Based on Your Reading:
Get Your Free Mesothelioma Guide
Find a Top Mesothelioma Doctor
Access Help Paying for Treatment
Malignant mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer. It can develop in the thin lining around the lungs, abdomen, heart and testes. Mesothelioma is primarily caused by asbestos exposure.
Exposure to asbestos most often happened at industrial, manufacturing and construction job sites. Older building materials contained asbestos for its strength and resistance to heat and electricity. Exposure also occurred at home through building materials, appliances and talc-containing personal care products. Asbestos naturally forms in talc deposits, and separating the minerals has proven difficult.
Life expectancy for people with mesothelioma is about 12 months with treatment, which is why the prognosis is generally poor for most patients. About 12% of people with pleural mesothelioma and 65% with peritoneal mesothelioma live for five years or longer.
The most common type of mesothelioma is pleural. It forms in the pleura, the protective lining around the outside of the lungs. The second-most common mesothelioma type is peritoneal, which forms in the abdominal lining. It has a much higher survival rate, and surgery is typically more successful than with pleural mesothelioma. The pericardial and testicular types affect about 1% of patients, and their treatment options are much more limited.
“Mesothelioma is a very ugly disease,” said Dr. Andrea Wolf, director of the New York Mesothelioma Program at Mount Sinai Health. “The most important thing I try to convey to patients is the importance of optimism … and focus on the things that give us a better chance for them.”
Get Your Free Mesothelioma Guide
Find a Top Mesothelioma Doctor
Access Help Paying for Treatment
Asbestos is the primary cause of mesothelioma. Repeated exposure to asbestos-contaminated products, such as talc and older construction materials, increases the risk of developing mesothelioma.
Asbestos fibers get stuck in tissues that line and protect vital organs. Over a period of decades, the fibers cause irritation and DNA damage. This damage turns normal cells into cancer cells, which develop into mesothelioma tumors. An average of 20 to 60 years passes between the first asbestos exposure and the development of symptoms, which is called the mesothelioma latency period.
Patients inhale or ingest asbestos, which causes chronic inflammation in the mesothelium. This can lead to genetic changes where cell DNA changes into a mesothelioma cancer cell.Dr. Marcelo DaSilvaMesothelioma and Thoracic Specialist
Occupational asbestos exposure is the No. 1 cause of mesothelioma. Construction workers, industrial workers, firefighters, military veterans and those in similar occupations may have been exposed to asbestos.
If you or a loved one were exposed to asbestos long ago, monitoring for signs of disease with X-rays and other tests can help catch cancer early. Tell your doctor about your exposure and ask how frequently you should be tested.
Respiratory symptoms of pleural mesothelioma primarily affect the lungs and chest cavity and include coughing, wheezing and chest pain. Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma develop in and around the abdomen and include abdominal swelling, distension and pain.
Pericardial mesothelioma symptoms impact the heart, such as heart palpitations and murmurs. Symptoms of testicular mesothelioma include testicular swelling and pain.
Fatigue, weight loss and fever commonly occur in cancers. Mesothelioma misdiagnosis is frequent because its symptoms can resemble other cancers and illnesses.
Talk to your doctor if you have been exposed to asbestos in the past and are experiencing these symptoms. Early diagnosis of any disease often leads to a better prognosis.
Diagnosed in 2017, pleural mesothelioma survivor Daniel McCarthy stays remarkably active at 82. After surviving aggressive surgery performed by specialist Dr. Abraham Lebenthal at the Boston VA Hospital, McCarthy underwent chemotherapy and radiation, which slowed him but didn’t stop his push to stay engaged. Today, he walks daily, reads considerably and writes about his adventures.
A biopsy is necessary to confirm a mesothelioma diagnosis. If mesothelioma cancer is suspected, doctors will recommend taking a tissue sample, also known as a biopsy. Doctors use this tissue sample to look for the presence of specific malignant mesothelioma cells.
Doctors use several other tests to diagnose malignant mesothelioma. Blood tests may be used, but they cannot detect mesothelioma alone. Most people initially undergo a chest X-ray.
If an abnormal growth or fluid around the lung is detected, doctors will recommend these imaging scans:
After a mesothelioma diagnosis, your doctor will review your pathology report to determine the cancer’s cell type. The three primary types of mesothelioma cells respond differently to treatment, and prognosis varies for each cell type.
Early detection of mesothelioma is important because it leads to more effective treatment options and improved treatment outcomes. If you are diagnosed with early-stage mesothelioma you may be eligible for more treatment options than if you were diagnosed with late-stage mesothelioma.
Dr. Jeffrey Velotta, a thoracic surgeon at Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center, said an “earlier diagnosis at an earlier stage leads to better survival.”
Patients in the early stages of mesothelioma are better candidates for surgery, which can improve their prognosis and life expectancy.
Determining the stage of cancer is important because it helps doctors make treatment plans and predict patient prognoses. The stages of mesothelioma range from 1 to 4.
These stages are based on tumor size and location. Each type of mesothelioma grows and spreads uniquely depending on the location where tumors originated.
Median life expectancy for pleural mesothelioma ranges from 14.9 months to 22.2 months, depending on the stage. Which treatments your doctor recommends are largely based on the cancer’s stage, cell type and your overall health.
The standard treatment for mesothelioma may include surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiation. Doctors develop individualized treatment plans based on cancer location, cell type and stage.
People diagnosed in the early stages of mesothelioma benefit most from multimodal therapy using surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Surgical and palliative treatment options vary by cancer location. The sarcomatoid cell type limits treatment options, while the epithelial cell type responds best to all forms of treatment.
“Supportive care medicine is a new specialized branch of medicine that reduces pain, increases appetite and boosts morale,” said Dr. Jacques Fontaine, director of the Mesothelioma Research and Treatment Center at Moffitt Cancer Center. “Every mesothelioma patient should ask to be seen by this type of medical specialist, in addition to a thoracic surgeon and medical oncologist.”
Some patients may be eligible for mesothelioma clinical trials that test newer therapies. Though not every mesothelioma treatment is suitable for each patient, most patients benefit from palliative care to help manage symptoms of mesothelioma.
Finding a mesothelioma specialist at a top mesothelioma treatment center is the best way to benefit from the latest therapies and improve a mesothelioma prognosis. Mesothelioma specialists understand more about the disease and its treatment than general oncologists.
“With this disease, finding a specialist is critical,” said Fontaine. “You need someone who really understands it and knows how to treat it aggressively to get the best possible outcome.”
Not many doctors have knowledge treating mesothelioma. Everyone should get a second opinion. If not for a second opinion, I wouldn’t have survived.Kasie ColemanPeritoneal mesothelioma survivor
Top mesothelioma doctors have years of experience developing personalized treatment plans for patients. They have access to the latest treatments and medical technology at renowned cancer centers, and they work on multidisciplinary teams to provide a comprehensive treatment plan. Our Patient Advocates help people get appointments with these experts throughout the U.S.
“Patients are surprised that we can schedule and register them with a specialist for a second opinion,” said Danielle DiPietro, a Patient Advocate with The Mesothelioma Center.
Although most doctors do not have experience diagnosing or treating mesothelioma, you can find mesothelioma specialists across the U.S.
The impact of a rare cancer diagnosis such as mesothelioma can feel like too much to handle. It is completely normal to worry and feel confused about how to move forward. Focus on getting excellent treatment and know there are steps you and your loved ones can take to empower your family with knowledge, resources and hope.
The Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com provides exclusive services to help mesothelioma patients and their loved ones through every step of their journey. We match patients with specialists, help families access financial assistance and connect them to top mesothelioma lawyers for compensation.
We provide support groups, assistance applying for VA benefits, help with booking medical appointments and more. All our concierge services are free to anyone affected by mesothelioma.
Finding other people with mesothelioma to connect with isn’t easy because it is a rare disease. Our Patient Advocates can help.
“We offer people we speak with the opportunity for patient-to-patient connections,” said DiPietro. “Connecting survivors goes a long way.”
Mesothelioma is not a form of lung cancer. While both are types of cancer, mesothelioma grows on the pleura, which is the lining that covers the lungs, diaphragm and chest cavity. Lung cancer develops within the lung space.
Mesothelioma is not curable. However, researchers continue investigating new therapy options in clinical trials. Some patients live several years beyond the average life expectancy. Recent treatment advancements, such as immunotherapy, provide patients hope for an eventual cure.
While mesothelioma is fatal in most people, many outlive their initial life expectancy. A small number of people have survived for more than a decade after diagnosis. Detecting mesothelioma and receiving treatment from a mesothelioma specialist are the best ways to extend life expectancy.
Friends and family members can provide vital support to loved ones diagnosed with mesothelioma. They can help with everyday tasks, such as doing housework, providing transportation to appointments or preparing meals. They might help schedule appointments, pay bills and explore legal options. Loved ones also provide crucial emotional support.
Our free mesothelioma guide contains information on symptoms, top doctors, support resources and more. Get information tailored to your unique diagnosis, and learn about our free services.