Despite being rare, mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer. It develops in the mesothelial cells, which line some organs to keep them moist. The membrane that is formed around these organs is known as mesothelium.
There are four types of mesothelioma, defined according to the first location of the tumors. Pleural mesothelioma refers to the lungs, peritoneal mesothelioma began in the abdomen, pericardial mesothelioma refers to the heart, and testicular mesothelioma. Pleural and peritoneal are by far the most common types, making up about 90 percent of mesothelioma diagnoses.
The primary cause of mesothelioma is a prolonged exposure to asbestos, a natural mineral that was widely used for about a century in industries like construction, shipbuilding, and manufacturing. It was woven and mixed with cement due to its heat resistance, tensile strength, and insulating properties.
During the latter part of the 20th century it was proven to be toxic and the cause for the development of several diseases, including mesothelioma. There is currently no cure for mesothelioma, but there are treatments that can help improve patients’ quality of life and prognosis.
Average Prognosis for Mesothelioma Patients
Prognosis can be evaluated according to the past cases of mesothelioma and can help patients understand what to expect from the disease. Life expectancy depends on numerous factors, and the prognosis tends to be better in patients diagnosed earlier in life. Survival rates can be measured from in periods of one to five years after diagnosis, although many patients survive after five years, especially if they are diagnosed when they are younger than 45.
Despite the fact that prognosis is generally poor for mesothelioma patients, strides have been made in recent years due to increased research into the disease.
Factors that Impact Mesothelioma Prognosis
Prognosis percentages and numbers refer to median survival rates, and there are many factors that can influence mesothelioma prognosis. The type of mesothelioma is one of them. Testicular mesothelioma, the rarest form of the disease, has the best prognosis, followed by peritoneal mesothelioma, while pericardial mesothelioma generally has the worst prognosis.
The size and metastasis of the tumor determines the stage of mesothelioma, as well as other factors. The type of cells that make up the tumor also impact the prognosis, and patients with epithelial mesothelioma usually have a better life expectancy than those with either the sarcomatoid or biphasic subtypes. Severe symptoms including chest pain or difficulty breathing can indicate advanced stages of mesothelioma, which often indicates a worse prognosis.
Overall health also impacts the prognosis. Patients who are otherwise healthy can undergo more intensive treatments, while pre-existing medical problems can have a negative impact on health. Smoking is one of the greatest factors that decrease not only mesothelioma prognosis, but overall health as well.
Favorable prognosis factors include stage 1 or 2 cancer, which means a tumor is located in only one site, good overall health, epithelial cells type, being younger than 55, a nonsmoker, and female. Stage 3 or 4 cancer, metastasized tumor, pre-existing health conditions, sarcomatoid or biphasic cell type, being older, being a smoker, and being male are poor prognostic factors as well.
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