Mesothelioma: Hard to Diagnose, Hard to Treat

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Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that occurs in the thin layer of cells lining the body’s internal organs. This thin layer is known as the Mesothelium. Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer. It is hard to diagnose and hard to treat.

Mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure. A person does not usually experience early symptoms of Mesothelioma. Symptoms don’t show up for many years after the initial exposure, usually 15 or more years. Symptoms may be mild, shortness of breath or a persistent cough which may be mistaken for other illnesses. Because of this, the disease is commonly diagnosed at a late stage of development.

The outlook for patients with Mesothelioma depends on the stage of their cancer when diagnosed.
The staging system used in the past and still used today by doctors is the Butchart System. This system divides Mesothelioma into stages I through IV.

Stage I

Mesothelioma is present on one side of the chest only and isn’t growing into the chest wall.

Stage II

Mesothelioma invades the chest wall or involves the esophagus, heart, or has grown into the pleura on both sides. The lymph nodes in the chest may also be involved.

Stage III

Mesothelioma has grown through the diaphragm into the peritoneum (lining of the abdominal cavity) or has spread to lymph nodes beyond those in the chest.

Stage IV

Mesothelioma has spread through the bloodstream to other organs (metastases).

People diagnosed with this disease are often told the Mesothelioma survival rate is only eight to twelve months. This can vary greatly depending on the patients age and general health, the stage of the cancer, the size of the tumor, if the tumor can be removed with surgery and whether the cancer has just been diagnosed or has recurred.

The most commonly used treatments are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy

Most importantly, if a person has a history of working around asbestos they need to let doctors know their work history and concerns before they show symptoms. Early detection could save a life.


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