When faced with a diagnosis of mesothelioma most patients, as well as those close to them, immediate concerns often regard the person’s prognosis, namely mesothelioma survival rates. Mesothelioma is a relatively rare but deadly form of cancer. There are approximately 2,000 to 3,000 new cases diagnosed annually in America. Most patients are Caucasian males over the age of 65, according to the American Cancer Society. However, this is not to say that cases are not found in other demographics, as mesothelioma in woman has been steadily increasing.
Prognosis and Survival Rate
Factors affecting the patient’s prognosis pertain to the patient’s stage and type of mesothelioma, as well as their general health and age at the time of diagnosis.
Survival rate is the medical terminology that details the percentage of individuals who live five years or more after their initial diagnosis. The following information is the five-year survival rates for mesothelioma patients in relation to their age. This statistical information in based off of the SEER Cancer Incidence Report and was obtained during research collected from 1999 to 2006; it is an average of all types and histology of mesothelioma. The rate at which patients achieve five-year survival is inversely related to their age at the time of diagnosis:
- Less than 45 years old—39.7%
- 75 and older—2.7%
Extending the Patient’s Life Expectancy
Current research, clinical trials, and a better understanding of how mesothelioma cells function and spread is slowly improving patient’s five-year survival rates. A key factor in this effort is determining how malignant mesothelioma can be detected earlier so that treatment can begin sooner. Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos and is a form of cancer known for long latency periods prior to the onset of symptoms. When symptoms do start to present themselves they are often mistaken for other illnesses or ailments, allowing the cancer to metastasize and affect organ systems outside of the cancer’s origination.
Cancer Staging and Treatment Options
Like most cancers, mesothelioma is separated into four stages. As a person progresses through the stages their prognosis lowers. With mesothelioma specifically, stage I and early stage II are the only ones where the majority of surgical options remain. In most cases, when the cancer has been detected early and the patient is healthy enough to undergo aggressive treatments, the patient’s medical team will suggest a multimodal form of treatment. Multimodal treatments involve a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Often the surgical procedures attempting curative measures in mesothelioma cases are drastic and involve the removal of one or more organs, as well as tissues lining those organs, or sections of the lymph node system. Most often the particular procedure chosen is known as an extrapleural pneumonectomy, and it is designed to remove as much of the malignancy as possible. This type of surgery is radical and often requires that patients travel to larger hospitals and cancer centers in order to work with a qualified surgeon.
While this procedure has seen a marked improvement as far as patient life expectancy, it is still not widely accepted as a curative option. In fact, most treatments, both traditional and experimental, regarding mesothelioma are palliative in nature. This means they are utilized as means of relieving symptoms such as pain or fluid buildup, but not intended to cure the malignancy itself.
A Realistic Approach to Living with Mesothelioma
A diagnosis of mesothelioma can be difficult to understand and process. Oftentimes, patients can become overwhelmed by statistical information, treatment options, and the personal questions that accompany such a serious life event. Patients should keep in mind that they are individuals not an impersonal set of statistics. The particular treatment programs and methods chosen should reflect the patient’s unique approach to life, as well as their personal needs.
While overwhelming, it is important to be cognizant of the information and research available concerning mesothelioma, but to also regard personal preferences and overall well-being. Some patients will seek out concrete answers to their questions concerning life expectancy, while others may choose not to obtain this sort of information at all.
Mesothelioma Resource Online is committed to providing those diagnosed with mesothelioma and their loved ones information tailored to their specific needs and wishes.