Surviving Mesothelioma with a Long-Term Approach

What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer in which malignant (cancerous) cells are found in the mesothelium, a protective sac that covers most of the body’s internal organs. Malignant mesothelioma is directly linked with asbestos exposure which is the only known cause of this cancer. Mesothelioma is especially dangerous as it can be challenging to diagnose and most patients are not diagnosed with mesothelioma until many years after they have been exposed to asbestos.

The most common type of mesothelioma typically occurs in the pleura, which is characterized as the lining that surrounds the lungs. Because of the time in which it takes for people to become symptomatic and then properly diagnosed, the cancer may already have a chance to metastasize. Therefore, in some cases when the cancer is already found to be spread at diagnosis, the prognosis for mesothelioma is poor. Localized disease is usually considered to have a better diagnosis. However, as treatment protocols for mesothelioma continue to improve, a growing number of mesothelioma patients are defying the odds and living much longer.

Using a Tri-Modal Approach to Mesothelioma Treatment

Recently, a Peruvian woman was treated for mesothelioma in Italy and survived, providing both evidence and hope that mesothelioma, a rare cancer, may not only be treatable, but may even be survivable as well.

A tri-modal approach to mesothelioma has been fashioned and involves using chemotherapy to shrink the mesothelioma cancerous cells, surgery to remove the cancerous cells, and finally radiotherapy to help prevent its return. Thus far, this tri-modal approach to mesothelioma has proven to be a good strategy for some mesothelioma patients.

Problems Diagnosing Mesothelioma: Difficult Symptoms

Mesothelioma can be difficult to diagnose for several reasons. For example, symptoms of mesothelioma may not appear until 30 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos. Additionally, when patients do become symptomatic, a correct diagnosis is often difficult because symptoms of mesothelioma may be non-specific and may resemble symptoms of a number of other diseases.

In a recent report published in Anticancer Research, Italian doctors described the case of a young patient admitted to the hospital with shortness of breath and other non-specific symptoms. After performing a CT scan, it was confirmed that the patient had pleural mesothelioma.

The patient (a female) underwent two cycles of neoadjuvant (prior to surgery) chemotherapy with pemetrexed and cisplatin, followed by an extrapleural pneumonectomy. Extrapleural pneumonectomy is a controversial and radical surgery that involves removing not only the cancerous membrane, but the closest lung, and often the diaphragm. After 6 months, this patient also received external beam radiation to her left hemithorax.

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and CT scanning were used to watch for a return of mesothelioma, but thus far no reoccurrence has been detected. Almost four years later, the female patient remains in good health and is free from mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma cell type – epithelioid, biphasic or sarcomatoid – are considered to have a direct effect on prognosis with epithelioid having the best prognosis. Other studies have also suggested that younger age is a good prognostic indicator. In addition it has also been suggested that a patient’s overall health, length of asbestos exposure, and smoking history also may have an impact on their prognosis.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.

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