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Mesothelioma Survival Rate
Mesothelioma is a difficult cancer to diagnose and treat. For approximately 3,000 people each year who fall victim, most will realize when discovering the condition is terminal, with no definitive cure, that the prognosis is not good. One of their first questions will typically be how long they will live. The answer to this is, on average, less than a year or as little as a few months. No two cases are alike and, while rare, some patients contracting this rare disease have survived longer.
Late Diagnosis is Common
One of the most frustrating aspects of mesothelioma, or asbestosis, is its incredibly long latency period. Those who fall victim to the condition have been exposed to the mineral asbestos, usually in the work environment, and this exposure may have occurred several decades before symptoms finally appear.
Asbestosis usually affects the sufferer's lungs, as a result of having breathed in asbestosis fibers or dust, and these foreign bodies attach themselves to the pleura, or lining of the lungs. They cause the development of cancerous tumors and slowly start to spread to other vital organs in the body. Actual symptoms may not become apparent for as many as 50 years from the time of exposure. Because of this, those who finally are diagnosed with having mesothelioma don't become aware of the problem until it is in the late stages of development, at which time survival rates are significantly shortened.
Types of Mesothelioma
There are four types of mesothelioma generally recognized, classified according to which part of the body the asbestos exposure initially affects:
- Pleural, accounting for about 70% of cases, affects the lungs.
- Peritoneal, accounting for about 20% of cases, affects the abdominal cavity.
- Pericardial, accounting for less than 10% of cases, affects the lining of the heart.
- Testicular, responsible for less than 1% of cases, affects the testicles.
Statistically, survival rates are longest for those fallen victim to the most common types. One explanation for this is the amount of research and clinical trials for pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma have been much more active than for the other two, less common types.
Alternative Treatments May Hold the Most Promise
Early detection is a critical factor in the survival rates of mesothelioma victims, but with the long latency period, early detection is not common. Once diagnosed, with no cure available, typical treatments consist of chemotherapy, radiation therapy and, less often, surgery to remove the tumors. Treatments in the later stages are essentially palliative, meant to bring comfort and reduce pain and ease breathing difficulties.
Alternative treatments have been reported to bring positive results, allowing some survival rates of as much as 20 or more years. Much can be learned about these alternatives and the warning signs of possible mesothelioma with a bit of online research. If you've had any asbestos exposure at any time and suffer from any of the common symptoms, it's important to see a specialist immediately.