Can Mesothelioma be cured?

Can Mesothelioma be cured?

One of the rare diseases to exist in the modern world is Mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is often considered as a seriously aggressive form of cancer whose development can start from the lining of either lungs, abdomen or heart. The cause of Mesothelioma is often known as asbestos. Mesothelioma, as mentioned earlier, develops from the lining of lungs, abdomen or heart. The first body part that is affected by Mesothelioma is the tissue called Mesothelium which lines our lungs, heart, stomach (abdomen) and other organs. Once the disease is diagnosed, long-term survival and cures are considered to be extremely rare.

Mesothelioma’s symptoms can be diagnosed after exposure to asbestos. The symptoms may take from 20 – 50 years to appear. Often, the symptoms of Mesothelioma consist of:

  • Breathing shortness
  • Feeling of pain under rib cage
  • Abdominal pain, swelling or appearance of lumps
  • Loss of weight for no apparent reason
  • Nausea or Vomiting
  • Build-up of fluid in the abdomen or lungs

As per some researches, there are three types of Mesothelioma:

  • Pleural Mesothelioma
    • Pleural Mesothelioma is the type that is commonly found and firstly affects the soft-to-touch tissues that generally cover the lungs. It can be treated with a multimodal approach.
  • Peritoneal Mesothelioma
    • Rather complex in comparison to Pleural Mesothelioma, Peritoneal Mesothelioma is found in less than 20 percentage of all available cases. It is different than Pleural Mesothelioma as Peritoneal Mesothelioma does not affect the tissues surrounding the lungs, rather it develops on the outer lining that surrounds the abdomen.
  • Pericardial Mesothelioma
    • As the name suggests, Pericardial Mesothelioma is seen on the soft tissues that exist around the heart. It is considered as rarest type of Mesothelioma and it is best to be treated with a multimodal approach.

There have been reports of cases where it is difficult to identify between Mesothelioma and lung cancer. This applies to Pleural Mesothelioma. The doctor may use tests of imaging and biopsy for proper and accurate diagnosis. If the case is considered to be advanced, the type called Malignant Mesothelioma is generally diagnosed. This makes the treatment much harder and complex. Treatment of Malignant Mesothelioma could include surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy.

Now to move on to whether or not Mesothelioma is curable.

It is supposedly advisable for any disease that “Prevention is better than Cure”. The same applies to Mesothelioma as well. If proper attention is provided to hygiene and health, chances of being exposed to asbestos could be minimized. However, in most cases, Mesothelioma can be prevented by preventing exposure to asbestos. It is recommended by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health that the exposure limit be of 0.1 asbestos fiber per cubic centimeter.

Rather than Mesothelioma being purely curable, it could be said that its’ treatment is possible. The treatment can be very rare but has higher rate of success if it is diagnosed at an earlier stage. Generally, anyone who has studied about Mesothelioma knows that it is resistant to radiation and chemotherapy treatment. Patients’ health status and age also contribute to treatment of Mesothelioma. If the diagnosed patient is greater than the age of 50, it is extremely rare that they will survive long-term.

Various attempts have been made to cure Mesothelioma by means of Surgery but has shown very poor and disappointing results. However, when surgery have been performed with radiation and chemotherapy, or one of them, the result have indicated varied success rates. Most common surgery is pleurectomy (decortication) where the lining of chest is removed. Less common is and extra pleural pneumonectomy (EPP) where the lung, lining of the inside of the chest, the hemi-diaphragm and the pericardium are removed.

Another method that has not had good results is Radiation. When applied alone it has very minute chances of success but it can be given post-operatively as a consolidative treatment. Palliative treatment regimens are also used along with radiation but has had as much success as surgery.

The most successful and arguably, the only, treatment for Mesothelioma is Chemotherapy. However, in case of Pericardial Mesothelioma, chemotherapy is primarily used to reduce the size of the tumor or the affected area, as it is not curable.

Similar to surgery combined with radiation, Immunotherapy has shown varied results. This method was deemed to be not approachable as side effects like fever and cachexia were found as a result. Nonetheless, trials that include interferon alpha have shown and proved to be more favorable having 20% of patients observing a greater than 50% of deduction in tumor mass combined with very low rate of side effects.

Mesothelioma may not be common in all parts of the world and not much people may know about this disease, but as statistics speak for themselves, more than 2000 people have died of this disease in 2012 in the UK alone. Similarly, according to a report generated by Centers for Disease Control in 2017, 2400 – 2800 people are diagnosed with Mesothelioma in annual basis. The life expectancy of people who have been diagnosed with Mesothelioma is very poor as there is no proper cure for the disease. Yes, there are preventive measures before the disease is diagnosed as are some other methods as discussed in this article after it has been diagnosed. However, not a single method can guarantee the success rate of 100%.

Diagnosis of Mesothelioma generally takes 20 – 50 years to appear after the first exposure to asbestos. After proper study by the doctors themselves, it takes weeks or months for them to accurately confirm about the condition.

There have been newer treatments that are being studied as part of what we call “clinical trials” and these treatments could be made available to the patients who are non-responsive to conventional methods like Surgery, Chemotherapy, Immunotherapy and Radiation.

The individuals that have been diagnosed with Mesothelioma may feel that they have minimal chances of survival if they know about the disease. But support from their friends and family can and always will make them feel much more comfortable.

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