Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is caused by asbestos exposure. It usually forms in the lungs of those who have been exposed to this deadly toxin, but sometimes occurs in the abdominal area or the area around the heart. There are a number of therapies available that can help prolong survival and minimize symptoms and discomfort, but in most cases the cancer is too aggressive and too advanced at the time of diagnosis to be cured.
This disease specifically impacts a thin membrane that protects the lungs, heart and organs within the abdominal cavity and enables them to function properly. This is called the mesothelium and the majority of cases of this type of cancer affect the pleura, the mesothelium that lines the lungs.
One of the most frustrating aspects of mesothelioma is that the cancer can hide inside your body for decades without showing any kind of outward sign. For all intents and purposes you may appear to be healthy while actually harboring the condition, and as it invisibly grows and gains strength it becomes more and more difficult to treat.
The symptoms of this type of cancer are an important part of why mesothelioma is so difficult to treat. In order to have the best prognosis and for treatment to be successful, it is important that people at risk for mesothelioma know the signs and symptoms and carefully watch for them. Don’t let the symptoms be mistaken or anything else and if you feel your doctor isn’t taking your symptoms or concerns seriously enough, it may be time to seek a second opinion.
Approximately 3,000 people are diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma in the United States every year. In most cases, these victims’ exposure took place on the job and the cause of the illness can be traced to an unsafe workplace.
For example, in the past, an overwhelming amount of job sites across the nation used asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) in buildings, equipment, products, machinery, insulation, electrical wiring, and more.
Workers were exposed to ACMs each time they went to work, inhaling tiny, odorless asbestos fibers. Once the fibers become lodged in the body, it’s literally impossible to expel all of. Over time, the workers began developing asbestos-related illnesses, such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, and asbestos-related lung cancer.
With changing regulations and mitigation, exposure to asbestos is on the decline, but people continue to be diagnosed. This is because the disease has what is known as a long latency period. This means that the amount of time that can pass between the time of exposure to asbestos and the time that symptoms begin to appear can be as long as fifty years.
It is an unfortunate reality, but medical science has made great strides in understanding how this deadly disease progresses and various ways to prolong and improve the lives of those who have been diagnosed with the condition. Currently, however, there is still no cure for asbestos illnesses.
Treatment Begins with a Complete Examination
The best treatment centers will always confirm a diagnosis of mesothelioma and do a range of tests to determine the stage and progression of the cancer. These steps are crucial to ensure a diagnosis is accurate and that the treatment plan developed is the best for the patient.
Doctors will generally conduct a range of physical exams, health history analyses, and diagnostic evaluations in an effort to better understand the nature of the disease and how far it has advanced. These exams are likely to include a biopsy, fluid test, PET scan, CT scan, and/or MRI. These exams will then likely be repeated throughout a patient’s course of treatment in order to determine how the mesothelioma responds to particular therapies. However, a thorough and accurate diagnosis is the first step in developing an effective treatment plan.
Medical professionals will rely heavily on these tests to determine each patient’s individualized treatment plan. However, mesothelioma patients, as with all cancer patients, should always seek multiple opinions before deciding upon a course of treatment. Though two doctors may be experts in their fields, it is unlikely that all will prescribe the same treatment plan.
If a patient is interested in participating in experimental mesothelioma treatments or clinical trials, ask medical staff for advice and conduct research in advance to determine which clinics and centers are currently conducting studies.
A Mesothelioma Team is Better Than One Doctor
Because mesothelioma can be a highly unpredictable and aggressive disease, it’s critical that patients gather a team of specialized oncologists and medical professionals with experience in treating patients with similar conditions. This medical team will be dedicated to curing the cancer, as well as managing side effects and symptoms resulting from the disease as well as from the treatment.
It is not uncommon for mesothelioma patients to receive nutrition therapy, naturopathic therapy, oncology rehabilitation, survivorship support, pain management, mind-body medicine, and spiritual support. Whenever possible, it is helpful to have as many of these services available under the same roof – but it is most important to explore the range of treatment services available to mesothelioma patients.
A Treatment Center Should Fit Your Needs
As much as possible, attempt to evaluate how attentive the medical staff is to your needs. Certain centers will be outfitted with the latest medical equipment, designed to make scans and tests as comfortable for patients as possible. Receiving chemotherapy and radiation can be lengthy procedures, and it is surprising just how important small details become when they serve to ease a patient’s discomfort.
Chances are you will find that the majority of the major mesothelioma treatment centers and clinics in the United States are equipped with the latest equipment and treatment options available. Simply feeling comfortable is important too, though. Never hesitate to question the level of care you are getting as a patient.
Finding a Treatment Center Near You
Numerous online databases are available to help patients find a quality treatment center in their area. These resources can significantly reduce the headaches and frustration involved in researching specialists. Receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis can be an overwhelming experience, but researching the available options and partnering with a skilled medical team will reveal the steps you can take on the path to recovery.
Top Mesothelioma Treatment Centers in the U.S.
With such a rare and aggressive type of cancer, it makes sense to seek out those treatment centers that specialize in mesothelioma research and treatment. A great cancer center may provide excellent treatment, but it cannot give you the specialized care nor does it have the specialized knowledge as compared to a center with specialists devoted to mesothelioma. There are several top cancer centers in the U.S. that also top the list for helping patients with mesothelioma. If you can travel to one of these medical centers, you will receive top care.