Receiving a diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma is a very frightening experience for yourself and for those who care about you. Although it is natural to feel fear and even anger, it is important that you gather information about your condition as soon as possible. One of the first things to ask is, “What is malignant mesothelioma?” Malignant mesothelioma is a very aggressive cancer that is resistant to all currently known types of treatment. You will also want to know what the average malignant mesothelioma prognosis is. People affected by this type of mesothelioma cancer have a very poor prognosis, as the one-year survival rate for those diagnosed with mesothelioma is just 50 percent.
The principal cause of mesothelioma cancer is asbestos exposure. Due to high rates of asbestos exposure in the 20th century, the incidence rate of mesothelioma is steadily increasing and is likely to continue to increase for the next several decades.
How Asbestos Causes Cancer
Following the question of “what is malignant mesothelioma?” you’ll also want to know how asbestos causes it. The exact method by which asbestos causes cancer in mesothelial cells is presently unknown. However, there are four different theories:
- Asbestos causes irritation of mesothelial cells, leading to cell damage and eventually cancer.
- Asbestos fibers enter mesothelial cells and damage molecules that are crucial for normal cell division.
- Asbestos fibers promote the formation of free radicals, which cause damage to DNA and cause mesothelial cells to mutate into cancer cells.
- Asbestos fibers cause mesothelial cells to produce molecules called oncoproteins that cause them to turn into cancer cells.
As with all other types of malignant cancer, the key element is that cells are caused to divide continuously. These cells eventually form tumors that prevent other cells and organs from functioning normally.
Symptoms of Malignant Mesothelioma
Recognizing malignant mesothelioma symptoms may prove helpful in terms of improving the prognosis of your disease. Unfortunately, early symptoms of malignant mesothelioma are non-specific and often resemble viral infections. This means that early diagnosis of this type of cancer is difficult and that it is often misdiagnosed. Symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, or a persistent cough are not uncommon. Most malignant mesothelioma symptoms, however, vary according to specific types of the disease. Night sweats, fever, and weight loss are less common in people with pleural mesothelioma. Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include pain or swelling in the abdominal area, nausea, weight loss, obstructions in the bowel, and anemia.
Diagnosis of Malignant Mesothelioma
Diagnosing malignant mesothelioma quickly and accurately is very important for two reasons. First, correct diagnosis is essential so that patients can be treated with a minimum of delay. Although the malignant mesothelioma prognosis is generally poor, prompt treatment may be helpful. The second reason is that some patients may wish to try and obtain an attorney and seek some kind of financial compensation from the company that was responsible for their asbestos cancer exposure.
The patient’s symptoms, in conjunction with a physical examination, form the basis of diagnosing mesothelioma. Malignant mesothelioma cancer is also diagnosed with the help of chest X-rays as well as other procedures that are designed to find out what type of cancer is involved and what stage it is at. The diagnosis is confirmed with biopsies or blood tests that determine whether or not cancerous cells are present in the body.
Prognosis of Malignant Mesothelioma
As noted, the mesothelioma prognosis, or life expectancy, for people with malignant mesothelioma is generally very poor. Because early symptoms of the disease are so non-specific, it is difficult to make an early diagnosis of mesothelioma. Malignant mesothelioma cancer, as a result, is often diagnosed during its later stages. By the time an accurate diagnosis is confirmed, around 50 percent of patients will die within one year.
Treatment for Mesothelioma Cancer
There are several options when it comes to the treatment of this asbestos-caused cancer. The most common treatments for malignant mesothelioma are surgery and chemotherapy, which are usually used in conjunction with each other. Surgical procedures typically involve removing malignant cells to improve the patient’s quality of life and are usually followed up with chemotherapy to remove residual cancer cells.
Other forms of treatment are largely experimental. These types of treatment include immunotherapy and gene therapy. Immunotherapy involves manipulating the body’s own immune system in an effort to induce it to kill cancer cells. Gene therapy involves using a virus that has been genetically engineered to infect cancer cells and cause them to produce molecules that are capable of killing only malignant mesothelioma cells.
To learn more about treatment options or financial assistance after a mesothelioma diagnosis, contact Mesothelioma Treatment Centers today. We can also help you obtain a lawyer who can consult you on your legal rights as a victim of asbestos exposure.