The first question many mesothelioma patients ask after learning that they have the disease is “What is my mesothelioma prognosis?”
Of course, they do not always use exactly those words. Some will ask, “What can I expect in the months and years ahead in my fight against mesothelioma?” Others will be more direct and ask simply, “What now?”
In whatever form the question comes, the reason mesothelioma patients ask it is because they want to be prepared for the future as it unfolds.
They are requesting a prediction, in other words. And that is basically all to which a mesothelioma prognosis amounts. It is a forecast of what lays ahead regarding the course this disease can be expected to take.
However, because a prognosis is only a prediction, it is not cast in stone. It is entirely possible to extend mesothelioma survival time well beyond expectations. And, indeed, many mesothelioma patients do outlive their mesothelioma prognosis by a significant margin.
To obtain the most accurate and reliable mesothelioma prognosis, talk to a doctor who specializes in this form of cancer. Such a physician will most likely possess the necessary training and experience to weigh the many factors that must be considered before making a prognosis.
The following are some of the factors a mesothelioma doctor takes into consideration to provide a mesothelioma prognosis.
The type of mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is categorized by the part of the body where it begins. If it starts on the lining of the lungs, it is called pleural mesothelioma. If it starts on the lining of the abdomen, it is called peritoneal mesothelioma. If over the heart, pericardial mesothelioma. And, if around the testes, testicular mesothelioma.
The prognosis for each of these four types of mesothelioma is different.
With treatment, pleural mesothelioma patients typically survive six to 12 months after diagnosis (a major reason why this survival time is so seemingly short is that most patients do not discover they have mesothelioma until the disease is already far advanced and thus more difficult to treat).
Meanwhile, peritoneal mesothelioma patients tend to remain in the fight for a minimum of 12 months.
Because pericardial mesothelioma involves the heart, it has on average a poorer prognosis than any of the other three types of mesothelioma. Six months is the usual survival time.
The mesothelioma type with the best prognosis is also the rarest form of the disease—testicular mesothelioma. The prognosis for these cases is typically anywhere from 18 to 24 months.
The type of mesothelioma cell
In addition to categorizing it by the place inside the body where the cancer begins, each type of mesothelioma can be further differentiated by the type of cell making up the resultant tumors.
There are three types of mesothelioma cell. They are epithelioid, sarcomatoid, and biphasic.
Epithelioid cells are easiest to treat. That is important because the easier a cell is to treat, the better the prognosis. It also helps that epithelioid cells do not spread as quickly as either of the other two types of mesothelioma cell.
Sarcomatoid cells are the hardest to treat. Accordingly, they contribute to a poor prognosis for mesothelioma patients.
Somewhere in the middle of the treatment difficulty spectrum are biphasic cells. These are a mixture of easily attacked epithelioid cells and treatment-resisting sarcomatoid cells.
The stage of mesothelioma progression
Mesothelioma doctors use a measurement system called staging to characterize how far advanced a patient’s cancer is at the time of diagnosis.
The system is composed of four major stages.
Mesothelioma detected in Stage 1 is cancer just getting started. It is likely a small single tumor and, as a result, readily treatable. Patients whose mesothelioma is diagnosed in Stage 1 usually receive the best prognosis for long survival.
Mesothelioma determined to be in Stage 2 is cancer that has grown but not yet spread beyond the lining of the organ that was first involved. Stage 2 mesothelioma is more challenging to treat, but good outcomes that can appreciably extend survival time remain a possibility.
Then there is Stage 3. At this level, the cancer has begun to metastasize. That means it has spread beyond the lining of the organ that was involved at onset. Because of the metastasizing, Stage 3 mesothelioma is much harder to treat. For example, in Stages 1 and 2, surgery is an option, but, in Stage 3, surgery may or may not be possible. Losing the opportunity for mesothelioma surgery can result in a shortening of survival time.
Stage 4 typically is associated with the poorest mesothelioma prognoses. In this stage, the cancer has spread far from its point of origin and surgery is no longer a viable option.
The health status of the mesothelioma patient
Patient age is another factor. Mesothelioma tends to onset later in life, which is why most mesothelioma patients are either nearing or well into their senior years—a time when their overall health may not be what it was in their prime. Since advanced age and poorer health frequently go hand-in-glove, a mesothelioma prognosis usually becomes poorer the older the patient is.
Another influence over mesothelioma prognosis is the patient’s sex. Women tend to have longer survival with mesothelioma than do men.
Why it is worth talking to a mesothelioma lawyer
A prognosis is only a prediction of what course the cancer will take. There is an element of uncertainty as to outcome.
One thing that is probably not uncertain is the mesothelioma diagnosis itself. And, if a doctor determines that an individual has mesothelioma, that then opens the door to the possibility of the mesothelioma patient (or his or her loved ones) obtaining compensation to pay for medical bills and to recover income lost to the debilitating effects of the disease.
That is why it is worth talking to a qualified mesothelioma lawyer. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, a qualified mesothelioma lawyer can explain your and/or their rights to financial compensation.
The reason compensation is a possibility arises from the fact that mesothelioma is a cancer caused by the negligence and, in some instances, the bad intentions of companies that made, sold, distributed, or utilized the mineral asbestos in some commercial manner. These companies can be held legally liable for the harms they caused.
To talk to a mesothelioma lawyer, click here.
About the author…
Gregory Sandifer graduated from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and received his law degree from Western State University College of Law in Fullerton, California.