1. What is mesothelioma staging, and why is it important?
Staging is the term for the process of determining how far advanced a cancer is, and how far it has spread from the original site. The goal of staging a mesothelioma is to determine what kinds of treatment will be most helpful, and what a person's life expectancy may be. Staging the mesothelioma is essential for making sound choices about treatment options and for determining the prognosis for mesothelioma patients. Several staging systems have been developed for mesothelioma, all of which use four stages to describe the progress of the disease. Stage I is the earliest, and Stage IV is the most advanced. Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of the disease, and the only one for which staging classifications has been developed. See the section Treating mesothelioma for a fuller explanation of staging.
2. What kind of treatment is available for mesothelioma?
Surgery, radiation, and multi-drug chemotherapy are all used to treat people with mesotheliomas. The treatment approach recommended will be determined by the stage of the illness at time of diagnosis Stages I and II mesotheliomas will likely be candidates for surgery, followed by multiple-drug chemotherapy. Patents whose stage III and stage IV patients are generally offered multi-drug chemotherapy. See the section Treating mesothelioma for a fuller discussion of available therapies.
3. Is there research on new treatments for mesothelioma?
One promising area of mesothelioma research is in genomics. When genetic damage in a population of mesothelioma patients was studied, it was possible to recognize specific genotypes that mad more favorable responses to treatment. Although this research is just emerging in biomedical journals, the implication is that it may soon be possible to examine mesothelioma cells for DNA markers that will predict whether a given patient would benefit from aggressive surgical treatment or not.
The drugs used in chemotherapy, the combinations, and the way they are delivered all continue to evolve as oncologists learn more. Where the patient's staging and general health permit a two or three pronged approach of surgery followed by multi-agent chemotherapy and possibly radiation is the approach that shows the greatest promise. Newer agents, such as monoclonal antibodies drugs that target specific tumor cells and drugs that interfere with angiogenesis are being investigated. Adjunctive drugs such as Interferon, Thalidomide and Cox2 inhibitors like Celebrex are being investigated for their potential to increase the effectiveness of chemotherapies.
4. How long can a person live after a diagnosis of mesothelioma?
The prognosis for malignant mesotheliomadepends greatly on how early in its development the mesothelioma is diagnosed and how aggressively it can be treated. Because of its very slow development, and the absence or mildness of symptoms as it develops, most mesothelioma victims do not seek a diagnosis until their symptoms are more painful and disabling. By the time a diagnosis is established, the disease is usually far advanced.
If the diagnosis is made while the disease is still relatively early, Stage I or Stage II, and aggressive treatment is undertaken, survival times of 12 to 18 months can be expected, with some patients living another two to five years, or even longer. In addition to the stage of the tumor, other factors affecting prognosis are the patient's age and general health, which affect the ability to tolerate surgery and the rigors of multiple-drug chemotherapies. The location of the primary tumor, how much can be removed, and how the mesothelioma responds to chemotherapy also affect the outcome.
5. Am I entitled to compensation for having developed mesothelioma?
The commonest sources of asbestos exposure are work in commercial and domestic construction, especially installing insulation, work in shipyards, and in service aboard naval or commercial ships. Companies that mined and manufactured asbestos products knew for many years that asbestos presented serious health hazards for their workers, yet they conspired to suppress that information, preventing workers from knowing the dangers they faced working with this lethal material. Because of that conspiracy, workers with asbestos-caused cancers have important legal rights to compensation from the companies whose negligence and disregard for their safety has harmed them.
If you believe that your mesothelioma was caused by working with asbestos materials, you should consult an experienced mesothelioma attorney to learn more about your rights.
6. Should I consider a lawsuit?
This is a question to discuss with a mesothelioma attorney, who can discuss your particular situation, and advise you about your options.