Mesothelioma is a rare malignancy originating from superficial membranes. Sometimes it can also develop in the pericardium and peritoneum. Pleural mesothelioma is most often diagnosed in men over 60 years of age. Unfortunately, due to the low characteristic symptoms, it is diagnosed late and treatment is usually not satisfactory. How do I know if I have mesothelioma?
In the next 10-20 years there is a likelihood of an increase in the incidence of malignant pleural mesothelioma. Although this cancer is rare, it presents a challenge for doctors due to the still unsatisfactory results of treatment. At the time the diagnosis is made, after many years of exposure to asbestos, malignant pleural mesothelioma is limited to half the chest. However, the extent of the cancer means that complete resection is rarely possible. In addition, the role of both local (surgical and radiation) treatments is not definitively established. The use of chemotherapy has not been satisfactory for many years. Recently, encouraging results have been obtained regarding the use of new generation anti-metabolites. Regardless of the limited effectiveness of each of these methods used singly, combination therapy can improve the survival and quality of life of patients.
Symptoms and diagnostics
Symptoms of mesothelioma vary depending on the location of the cancer.
Pleural mesothelioma, which affects the tissue surrounding the lungs, causes signs and symptoms, which may include:
- Pain in the chest
- Painful cough
- Unusual lumps of tissue under the skin on the chest
- Unexplained weight loss
Peritoneal mesothelioma, which occurs in the abdominal tissue, causes signs and symptoms, which may include:
- Abdominal pain
- Swollen stomach
- Unexplained weight loss
- Other forms of mesothelioma
The signs and symptoms of other types of mesothelioma are unclear because these forms of the disease are very rare.
Pericardial mesothelioma, which affects the tissue that surrounds the heart, can cause symptoms and difficulties such as breathing difficulties and chest pains.
Mesothelioma of tuica vaginalis, which affects the tissue surrounding the testicles, may first be detected as swelling or mass on the testicle.
Treatable pleural mesothelioma
Total resection, i.e. complete removal of the tumor, is the only chance of complete recovery. However, it is possible in a few patients, only less than 10% of patients qualify for such surgery.
Most often, however, surgery is performed to reduce the tumor mass or reduce the discomfort associated with its growth. These types of operations are called palliative procedures and are not intended to extend life, but to improve its quality.
There are two types of surgery: pleurectomy – surgery to remove the entire pleura, pneumonectomy – surgery to remove the entire lung with the adjacent pleura, part of the diaphragm and pericardium. Other methods of treatment are: radiotherapy, radio-chemotherapy and chemotherapy. Drugs such as anthracyclines (doxorubicin, epirubicin), platinum derivatives (cisplatin, carboplatin), antimetabolites (methotrexate, gemcitabine, pemetrexed) are also used. The combination of pemetrexed and cisplatin seems to be the most effective at present.
A person with pleural mesothelioma has a chance to be cured, but it depends primarily on when the disease was diagnosed. The earlier the stage of development of the disease in which it was detected, the greater the patient’s chance of survival.