’s mesothelioma is in. Patients receiving later stage diagnoses have limited options. If you think you were exposed to asbestos in the past, see a physician regularly to catch the disease in the early stages of development.
Treating the mesothelioma is difficult, and doctors are still studying the effectiveness of radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery.
People diagnosed with stage IV mesothelioma or early on in stage IV may qualify for chemical pleurodesis, a treatment that helps prevent the symptoms from recurring.
Other therapies include photodynamic therapy, targeted drugs, gene therapies and immunotherapies and virus therapies.
- Surgery: Procedures to remove the tumors, but patients must qualify based on a number of factors. Approximately 20 percent of pleural mesothelioma patients have the surgery.
- Chemotherapy: Administered through oral or IV-based medications that target cells to help limit cancer cell growth. Prognosis and survival rate improves for some patients.
- Radiation: Conventional therapy for cancer cells used to shrink and kill tumors. The effectiveness and precision of the therapy are improved by using intensity-modulated radiotherapy, IMRT.
True Justice for Mesothelioma Patients
At Mesowatch, we will meet at your convenience to help you document your claim, initiate the process, file lawsuits and go after the parties potentially liable for negligently exposing you to the hazardous carcinogens that caused the mesothelioma to develop.
In addition, we help you get started on filing trust fund claims so you recover the compensation you’re entitled to receive for your mesothelioma diagnosis and asbestos exposure injuries.
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, or have symptoms related to mesothelioma, contact Mesowatch today.