Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, abdomen, and heart, a thin membrane known as the mesothelium. Mesothelioma is typically associated with asbestos exposure and asbestos exposure is the disease’s only known cause. The latency period between exposure and onset of mesothelioma symptoms is usually more than thirty years. Once diagnosed however, the disease is highly aggressive.
Stage at diagnosis is the single most important factor when assessing a patient’s mesothelioma prognosis. Mesothelioma is diagnosed in 4 stages, with stage one being the least extensive and stage four being the most extensively spread disease. Prognosis can range from 2-3 years in diagnosed stage one mesotheliomas to 2-3 months in extensive stage four mesotheliomas.
Mesothelioma symptoms are not always immediately determined to be caused by mesothelioma and misdiagnosis of the disease is common, as many symptoms are similar to other respiratory and abdominal disorders. Early detection of the disease however, is paramount to longer prognoses. In many patients who have had the disease identified in its early stages, prognoses have exceeded 5+ years following diagnosis, with many of the same patients leading a normal life of activity.
Mesothelioma does not officially advance in stage until it begins to metastasize, meaning the spread of the disease to other organs or internal body structures. Prognosis is often most favorable when the disease is localized, potentially making these patients eligible for surgical removal of the affected area. In special cases of early detection, patients are eligible for an extensive procedure performed by Dr. David Sugarbaker known as extra-pleural pneumonectomy, which greatly limits the possibility of spread and has resulted in extremely good prognoses for those who are eligible. Extra-pleural pneumonectomy involves the removal of the entire affected lung, the pericardium (mesothelial lining of the heart), the peritoneum (mesothelial lining of the abdomen), and the diaphragm. Following removal, the diaphragm is reconstructed using prosthetics.
Mesothelioma prognosis will vary greatly from patient to patient depending on a number of factors including stage of disease, general patient health, and age at diagnosis. Treatment options will vary by stage of diagnosis but can also affect prognoses in mesothelioma patients. For thorough mesothelioma prognosis information, complete the brief form on this page to receive a complimentary mesothelioma treatment and information packet.
Each day, oncologists and other doctors are researching new methods of treatment for malignant mesothelioma. However, the ultimate goal remains finding a cure for the disease and finally eradicating this difficult cancer.
- American Cancer Society: Detailed Guide. What is Malignant Mesothelioma?. http://www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_4_1X_What_is_malignant_mesothelioma_29.asp?rnav=cri
- Cancer Help, UK http://www.cancerhelp.org.uk/help/default.asp?page=4465
- American Cancer Society: "How is Malignant Mesothelioma Diagnosed". http://www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_4_3X_How_is_malignant_mesothelioma_diagnosed_29.asp?rnav=cri
Last modified: December 27, 2010.