Mesothelioma: Types, Symptoms, and Treatmen

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that occurs in the outer lining that surrounds your organs and is primarily caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a chemical that was widely used in construction and the military for its strength and heat-resistant properties. However, its use was prohibited after its harmful effects came to light.

Although the use of asbestos was prohibited after the 1980s, 3,000 [AS1] cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the US every year. This is because it can take decades for its symptoms to appear, which makes this illness even more threatening and harder to manage. Consequently, mesothelioma is mostly found in seniors aged 65 [AS2] and above, and it is more common among men.

There is no doubt that being diagnosed with mesothelioma can be incredibly overwhelming for you and your loved ones. However, learning more about the condition can allow you to understand and deal with your circumstances better.

Types of Mesothelioma

There are four main types of mesothelioma, which are categorized according to the location of the cancer. The most common type of mesothelioma is pleural mesothelioma, as it accounts for 82.1% [AS3] of all cases and is found in the lining of the lungs.

It can also be found in the lining of the abdomen, known as peritoneum mesothelioma, and the lining of the heart, known as pericardium mesothelioma. Lastly, the cancer can also be found in the testicles. However, this is the least common type.

While getting such a diagnosis can be stressful, it is important to remember that help is always available. In fact, mesothelioma patients, including veterans, are eligible for financial compensation from mesothelioma trust funds, which were created by the companies responsible for the use and production of asbestos. Financial compensation can help you get the treatment you deserve without going into debt, which can make the road to recovery comparatively easier and stress-free. Moreover, it also helps support the patient’s family in a time of crisis.

Symptoms of Mesothelioma

As mentioned earlier, it can take 10 to 50 years before you start experiencing any symptoms of mesothelioma. Consequently, it is usually diagnosed after it has progressed. Regardless, regular checkups and health screenings can help you detect mesothelioma earlier, which can significantly improve your prognosis.

Here are some common symptoms to look out for:

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Chest or abdominal pain
  • Coughing
  • Abnormal lumps under the skin of your chest
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Unexplained or sudden weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Swollen testicles

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is necessary to seek medical attention right away. Your doctor may first order imaging scans such as an MRI or CT scan to look for any abnormal masses in your body. Then, they will perform a biopsy, which is the only sure-fire way of diagnosing mesothelioma.

Treatment Options for Mesothelioma

Unfortunately, mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that is not curable. The life expectancy after a diagnosis, on average, can be anywhere between 12 to 21 months[AS4] , depending on how much the cancer has progressed. However, it is also important to remember that several patients have survived for ten years or longer after receiving a diagnosis.

After your diagnosis, your doctor will create a treatment plan according to your physical health and the stage of cancer. Treatment will help keep distressing symptoms at bay, prevent the cancer from spreading, improve your quality of life, and improve your prognosis as well.

Here are some of the most common treatment options for mesothelioma. Your doctor may use one or a combination of methods to create a suitable plan for you.

1.      Surgery

Surgery is a common way to remove tumors, especially if the disease is diagnosed at an early stage. It may remove the cancer cells completely or partially to help reduce symptoms and improve prognosis. Surgery may also be performed to reduce fluid buildup.

2.      Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the most common way to treat cancer, including mesothelioma. Specific drugs are used to kill or slow down cancer growth. Your doctor may administer chemotherapy before surgery or after surgery to target any cancer cells that could not be removed. On the other hand, if you have peritoneal mesothelioma, the drugs may be administered directly into the abdominal cavity during surgery. However, chemotherapy can also have several side effects.

3.      Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams through X-rays to help reduce or kill cancer cells. It can be used after surgery to target leftover cancer cells. It can also be used in cases where surgery is not an option to help reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.

4.      Immunotherapy

The immune system’s job is to fight off any harmful intruders like bacteria and pathogens. However, cancer cells produce a protein that blinds the immune system. Immunotherapy employs methods that interfere with this process, which allows the immune system to target tumors or cancer cells.

5.      Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy uses drugs that target specific proteins or genes that allow cancer cells to grow or thrive in your body. Although this is not common, your doctor might suggest this method on its own or in combination with another treatment, such as chemotherapy, if it is suitable in your case.

How to Improve Your Prognosis?

While your medical team will try every suitable treatment option to improve your prognosis, there are several steps you can take to help. So, here are some changes you can make to improve your prognosis and quality of life:

  • Quit unhealthy habits, such as alcohol consumption and smoking, as they can worsen the symptoms of the disease and the side effects of the treatment. They can also hinder the benefits of your treatments.
  • Maintain a healthy diet rich in foods that can help boost your immune system and make your body strong enough to deal with harsh treatments.
  • Engage in light exercises to improve your mood, regulate blood flow, and boost appetite.
  • Learn healthy ways to deal with stress, such as meditation, yoga, or mental health therapy.

Concluding Thoughts

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that is primarily caused due to asbestos exposure. While there are four types of mesothelioma, it is most commonly found in the lining of the lungs and abdomen. Unfortunately, it can take decades for mesothelioma symptoms to develop, due to which this disease is usually detected once it has progressed. Still, several treatment options can be used to improve your prognosis, reduce symptoms, and improve your quality of life.

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