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Category Archives: Mesothelioma Prognosis
A combination of treatments is usually advocated, based on success of past procedures. There are also a few relatively famous people who have suffered from Mesothelioma and gone on to outlive their prognoses; Paul Kraus and Stephen Jay Gould have both written books on the value of complementary treatments in combination with medical intervention.
However, the usual treatment is similar to most cancer treatments. Radiation can help reverse the growth of small tumors, but surgery is the most successful way to remove a tumor for certain. Chemotherapy is often added, to ensure that any remaining cancerous cells are not allowed to survive and reproduce, creating more tumors. This article will discuss the various options available to sufferers of Mesothelioma, as well as symptoms and diagnosis.
Unfortunately, Mesothelioma does not present conclusive symptoms for a diagnosis. Symptoms are often misunderstood, or some symptoms are reported to a doctor but not others, resulting in misdiagnosis. Any time you suffer from symptoms that do not respond to self-treatment within a week or two, such as cold or cough medicine, see your doctor to ensure you do not have a more serious disease.
The most common symptoms of Mesothelioma include coughing, wheezing, or hoarseness, shortness of breath and chest pain, due to pressure within the chest cavity from growths, and general symptoms like fatigue, anemia, and weight loss. Any combination of these symptoms should not be ignored and should be reported to your doctor immediately.
To ensure an accurate diagnosis, of any disease or condition, it is important to record all symptoms, their frequency, timing, and duration. Chest pain is a very common symptom, and can indicate life threatening conditions like heart attack, or conditions that cause temporary discomfort, like heartburn. Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or chronic acid reflux, can present symptoms of cough, chest pain, and pressure in the chest, similar to mesothelioma sufferers.
Naturally, if you suspect or know that you have been exposed to asbestos at any point in your life, it is very important that you include this information when you tell your doctor about your symptoms.
While your doctor may first attempt to rule out fatal conditions like heart attack or angina, you may also attempt to treat less serious diseases in an attempt to ascertain whether your are suffering from something common and easily treatable.
If normal treatments, such as antacids, have no effect, your doctor will order a chest x-ray and perhaps a CT scan. These tests will determine whether or not there are growths in the chest cavity. If a tumor is detected in this way, there are a number of possible diagnoses. The only way to know for certain if a tumor is caused by Mesothelioma is to conduct a biopsy, or take a tissue sample from the tumor. Testing can show whether the cells are cancerous, a result of Mesothelioma, and whether they are malignant (spreadable) or benign (only occurring in that one tumor).
Malignant Mesothelioma has a very poor prognosis. The earlier the disease has been diagnosed, the better the prognosis, however it is very rare to see full recovery. The standard treatments for cancerous cells or tumors include radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery. Multi-modal treatment, or the use of more than one treatment, has been most successful in improving prognosis. A few studies have shown that surgery combined with chemotherapy can lengthen survival times from 3 to 14 years in patients with good prognostic factors.
By itself, surgery has proven very ineffective. Usually surgery involves the removal of the lining of the chest, and can include removal of the lining of the heart, lung, and the hemi-diaphragm. This is a very dramatic surgery and most patients who undergo surgery without radiation or chemotherapy do not live significantly longer than those who opt to forego surgery. The medial survival of patients who have surgery is about 11 months.
Surgery will only be undertaken if the patient has favorable prognostic factors. The size of the tumor is taken into account, as well as location of the tumor or tumors. Because surgery will remove not only the tumor but the surrounding tissues, patient tolerance of such a surgery is considered, as well. Although surgery is not very effective on its own, it can be very effective when combined with other therapies.
Radiation is also basically ineffective on its own. However, if the mesothelioma tumor is localized, and the patient can physically handle surgery, radiation can be effective. Radiation is usually combined with surgery and chemotherapy, and is used to kill cancerous cells that are grouped in a specific area.
Chemotherapy is the most effective treatment for Mesothelioma, and it has been shown to improve survival rates in patients who were not candidates for surgery. Combined with supplements and treatments to help reduce side effects, chemotherapy can also improve quality of life, in cases where the patient is predisposed to a positive reaction.
The most successful treatment regimes include a combination of therapies. Surgery can remove the bulk of the tumor and the surrounding tissues, and radiation and chemotherapy can control further cancer cell growth. The survival of patients increases to as many as 14 additional years in patients whose prognostic factors are favorable. However, in patients with particularly large tumors or those who do not respond well to surgery, only a third will live an additional 2 years.
Treatment Success Factors
Although treatments have varying success and most do not result in recovery, it is possible to use a combination of therapies to prolong life. Detecting Mesothelioma early can dramatically increase the success of treatment. Because Mesothelioma takes so long to incubate, 20 to 50 years from exposure to development of symptoms, the cancer cells have usually been established and growing for too long for traditional surgery to have much effect. Combining therapies and working with your doctors to ensure early detection are the best way to increase changes of a positive prognosis.
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