Mesothelioma is a very rare form of cancer and it is also extremely dangerous because of its tendency to progress undetected, the lack of real treatment options available and how quickly it spreads to other areas of the body. As with any form of cancer, early detection is instrumental in order to provide patients with the best prognosis possible and it is no different with mesothelioma, which moves quickly into advanced stages without warning. Doctors must determine how to effectively contain the cancer so that it doesn’t grow into a more complicated issue and which method of treatment is most realistic and has the greatest chance of success.
Latency and Misdiagnosis
The majority of mesothelioma cases go undetected until the cancer reaches the third or fourth stage and the initial symptoms of stage three or four mesothelioma often mimic that of a bad flu or pneumonia. Doctors will often diagnose the patient with a minor respiratory illness and send him or her home with medicine to address that issue. By the time the cancer is detected, it has had ample opportunity to spread to other areas of the body and to progress into a more advanced stage.
Once a patient is diagnosed with stage three or four mesothelioma, the prognosis is often very grim. Most people who are not diagnosed early only have about a year or two to live if they are lucky and it is extremely rare that mesothelioma victims who have been diagnosed late survive the cancer. It is for this reason that if you or a loved one was exposed to asbestos repeatedly on the job that you get screened regularly for indications that you may be developing mesothelioma. If it is caught early, the chances of survival and the life expectancy rise considerably.
The Aggressive Nature of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma often spreads to organs that are nearby and does so extremely quickly. Once a patient has been diagnosed with the initial cancer, doctors often need to run additional tests to determine if the cancer has metastasized— or moved to another area of the body. The tendency of this form of cancer to progress into advanced stages quickly and to spread rapidly to other organs makes early detection one of the only hopes of survival. By detecting it early on, doctors can address the problem before additional complications get in the way and while the cancer is still under control.
According to current statistics, only 40% of patients who are diagnosed live another year after diagnosis. Only one in ten will survive five years and younger patients with fewer health conditions have a much greater chance of surviving than older patients who have health complications in addition to the mesothelioma. Late detection is one of the greatest contributors to the low survival rate and those who are diagnosed in stage one or two have a much higher chance of surviving longer and beating the cancer. Most patients do not get screened until they experience symptoms, however, and by this time it is too late.
If you are at risk of developing mesothelioma or any other illness related to a prolonged exposure to asbestos, do not wait to get screened until you become symptomatic. Early detection could be the difference between life and death and detecting the cancer quickly will open the door to a greater availability of treatment options. By the time mesothelioma has progressed to stage three or four, some of the options available for the treatment of stage one or two mesothelioma may not be viable solutions anymore.
Contribution to this article made by Attorney John Yannone.