A particular kind of malignant cancer which affects the Mesothelium is known as Mesothelioma. Mesothelium is the thin tissue layer which covers most of our internal organs.
Mesothelioma cancer is arguably one of the tougher cancers and is often fatal. Although some treatments are possible for disease, most patients aren’t cured.
The most common kind is Pleural Mesothelioma, which originates in the tissues of the lungs. Sometimes, though very rarely, it affects the abdomen tissues (peritoneal Mesothelioma). It can also affect the heart or the testicle.
What causes Mesothelioma Cancer?
Similar to any other cancer, Mesothelioma cancer is an effect of uncontrolled cell growth and multiplication. Such abnormal growth is brought about by certain genetic mutations at the cellular level.
However, the actual cause of such mutation itself is not yet known to doctors and medical scientists. Many factors are believed to function together in causing cancer. Such factors include an individual’s inherited traits, environment, lifestyle, and overall health.
Prolonged exposure to asbestos dust is one of the primary factors which probably have a direct hand in causing Mesothelioma cancer. The exact process leading to the disease is not yet well known. Twenty years of exposure may be enough for someone to suffer from this type of cancer. Some take 40 years and some never get the disease even after prolonged exposure.
As of now, statistical data and medical research have been able to point out certain risk factors which increase the chances of contracting mesothelioma.
Some of the significant risk factors are listed below.
- Direct exposure to asbestos dust, say, at home or work.
- Indirect exposure to such dust when sharing space with a person working with asbestos. The case is similar to that of passive smoking.
- The presence of mesothelioma cases among relatives or direct kins.
What are the symptoms of Mesothelioma Cancer?
The symptoms and signs depend upon the location of cancer in the patient’s body.
The next section is a detailed discussion of the various types of Mesothelioma, based on location and cell type. Before that, let us take a brief look at the significant Mesothelioma symptoms of the two major types.
- Pain in the chest, below the rib-cage
- Coughing accompanied by pain
- Difficulty in breathing
- Abnormal tissue lumps under chest skin
- Drastic loss of weight
- Pain in the abdomen
- Swollen abdomen
- Abdominal tissue lumps
- Drastic loss of weight
For the other rarer forms of the disease, the symptoms are not yet well known. Mesothelioma in the heart causes chest pain and breathing problems. In the case of testicular mesothelioma, an abnormally swollen testicle may be noticed.
Types of Mesothelioma:
Classification of Mesothelioma is mostly based on two broad factors – location and cell type.
On the basis of location
On the basis of the location of the tissues affected by Mesothelioma, it can be classified into four types.
Following is a list of these types along with their fundamental details.
1. Pleural Mesothelioma (Lungs)
As the name suggests, this type occurs in the tissues known as ‘pleura’ which surround our lungs. With 80% of mesothelioma patients suffering from this type, it’s obviously the most common type. However, in most cases, it is difficult to certainly diagnose the disease until its progression into the later stages.
The symptoms of pleural mesothelioma are sometimes quite similar to those of lung cancer. As a result, one is often mistaken for the other. Moreover, some general symptoms caused by asbestos exposure make it difficult to diagnose this type of cancer.
Generally, the post-diagnosis survival period from around 6-12 months. 73% of the patients survive a year and only 5% survive five years.
2. Peritoneal Mesothelioma (Abdomen)
Second in line is this type of mesothelioma which occurs in the abdominal tissues. Around 15-20% of mesothelioma patients suffer from this type.
These cancer cells are found in the inner walls of the abdomen. The lining is called peritoneum and thus the name of this type of mesothelioma.
Generally speaking, overall prognosis in case of peritoneal mesothelioma is indeed quite poor. Yet, the fact remains that the life expectancy of the patients is much better in this type. This is due to the massive advancements that have been realized in the field of cancer treatment. The most effective treatment for this type, as yet, has been the Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC) protocol along with surgery.
Majority of abdominal mesothelioma patients – around 92 percent – have a life expectancy of about one year. Moreover, about half the patients undergoing surgery and HIPEC live for at least 5 years, if not more. On an average, the average prognosis for peritoneum mesothelioma patients is somewhere between 6 to 12 months.
3. Pericardial Mesothelioma (Heart)
Mesothelioma in the heart tissues, or pericardial mesothelioma, is very rare. It accounts only for 1% of the total number of mesothelioma patients. In a year, as little as 50 people suffer from this disease in the USA.
In this type, the malignant cell growth occurs in the pericardial tissues or the tissues lining the heart. A patient might experience pain in the chest. There may be fluid build-up and arrhythmia.
Owing to its proximity to the heart, the symptoms of this type are visible from the initial stages. Being rare as this type is, very little is actually known about it. As a result, the prognosis is very poor in such cases. Patients mostly live for about six months, while around half the patients survive a year. Presently, doctors are able to provide these patients with only palliative care which relieves their pain to some extent.
4. Testicular Mesothelioma
This type of mesothelioma, occurring in the testicular tissues, is by far the rarest type. So much so, that less than one percent of all patients suffer from this disease. As of now, only 100 cases of testicular mesothelioma have been diagnosed.
In testicular mesothelioma, the cancerous growth occurs in the testicle’s lining or the tunica vaginalis.
The patients of this type are much better in terms of life expectancy and generally, live for 2 years. However, the disease has been found to recur in about 93% of all patients. After the initial diagnosis, the recurrence commonly occurs within a span of 5 years.
On the Basis of Cell Type:
The second categorization is based on the type of the mesothelioma cell. Mainly, there are three different types of these cells. However, there are also certain rarer cell types.
The cell type is very significant as it affects the patient’s response to treatment. In fact, the course of treatment is determined according to the cell type.
1. Epithelioid Mesothelioma
Epithelial mesothelioma cell is the most common type, featuring in about 75% of all cases of mesothelioma. Mostly, this cell type is associated with the pleural mesothelioma and is found in more than half of its patients.
The bright side is that this cell type has a better response to treatment. On an average, patients with this cell type live for 1 to 2 years.
2. Sarcomatoid Mesothelioma
This type of mesothelioma cell is the most fatal and almost impossible to treat. They are found in about 10-20% of the patients. Sarcomatoid mesothelioma cells are found both in cases of pleural as well as peritoneal mesothelioma. Patients with this cell type live only about six months, owing to their rapid growth.
3. Biphasic Mesothelioma
This type is a combination of both epithelial and Sarcomatoid cells. As a result of the presence of both these cell types, different patients respond differently to treatment. It wholly depends upon which of the two types of cells are more dominant in their case.
Patients survive longer when the epithelial cells are dominant. Lifespan is much shorter for those with more Sarcomatoid cells.
4. Rare Cell Types
There may also be certain rare sub-types of either of the first two types of mesothelioma cells. These types may be well-differentiated papillary, small cell, cystic or adenoid mesothelioma.
5. Papillary Mesothelioma
This rare sub-type of epithelial Mesothelioma is worth mentioning separately. For reasons yet unknown, it is most commonly found in women.
Moreover, in most cases, they are benign and can be removed by surgery. Patients with this cell type have lived more than 20 years or so.
What are the different stages of Mesothelioma Cancer?
There are 4 different stages into which Mesothelioma can be broken down. In general, these stages are divided on the basis of the degree to which the disease has spread.
- Stage I – Localized cancer which has not yet spread to the lymph nodes. Being the first stage, patients have greater scopes for treatment and better chances of recovery.
- Stage II – Although the disease is still local at this stage it has started spreading to the surrounding lymph nodes. Scopes of treatment are still plenty at this stage.
- Stage III – In this stage, the mesothelioma cancer has already spread significantly to lymph nodes and other organs. This limits the possibilities of surgery.
- Stage IV – In the final stage, cancer has spread to other parts of the body and is no more localized. Treatment is mostly limited to palliative care.
As already mentioned, exposure to asbestos dust is one of the main factors causing mesothelioma cancer. Consequently, taking certain precautionary measures while dealing with asbestos can reduce the chances of contracting the disease.
Following are some of the necessary precautions that you must keep in mind in order to avoid mesothelioma.
- Obey safety regulations – If you work in an industry which has an abundance of asbestos, make sure you strictly obey the safety regulations. Most important among them is wearing masks. You must also take a bath and change clothes immediately after work.
- Maintain safety at home – Try not to break the asbestos available in your home. Regularly check the air inside your home for asbestos particles. This must be done with professional help.
When to consult a Doctor or Specialist?
It’s wiser to consult your doctor whenever you experience the Mesothelioma symptoms. However, the symptoms are not always definite or even unique. Consequently, you must seek your doctor’s advice if you are consistently having problems similar to the symptoms of Mesothelioma cancer.
Right to Mesothelioma Claims:
When it comes to the Mesothelioma patients, Mesothelioma claims are a way for them so they can afford for their expenses. Their expenses include medical bills along with other associated fees. The Mesothelioma claims provide them with financial compensation to cover their bills. There are 2 main types of Mesothelioma claims:
- Personal injury claims
- Wrongful death claims
Once you are done filing the Mesothelioma claims, there many various ways to recover the financial compensation. But a most common way to recover money is through asbestos trusts and via various asbestos companies.
Mesothelioma cancer is a difficult type of cancer in order to treat. This type of cancer is almost impossible to cure. But there are a few Mesothelioma treatment options in order to extend the life of a patient. Mesothelioma cancer patients have following Mesothelioma treatment options to opt for:
- Radiation therapy
- Multimodal treatment or other emerging Mesothelioma treatments.
Hence, it’s important for the patients to consult about the above in detail with a doctor. Only once they know about each of the above-mentioned Mesothelioma treatment in detail, they can opt for the right choice.
Mesothelioma Chicago Cancer Center Program:
The University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center is a pioneer when it comes to Mesothelioma treatment along with the malignant mesothelioma research. Malignant mesothelioma is a rare disease affecting around 3,000 Americans every year.
Their team of experts provides various Mesothelioma treatment option, for example, surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, clinical trials, etc. Here, they hold a Mesothelioma Chicago Cancer Center Program every week to discuss the care of each patient. Also, patients are provided with cancer expertise by their multidisciplinary medical staff.
What are the Insurance Options?
Treatment for Mesothelioma can often get pretty much expensive. As a result, there are quite a few insurance options which are offered by different organizations.
With regard to health insurance, the following options are available to the patients.
1. Individual Private Insurance
Numerous private companies provide insurance to their customers against most major diseases, including Mesothelioma. Private insurance, again, may be acquired in two different ways.
- Managed Healthcare Plans
An essential part of these plans is the Health Management Organisation (HMO) or the Preferred Provider Organization (PPO). A patient’s expenses are covered only when he/she is treated by a doctor enlisted in the HMO or PPO’s network. Consequently, these plans are not suitable for mesothelioma patients requiring specialized treatment.
- Fee-for-Service Plans (Traditional Insurance)
The consumer pays a monthly/yearly premium. They sometimes have to even pay for the treatment. A partial/full reimbursement is made by the insurance company when the patient files a claim with relevant documents. This type is obviously more flexible and suitable.
2. Employee Health Insurance
These schemes are bought by employers for their employees. These are undoubtedly different from the individual schemes as these are bought for a group rather than an individual.
Being hassle-free for the patients hence, these are more suitable for mesothelioma patients. Moreover, these are more flexible and do not involve individual screenings. Patients also benefit from the full coverage.
3. Medicare and Medicaid
Government insurance policies like these are also available to mesothelioma patients in the USA, like elsewhere.
Medicare is particularly designed for people above 65 years of age and most patients are in that age group.
Medicaid is for those who cannot afford health insurance. Patients in need of these schemes may visit the concerned government offices.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA)
Passed in March 2010, the ACA has been a boon for American mesothelioma patients. It has given millions of people access to health insurance. It has also provided consumers with a lot of security in terms of health insurance.
Other financial help
It’s quite unfortunate that about 20% of patients suffering from mesothelioma are uninsured. They have to personally bear the huge expenses of the treatments.
However, there are a number of NGOs and other organizations which provide substantial financial support to cancer patients. There are also certain government schemes to help patients meet their expenses.