Mesothelioma Life Expectancy - Factors

As with any cancer, there are a number of factors that affect the life expectancy of a mesothelioma patient. When an oncologist begins to devise a plan for treatment, all of these factors are taken into consideration. Also, a prognosis is determined based on these same factors.

Latency of Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a cancer that behaves very differently from most cancers. Though the major cause is asbestos exposure, the disease usually does not surface until several decades after the exposure occurs. In many cases, the victim does not even recall the asbestos exposure because it happened so long ago. This latency period is one of the factors that makes diagnosis so difficult, especially when the connection to asbestos is forgotten.

When symptoms do finally surface, the patient’s cancer has usually reached advanced stages, with the primary tumor having spread to other parts of the body. The patient is usually not a candidate for any curative surgery that would remove the cancer in its entirety. Instead, chemotherapy or radiation is suggested. While this may earn the victim some extra time, it is not a cure for this aggressive type of cancer. Often, these treatments are only recommended as a palliative measure to ease the discomfort of symptoms of the disease.

There are, however, some exceptions when it comes to the disease’s long latency period. One 9-11 emergency responder, for example, was diagnosed with mesothelioma just a few years after the tragedy at the World Trade Center, proving that intense exposure can cause the disease to surface more quickly. Other reports have also shown that the longer and more intense the exposure, the quicker the disease develops.

In attempts to identify those who may be prone to developing the disease and with the hopes of being able to treat mesothelioma in its earlier stages, scientists have developed the Mesomark® blood test, approved by the FDA in 2007. The test detects a particular biomarker that would indicate the presence of the disease, even though the symptoms are not yet apparent.

Types of Mesothelioma

Patients can develop four different kinds of mesothelioma – pleural, pericardial, peritoneal or testicular. Malignant pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of the disease, accounting for about 65 to 75 percent of all cases diagnosed annually in the United States. Peritoneal cancer accounts for about 20 to 25 percent of all cases and pericardial represents less than 10 percent. Only about 100 cases of testicular mesothelioma have been reported in the last 50 years.

The kind of mesothelioma one develops will largely affect life expectancy. Pleural mesothelioma, as the most common form of the disease, has received the most attention from researchers and, therefore, the most treatment options are available for this form of the disease. Though it is an aggressive form of cancer, it appears to be the least aggressive of all the types of mesothelioma.

Peritoneal and pericardial mesothelioma spread very quickly and most treatment options are palliative in nature, used to make the patient more comfortable. The location of these cancers also makes treatment difficult, especially in the case of pericardial mesothelioma, which is near the heart.

To learn more about the various types of mesothelioma and how they can affect life expectancy, please fill out the form on this page to receive a comprehensive packet in the mail.

Age of Patient at Diagnosis

Mesothelioma has long been considered a disease of old men, even though secondary exposure has caused an influx of patients being diagnosed at a younger age through exposure to asbestos dust brought home by parents or grandparents who worked with the hazardous mineral. Generally, however, more than 75 percent of all cases of mesothelioma diagnosed in the United States each year are among men more than 55 years old.

Age plays a huge role in life expectancy. Younger patients are usually physically stronger and may have few other health concerns and are more easily treated. Older mesothelioma victims, on the other hand, may already be plagued with a number of other ailments that affect the geriatric population, including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and more. The presence of these ailments not only makes it more difficult to fight the disease because the body is weak, but these same illnesses can interfere with traditional cancer treatments, including chemotherapy and radiation. Doctors must take all these health factors into consideration before determining a suitable course of treatment.

Smoking

Anyone with any sort of lung disease should not smoke. For many, that’s easier said than done. Those addicted to nicotine have a hard time giving up the habit, even when they know it is affecting their health. Simply stated, smoking aggravates mesothelioma, makes symptoms more severe, and decreases the life expectancy of the patient. Mesothelioma sufferers who smoke should quit immediately upon diagnosis.