Malignant mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that forms in the protective lining of the body’s internal organs.
Individuals that have been exposed to asbestos run an exceptionally high risk of developing this type of cancer. Over 2,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed annually, with men diagnosed four times more than women.
Malignant Mesothelioma Signs & Symptoms
Exposure to asbestos has been the cause of nearly every diagnosed case of mesothelioma. It can take years before any sign of the disease begin to appear. Symptoms of the disease include shortness of breath, fatigue, and coughing.
Because mesothelioma carries many of the same symptoms as less serious illnesses, it often goes undiagnosed for many years. However, if a patient has been exposed to asbestos for an extended period of time and these symptoms develop, seek medical attention immediately.
Malignant Mesothelioma Diagnosis
It typically takes doctors 3 to 6 months after a patient’s first appointment to make a definitive mesothelioma diagnosis. The patient may be referred to a specialist, such as a pulmonologist, by their primary physician. The specialist is likely to give the patient a full physical exam, paying special attention to their respiratory system and checking any diminished chest expansion or noticeable breathing problems, and determining the patient’s history of asbestos exposure.
Malignant Mesothelioma Treatment
Most standard forms of cancer treatment options—surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation—have had mixed results with mesothelioma. Chemotherapy has shown to be the most effective course of treatment, as it has improved patients’ survival rates. The medical community is currently testing a number of alternative treatment options in clinical trials.
Malignant Mesothelioma Outlook
If caught early, mesothelioma may be treated successfully. But in most cases, even with treatment, the disease carries a poor prognosis because it is not diagnosed early enough. Approximately 5 to 10 percent of patients live up to 5 years after they are diagnosed.