Asbestos cancer, also known as mesothelioma cancer , is an extremely aggressive cancer for which there is currently no cure. Even aggressive treatment is unable to do more than improve quality of life for most patients.
As the name suggests, asbestos cancers are caused by exposure to asbestos. In the twentieth century, people working in many diverse professions were repeatedly exposed to asbestos, both before and after the effects of exposure were realized. Asbestos cancers have a long latency period, meaning that several decades elapse between asbestos exposure and the appearance of the first symptoms of cancer. Because of this, the incidence rate of asbestos cancer is likely to increase for the next two or three decades before it begins to taper off.
Asbestos Cancer Symptoms
The early symptoms of asbestos cancers are often indistinguishable from a simple viral infection, making the condition very difficult to diagnose in the early stages. Individuals may experience:
- chest or abdominal pain
- shortness of breath
- a persistent cough
- weight loss
- night sweats and fever
Asbestos Cancer Diagnosis and Prognosis
Patients are diagnosed on a combination of their symptoms and a physical examination. This examination may include chest x-rays, CT scan or MRI scan that will determine not only the type of cancer that is present, but also how far it has advanced. Mesothelioma diagnosis is typically confirmed with a blood test or biopsy.
For most individuals with asbestos cancer, prognosis (life expectancy) is poor. Early and accurate diagnosis is essential but just as problematic, due to the long latency period of asbestos cancers and the non-specific nature of early symptoms. Most individuals are not diagnosed until the middle and later stages of the cancer. Of those affected by asbestos cancer, around 50% will die within one year after diagnosis.
Asbestos Cancer Treatment
Asbestos cancer treatments vary according to the stage the cancer is at. Common treatments include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy . Surgical treatments are carried out to remove tumors, while chemotherapy and radiation therapy are used remove any remaining cancer cells, or to improve the quality of life for patients.
All other forms of treatment, such as gene therapy and immunotherapy, are presently experimental. Both of these treatments involve the manipulation of the body's immune system in a way that causes it to kill cancer cells. These treatments show limited promise, but currently there are no treatments that can cure asbestos cancers or even slow their progression significantly.
If you have been diagnosed with an asbestos cancer and would like to learn more about your treatment and financial options, we can help. Contact mesothelioma treatment centers today.