Caused by exposure to asbestos, mesothelioma is a particularly aggressive form of cancer that affects tissue lining in the lungs, heart, testicles, or abdomen. Mesothelioma is a rare and deadly disease, with between 2,400 and 2,800 new cases—and approximately 2,500 related fatalities—reported each year in the United States, according to a 2017 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
After a devastating mesothelioma diagnosis, it is vitally important that patients understand what medical and legal options are available. If you were recently diagnosed with mesothelioma, here is what you need to know.
Prognosis for Mesothelioma Patients
Unfortunately, there is no cure for mesothelioma and, because the disease often evades detection until in its late stages, the prognosis for patients diagnosed with this type of cancer can be quite grim. However, a mesothelioma patient's prognosis and survival rate depend on a variety of factors, including:
- The type of mesothelioma the patient has. Pleural mesothelioma affects the lungs, peritoneal mesothelioma affects tissues in the abdomen, pericardial mesothelioma affects the heart, and mesothelioma of the tunica vaginalis testis affects the testicles.
- The stage of the cancer when diagnosed.
- The patient's overall health and whether they suffer from any other serious diseases or illnesses.
- Whether doctors can operate to remove the tumor.
- The efficacy of the treatment the patient receives.
The average life expectancy for patients with mesothelioma is 12 to 21 months. However, most patients die less than a year after being diagnosed with the disease. A small number of patients—between 5 and 10 percent—live up to five years following a mesothelioma diagnosis, according to survival statistics from the American Cancer Society. Patients diagnosed with stage I or stage II mesothelioma tend to live longer than patients diagnosed with more advanced stages of the illness.
Mesothelioma Treatment Options
While mesothelioma cannot be cured, there are a number of treatments that doctors can use to help patients manage their cancer and make their final months, weeks, and days more comfortable. Mesothelioma treatment options include:
- Surgery. Doctors may perform surgery to remove the entire tumor, remove as much of the tumor as possible, remove an affected lung and surrounding tissue, or remove the tissue surrounding the lungs or abdomen.
- Radiation therapy. This treatment uses focused, high-energy beams to kill cancer cells and reduce the symptoms of advanced mesothelioma.
- Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy drugs work to shrink or slow the growth of malignant mesothelioma tumors and can be used in conjunction with other treatment options, such as surgery.
- Clinical trials. Some mesothelioma patients may qualify to participate in studies of new treatment methods, also known as clinical trials. New treatments being explored include targeted, biological, and gene therapies.
- Experimental treatments. Immunotherapy, which involves using a patient's own immune system to fight the cancer cells, and photodynamic therapy, which uses a drug to make cancer cells sensitive to certain types of light, are leading experimental mesothelioma treatments.
- Palliative procedures. Doctors may perform some surgical procedures to make patients more comfortable, such as inserting a catheter or tube to drain excess fluid, injecting medication to prevent fluid from building up again, or inserting a shunt to drain fluid from one part of the body to another.
- Complementary treatments. Acupuncture, breath training, and relaxation exercises may make patients more comfortable and help them cope with symptoms of the disease.
Mesothelioma Patients Face High Treatment Costs and Other Challenges
Seeking justice—and compensation—after a mesothelioma diagnosis can feel like an uphill battle. In addition to facing astronomical medical expenses, mesothelioma patients may have to go back 20, 30, or even 40 years to discover the source of their exposure to asbestos. If that source was a former employer or another negligent party, the patient may be entitled to a financial recovery.
Were you recently diagnosed with mesothelioma?
The experienced mesothelioma attorneys with Neblett, Beard & Arsenault can investigate your case and help you explore your legal options. We work on a contingency fee basis, so you pay nothing until your case is resolved. Contact us today to schedule a free initial case consultation.