The term “Mesothelioma” in medical terms is defined as form of cancer that
proliferates at a very fast rate after it has been diagnosed, which affects the mesothelial cells in the body. After detailed study of this disease by several scientists all over the world, it has been concluded that in most of the cases the reason is the direct contact with loose asbestos particles. This disease is generally known to be derived from an abnormality that arises from inhaling the loose asbestos particles suspended in the air for a very long time. The chances of the patients, diagnosed of mesothelioma, have very bleak chances of survival which is not more than one or two years and if it has been detected long back and rigorous medication has been started on the patient then the patient is likely to live for about five years.
There are three types of mesothelioma but the symptoms of the diseases
depend on their kinds. The symptoms vary from one-another but the general
symptoms that are found in patients suffering from different types of
mesothelioma are weight loss, chest pain, loss of appetite, short breath, plain cough and cough with blood. Diagnosing mesothelioma in its initial stages is not possible because symptoms surface very late and that, these symptoms are no special signs indicating the particular disease but are common for other diseases too.
Generally the symptoms of mesothelioma resemble to that to any other normal lung diseases. Most of the symptoms arise in the lungs, where the
mesothelial cells covering the lungs and the cavity between them are
affected due to prolonged inhalation of asbestos fibers. Consulting with the
physician is very necessary from time to time and necessary test must be
conducted to detect the disease.
The main symptom of mesothelioma is a constant pain in the chest which is
followed by short breaths and difficult breathing because of accumulation of
fluid in the chest, which makes breathing all the more difficult. Some of the other symptoms of the disease include abnormalities in the lungs, which can be diagnosed under proper supervision of the doctor with a chest CT-scan.
Basically, the disease of mesothelioma advances in four stages. In the first stage, begins the formation of the tumor in the area of lining of the lung and doesn’t exceed from one side of the lung. And then in the second stage the tumor extends to other organs in the chest cavity, such as heart. Then in the third stage its extents to the other abdominal organs affecting all the other organs too. Finally in the fourth and the last stage the tumor extends to all parts of the body and affects all the parts adversely. These are some of the symptoms of the disease of mesothelioma, by which the disease can be tracked in the initial stages of its occurrence.
Living In Fear Of Mesothelioma
First of all, you may be wondering what mesothelioma is, and why I should be scared of it ?…..
Mesothelioma is the medical name for cancer of the lung, and is usually caused by exposure to asbestos. Symptoms my not appear for up to 50 years or so after exposure to asbestos, and people who haven’t had any contact with asbestos for many years, are now showing signs of having this deadly disease. The symptoms are usually shortness of breath, coughing, and chest pains and feeling very tired.
Why should I be scared of it ?
As a small child, I used to live near a factory which used asbestos to make fire-proof products and other insulating materials for the building industry. I believe that asbestos was also used in the manufacture of break linings. I can remember seeing the asbestos dust that spewed out of the factory covering the surrounding area (including part of our school playground) with this deadly snow like powder. Of course, as we were just kids at that time, we had absolutely no idea just how deadly this dust was. We even played in it completely unaware of its dangers.
The Horror Came Later.
It wasn’t until years later after the factory had been closed down, that we began to see the full horrors of this white snow looking powder, we had played with as children. By this time I was much older, and the dangers of asbestos had been given massive coverage by the media, so I was now aware of what could happen to myself and hundreds of other people who lived in the same area as this factory in years to come.
This factory received national television coverage, and on one program they interviewed families who had suffered due to the problem of asbestos. I was shocked to see that I knew some of the people who had lost family members due to developing mesothelioma, in fact I actually went to school with some of the people who took part in the program. The program showed old photographs of the area around the factory (including my old school) covered in powder, and it really did look like it had been snowing. When you see all of this on television it really does make you just a little bit worried, especially when you have been in contact with asbestos like I have.
If mesothelioma is diagnosed early enough, a cure is possible with a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. However, in the case of a more advanced illness a cure is not possible, but with the right treatments the illness can be slowed down dramatically and medication can be used to ease any pain.
As a precaution I did have x-rays a few years ago just to put my mind at rest, and thankfully they were all clear. The doctor recommended that I should have x-rays on a very regular basis just to be on the safe side. So, at the moment everything is ok, but I will always be just a little bit worried of what might happen in the future.
As with any cancer, treatment for Mesothelioma depends on the location of the cancer, the progression of the disease, the age as well as state of health of the patient.
It is the oncologist who specializes in the disease who will decide on the line of treatment. The disease is difficult to treat and in most cases the prognosis is poor. Treatment options include:
1. If the diagnosis is done in the early stages surgery may be recommended to remove all cancerous tissues. This means thoracoscopy, VATS or video assisted thoracic surgery, mediastinoscopy (used for staging), or laproscopy. Often, doctors will advise palliative procedures like chest tube drainage and pleurodesis, thoracoscopy and pleurodesis, pleuroperitonial shunt, or pleurectomy, which treat the symptoms of mesothelioma rather than the disease.
2. Radiation is prescribed aggressively for mesothelioma patients and is often given in combination with surgery or in order to control symptoms, palliatively. Research on using radiation therapy using implants or UV light therapy is in progress as traditional radiation therapy damages surrounding healthy tissue.
3. Chemotherapy is an option and around 12-20% of patients respond to the drugs. Anti-cancer drugs destroy cancer cells and prevent their spread. In mesothelioma, chemotherapy is not considered to be curative. The aim is to prevent spread of the disease; shrink the tumor prior to surgery, known as neoadjuvant therapy; to annihilate any remains of the tumor in the body post surgery; and to relieve pain and other discomfort, palliative chemotherapy. Experts recommend prescribing premetrexed along with cisplastin. These drugs have shown positive results and this is now standard care for Mesothelioma not treatable by surgery.
4. Biological therapy using interleukin 2.
5. Immunotherapy where the body’s own immune system is stimulated to fight the disease. Biological response modifiers, BRMs, are used in treatment. These enhance the functions of the immune system; regulate metabolic reactions that promote growth of cancers; alter cancer cell division; block or reverse processes that lead to formation of cancers; and prevent spread of cancer.
6. Gene therapy, where attempts are made to correct the gene sequence that causes the cancer. This is of two kinds, replacement gene therapy and knockout gene therapy.
7. Administration of lovastatin, a cholesterol lowering drug.
8. Photodynamic treatment where a photosensitive medication is activated using a laser. This is done during the surgical removal of cancerous tissues.
9. Draining of fluid in the chest or abdominal cavity followed by introduction of medications into the cavity to prevent fluid accumulation is done for patients who have uncontrolled fluid accumulation and intense discomfort stemming from it.
10. Combination therapy or Trimodal therapy which means surgery accompanied by radiation and chemotherapy.
Often, complementary medicines are also used. Termed to be holistic this kind of treatment focuses on a patient’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well being.
In the case of Mesothelioma which is untreatable one can opt for clinical trials of new treatments that are in progress in several research laboratories and centers. The best advice on the line of treatment would be that recommended by the oncologist or physician.
Mesothelioma cancer is an extremely rare cancer form that is only found in the mesothelium. This form of malignancy generally affects those people who have been exposed to a situation where asbestos is present, typically those who have worked in buildings where it was used as a fire retardant..
What happens when a person has Mesothelioma Cancer?
This type of cancer directly affects the mesothelium and causes abnormal cells. These cells begin to divide rampantly. They invade and cause damage to all organs and tissues that are near the effected area. Mesothelioma cancer tends to spread fairly quickly throughout the body, as well.
This is the membrane that protects and covers many of the organs within your body. The membrane is made up of cells and is in separate layers. The first layer surrounds the organ extremely close and the second creates a protective sac around the organs.
Studies show that only 2,000 people each year are diagnosed with Mesothelioma cancer in the U.S. Studies further show that men are more apt to contract this type of cancer than women. However, Mesothelioma Cancer knows no boundaries and can be found in both genders. Typically, the older the person is, the more at risk they are for developing Mesothelioma cancer.
Who is at risk for Mesothelioma Cancer?
Anyone who is exposed to asbestos in large quantities and for long periods of time are especially at risk for developing Mesothelioma cancer. It is impossible to say who exactly will develop Mesothelioma cancer because it has been found in those who had only very little exposure to asbestos and those who had no exposure at all, but lived with someone who had a good deal of exposure to them. The risk to those living with someone works in asbestos filled areas is high. Asbestos is brought home by the worker as dust on his or her hair or clothing.
Mesothelioma Cancer Symptoms
Mesothelioma cancer is a slow growing type of cancer. Some cases do not see any type of symptoms until thirty to fifty years after asbestos exposure. Some symptoms can include:
Shortness of breath
Sudden Weight Loss
Pain in the abdominal region
Treatment of Mesothelioma Cancer
There are a few different treatment options available for those diagnosed with Mesothelioma cancer. The method of treatment will depend upon many different things such as the age, overall health, where the Mesothelioma cancer is located and the stage the Mesothelioma Cancer is in. The three typical types of treatment include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery...