Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that can take decades to develop. Many people aren’t even aware of this disease which means that thousands haven’t been diagnosed yet. Mesothelioma is a type of cancer triggered by exposure to asbestos.
Asbestos was once considered a miracle element for strength, safety, and fire resistance. But now, it’s known as a major cancer risk. Anytime exposed to asbestos, you run the risk of Mesothelioma, no matter how small the amount. The bigger your exposure is, the higher your chances of developing Mesothelioma.
The center for disease control (CDC) estimates that 3,000 people are diagnosed each year with asbestos-related cancer. You must know about this disease because it isn’t always detectable until too late. So look through these facts & statistics to understand more about the risks.
Who’s at risk?
Mesothelioma has been labeled as an environmental disease. It is believed that many people have been exposed to asbestos, and only a small percentage develop Mesothelioma. However, some people have naturally occurring genetic mutations that make them more susceptible to developing Mesothelioma or other cancers related to asbestos exposure. Exposure can also affect how quickly cancer develops in these individuals.
This is why people working in the presence of one or more than one asbestos-containing products for a longer period are more at risk. Statistics show that 30% of mesothelioma patients are military veterans, amongst which navy officials lead the charts. If you are a veteran and feel you might be at risk, you should read up about mesothelioma navy veterans and get the help you deserve.
Other occupations include:
- Power generation
- Fire fighting
- Chemical refining
Most cases occur in the setting of long-term exposure to asbestos fibers, which have been associated with an increased risk of Mesothelioma. This risk increases with the duration and intensity of exposure to asbestos and with the individual’s age at exposure. The latency period of Mesothelioma can be very long, sometimes decades, before symptoms develop, and some people never develop symptoms until later in life. The symptoms typically appear 20-50 years after the first exposure.
- The mean latency for men is 47.9 years
- The mean latency for women is 53.3 years.
Asbestos exposure is the root cause of developing Mesothelioma, but some demographic factors must be kept in mind to understand who more at risk is.
- Men have a 4.6 times higher chance of developing Mesothelioma because the nature of their jobs increases their asbestos exposure. In addition, 80% of the cases are men, while 20% are women.
- Mesothelioma’s diagnosis usually occurs quite later because the latency period is long. The average diagnosis age is 72. People above the age of 60 have 10 times higher chances of developing the disease than those under 40.
- 93% of diagnosed cases of Mesothelioma were whites, whereas Hispanics and Blacks consisted of roughly 5% each. This is because construction, mining, shipbuilding, and military veterans were mostly white back in the 20th century. This explains why the majority of cases of Mesothelioma are whites or Hispanics.
Types of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is rare cancer that develops in the tissues surrounding the organs. There are four types of Mesothelioma, which are characterized by the organs that are most commonly affected. The type of Mesothelioma a person contracts depends on which type of tissue was exposed to asbestos fibers while the person was still alive. These are:
- Pleural Mesothelioma – It affects the lungs and causes cough and shortness of breath. It is the most common type of mesothelioma cancer, as 70-79% of cases are of this type.
- Peritoneal Mesothelioma – In this type, the lining is formed on the abdomen or the peritoneum. Patients experience chest pains, nausea, high-grade fever, and chills. 10-30% of mesothelioma patients have this type of cancer.
- Pericardial Mesothelioma – This is the deadliest type in which cancer grows on the heart. Roughly 1% of the cases have this type.
- Testicular Mesothelioma – This cancer surrounds the male or the female genital and accounts for less than 1% of the cases.
Mortality and Survival Rate
Unfortunately, this disease has an extremely poor prognosis. As of now, less than 10% of diagnosed cases can survive for more than five years.
Age upon diagnosis:
For those diagnosed with Mesothelioma at a young age, the chances of survival are much higher. People who are diagnosed with the disease at older ages have a lower chance of surviving for 5+ years, and only about half will survive for 10+ years.
The survival rates among individuals diagnosed with Mesothelioma and treated early are much higher than those diagnosed at a later stage. The following statistics paint a better picture.
- Stage 1: the median survival rate is 22.2 months
- Stage 2: the median survival rate is 20 months
- Stage 3: the median survival rate is 17.9 months
- Stage 4: the median survival rate is 14.9 months
Despite the poor prognosis, cancer treatment has been showing improvement in symptoms of mesothelioma patients and in curtailing the spread of cancer. Unfortunately, this disease is diagnosed extremely late in life, making rigorous treatment difficult. But statistics show that patients suffering from peritoneal or pleural Mesothelioma had improved their prognosis three times due to chemotherapy.
A surgery in which the surgeon can successfully remove most cancerous tissue prolongs the patient’s life by 3-5 years. A study conducted by the International Journal of Hyperthermia in 2018 tested the effectiveness of combining surgery and chemotherapy as treatment. The survival rate increased to 8 years!
Radiation therapy is also a treatment option for Mesothelioma, which helps relieve symptoms of the advanced stages. Patients that have undergone surgery can get radiation therapy. Statistics show that patients have lived for 19 months more because of radiation.
Suppose you or a loved one has just been diagnosed with Mesothelioma. In that case, it is of utmost importance that you take some time to learn about the disease and treatment options. Doctors and researchers across the globe are working tirelessly to provide new treatments and find a cure for Mesothelioma. While there is no cure, current studies show that there are treatments that may significantly extend the life of patients with Mesothelioma.