Mesothelioma has been defined as a malignant tumor of the covering of the lung or the lining of the pleural and abdominal cavities, often associated with exposure to asbestos.
Mesothelioma is a cancer that occurs in the lining of the lungs. Its main cause is thought to be contact with asbestos. About 3000 new cases are reported every year in the United States, with about 8 million people having been exposed to asbestos in the last 50 years. Safety measures have been put into place in the last couple of decades so as to protect people from asbestos exposure; therefore, some think that the number of cases of mesothelioma will peak around 2020 and that it will begin to decline after that, since exposure to asbestos by then will have been quite rare.
Of course, as with any cancer, early detection and treatment is imperative if there's any hope of survival. However, mesothelioma patients are at a disadvantage in this area, because symptoms take anywhere between 20 and 50 years to manifest after the exposure. Because of this, patients are older, usually over 50. In addition, first symptoms can masquerade as many other less serious ailments. This makes diagnosis quite difficult. Because of this, the cancer is quite likely to be advanced once it has been detected. There is no fully effective treatment available. However, most experts believe that combination therapy increases survival rate versus monotherapy. Research into mesothelioma treatment continues.
Studies on survival of mesothelioma patients show that the disease has a fatality rate of almost 100%. Once diagnosed with mesothelioma, the average survival rate stands roughly six months to two years. There have been exceptions, which continue to give hope to other mesothelioma patients and their families. Life expectancy is dependent on many things, including its stage at diagnosis (mesothelioma has four stages, with four being the most advanced) and the type of mesothelioma diagnosed. Tests conducted on the tissue structure of mesothelioma cells found that sarcomatous cells' existence meant a median survival rate of about 11 months, 11 months for mixed cells, and 12.5 months for epithelial cells.
However, that said, there are other things that influence mesothelioma survival rate. Mesothelioma has a survival rate of about 9% five years after diagnosis, which means there are most definitely people who do survive long-term with this disease. Some of those people are symptom free. And of course, research continues to be done so that one day a cure may be available.
One of the things that influences survival rate is health at the time of diagnosis. Obviously, if you're healthier at the time of diagnosis, you're probably going to have a better chance of beating the disease or at least surviving long-term versus someone who is in poor health. The size of the tumor also matters, as does the amount of fluid in the chest cavity. If the tumor can be completely removed, this also improves the survival rate. The type of cells present (as described above) also matter. If this is a recurrence, then survival rates are likely to be poorer than those of a first diagnosis.
If you have mesothelioma, or if you have a family member who does, don't give up hope. The Internet abounds with resources for those with mesothelioma and their family members. These resources are invaluable, because not only do they allow you to provide support and encouragement to others in the same situation, but you are also privy to the latest developments in treatment. Thus, these types of resources can make an unbearable situation at least easier to deal with. And of course, your health care practitioner will also likely have resources for you.