Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that is caused by the existence of asbestos in the lungs, the heart and the abdomen. This is a result of ‘asbestos poisoning’ which occurs when asbestos is inhaled and finds its way into the internal organs. Mesothelioma occurs more frequently in those over 40, particularly those who were previously manual labourers; the reason for this being that it was not until recently that the negative effects of asbestos were discovered meaning that the material was used in many aspects of building.
While asbestos poisoning is likely to effect many of those in their 40s currently, it is most often diagnosed in patients 60 years old and over. This is because the signs and symptoms of asbestos are highly limited, and the existence of asbestos poisoning can go unnoticed for up to fifty years after the individual finished working with it. The symptoms that do occur are also confusing, being very similar to a variety of respiratory diseases (the individual will present with wheezing, coughing and general respiratory difficulties).
The unfortunate result of this is that the condition can go unnoticed for a long time before it is noticed. This then drastically damages the survival rate of the patients – as one of the keys to treating cancer is to start to fight it early before the condition spreads further and into the vital organs. To improve your chances of survival then you should always consider mesothelioma as a possibility if you have worked with asbestos during your career. If you seem to have respiratory problems then you should inform your GP of your exposure to asbestos and suggest the possibility of mesothelioma. You should also look out for other symptoms and these can include abdominal pain or pneumonia type symptoms. Should you and your physician agree that there’s a fair chance of mesothelioma then there are several tests that can screen for the condition.
Treatments for mesothelioma vary and the chance of a patient being cured will depend on various factors. In many case treatments are used as management rather than curative, but depending on the size and position of the tumour this can removed and chemotherapy or radiation therapy can also be successful. Overall the prospects for those diagnosed with mesothelioma are poor, with only 40% of those diagnosed surviving over a year and only 10% after three years. However it is important to consider that statistics regarding illnesses are fraught with difficulty, and that cases of people surviving longer than anticipated are becoming more common. Research is also constantly continuing into mesothelioma and other types of cancer with the potential to cure those currently struggling with the disease.