Mesothelioma Survival Rates
Although asbestos was thought to be a safe material for much of the hundred year period it was used in construction, it was actually the silent cause of many life threatening health problems when fibers were inhaled.
One of these issues – and likely the most deadly – is mesothelioma, which is often fatal by the time it is diagnosed, long after the original exposure to asbestos.
What is mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a particularly aggressive form of cancer that typically attacks the lungs (especially when caused by asbestos exposure). It develops in a thin layer of tissue called the mesothelium that can be found covering the majority of your internal organs.
Mesothelioma is categorised based on where it develops – in the case of mesothelioma in the lungs that develops because of asbestos exposure, it is known as pleural mesothelioma (pleura being the tissue around the lungs). Sadly, while some cases of malignant pleural mesothelioma can receive treatment to an extent, most are incurable.
What are the symptoms of mesothelioma?
Pleural mesothelioma typically presents with symptoms associated with diseases like other lung cancers. Some of the symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include:
• Chest pains
• An unexplained loss of weight
• Trouble breathing
• A chronic, painful cough
• Unusual lumps underneath the skin of your chest
These symptoms usually take at least ten years, and as many as fifty, to present after the mesothelioma has begun developing. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should contact a doctor immediately, particularly if you are in a high-risk group for asbestos exposure.
How is mesothelioma contracted?
Pleural mesothelioma is caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers, which are invisible to the naked eye and can’t be smelled in the air. These fibers become stuck in the lining of your lungs, which can lead to scarring and inflammation – and unfortunately, in many cases, to the development of malignant mesothelioma tumors.
A mesothelioma diagnosis can be made with tests like scans and biopsies – once mesothelioma patients have been properly diagnosed, their life expectancy is usually significantly reduced. Mesothelioma can also be found in the abdomen – in this case, it is referred to as peritoneal mesothelioma.
What are the survival rates of mesothelioma?
The mesothelioma survival rates for patients is dependent on factors such as the age and gender of the patients diagnosed, the stage of the disease, and the cell type (or histopathology).
There are four stages of mesothelioma that can be diagnosed, with the stage usually being determined with the TNM (Tumor, Node, and Metastasis) staging system.
The system is used to score certain parts of the body based on factors like the tumor size, if the cancer has spread to lymph nodes, and if the cancer has spread to other, more distant organs.
The life expectancy for each stage is:
• Stage 1: 22 months
• Stage 2: 20 months
• Stage 3: 18 months
• Stage 4: 15 months
As you can tell, the prognosis for mesothelioma tends to be poor, for both pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma patients. Mesothelioma.com, a source of medical information on the disease, provides these figures for pleural mesothelioma survival rates after diagnosis:
• 1 year following diagnosis: 73%
• 3 years following diagnosis: 23%
• 5 years following diagnosis: 12%
• 10 years following diagnosis: 4.7%
Malignant mesothelioma is, in many cases, a death sentence, and has historically been caused by the carelessness of companies who continued to use materials containing asbestos despite being aware of the dangers to public health. However, there is some hope, and in recent years mesothelioma survivors have been living for increasingly long periods after initial diagnosis.
What are the treatment options for mesothelioma?
Techniques such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery tend to be used in the treatment of mesothelioma. While the disease cannot be cured, these treatments can help improve mesothelioma survival rates.
For example, pleurectomy/decortication (the removal of lung and chest wall lining) is one surgical option that can provide more comfort for patients or potentially improve survival rates. Some recent studies have found that surgeries like these, when combined with other treatment options, can extend the mesothelioma survival rates by more than three years in some cases.
Are treatments for mesothelioma being developed?
Thankfully, research into mesothelioma has lead to the development of new experimental treatments that have the potential to increase the mesothelioma survival rate. These include photodynamic therapy, which kills mesothelioma cancer cells with light activated drugs, and immunotherapy, which utilises a patient’s immune system to fight the disease.
While they are currently only available through mesothelioma specialists conducting clinical trials, they may become standard treatment options if proven to be effective and safe for survivors. For younger patients who don’t yet know they have the disease, this could mean a significant improvement in quality of life, and in survival rates.
However, none of these treatments are guaranteed to be approved, so unfortunately, mesothelioma survival rates will likely remain low for some time to come.
Who is at risk of contracting mesothelioma?
According to the National Cancer Institute, around 2500 people a year are diagnosed with mesothelioma, and the majority of cases of pleural mesothelioma are found in men over the age of 60.
This is likely because many of the people most likely to be exposed to asbestos were manual labourers, with the majority of these roles in previous decades being filled by men.
Additionally, because symptoms take so long to present, many mesothelioma patients are diagnosed at an older age, contributing to the lower survival rates following diagnosis.
There are many occupations associated with mesothelioma from asbestos exposure, including but not limited to:
• Auto mechanics
• Steam Fitters
• Pipe Fitters
• Heating Engineers
• Operating Engineers
• Drywall Tapers
• Crane Operators
• Flooring Installers
• HVAC Technicians
• Construction Workers
• Fire Alarm Installers
• Maintenance & Janitorial Workers
• US Navy Personnel
Additionally, people who have worked in disasters such as 9/11 are significantly more likely to have been exposed to asbestos that entered the air when buildings built pre-1980 were destroyed.
Are mesothelioma patients entitled to compensation?
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma as a direct result of exposure to asbestos fibers in construction materials like insulation and flooring, you may be able to claim financial compensation from the manufacturers of these products.
Pleural mesothelioma patients deserve justice and peace after what they have been through – we are available for a free consultation if you think you may have a potential legal case.