The term mesothelioma refers to cancer of the mesothelial cells. The mesothelial cells make up the lining of our body’s organs. The two most common forms of this disease are pleural mesothelioma which develops in the tissue lining the lungs and peritoneal mesothelioma which develops in the lining of the abdomen. This condition is often caused by exposure to asbestos, usually developing at least twenty years after initial exposure.
Mesothelioma generally has a poor prognosis due to the fact that the disease is usually diagnosed in the advanced stages. The treatment you can receive and the outlook will depend on which stage the disease has progressed to upon diagnosis.
Your doctor will determine the stage of your cancer. The system used will likley be the TNM system. TNM stands for Tumor, Nodes, Metastasis. This breaks down to determining the size of the primary tumor, potential spread of the cancer to nearby lymph nodes and lastly potential spread to different areas of the body.
Often patients who are diagnosed early and receive treatment will live another two and a half years. Later diagnosed cases, often where surgery is no longer possible, may live for one year and a half. Studies have suggested that radiotherapy and chemotherapy after surgery can give patients several more months to live in some cases.
In the USA around 20% of patients diagnosed with mesothelioma will survive for two years or more. Around 8% will survive for five years or more after their diagnosis.
As well as the stage there are some other factors affecting prognosis. People with epithelial mesothelioma often have better survival rates than those with the mixed type of mesothelioma. Sarcomatous and desmoplastic forms of mesothelioma tend to have lower survival rates associated with them.
Another factor is what doctors called your Performance Status or PS. This is a way of measuring fitness and general health at the point of diagnosis. A score of 0 indicates good levels of general health. The number rises to 1 if heavy physical work is difficult. The number continues to rise the more difficulty someone is having with their health. The fitter you are generally the better the prognosis.
The statistics concerned with survival rates for mesothelimoa patients continue to improve as knowledge of the disease increases and advancements in treatment become possible.