Mesothelioma is a type of cancer caused by breathing in asbestos microfibrils. Typically found in the lungs, this form of cancer doesn’t limit itself to one location. Other places in your body may be at risk too. It is wise to know the prognosis of the disease so you can work on the treatment.
For any condition, you must have the correct information. You cannot take cancer lightly. It will not go away with a handful of medicines. You must follow a specific treatment route. When you enter your oncologist’s office with more background knowledge, you’ll be able to help yourself better. So, take the opportunity to learn about mesothelioma along with its possible treatment routes. Here’s everything you need to know about it:
1. Types of mesothelioma by location
Mesothelioma gets its name from where cancer develops. The cells grow and multiply within the thin layer of cells outside internal organs. It can form in various areas, including the lungs, heart, abdomen, or testicles.
- Peritoneal Mesothelioma. This variant develops in the abdomen, stomach lining, and intestines. The symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include swelling and filing up of fluids in the belly. The patient may also experience weight loss and changes in dietary habits.
- Pleural Mesothelioma. It is an aggressive form of cancer that develops in the lungs and heavily affects breathing. Symptoms include chest pain, coughing, fatigue, and even shortness of breath.
- Pericardial Mesothelioma. If the lining of the heart gets impacted, it is diagnosed as pericardial mesothelioma. It is an extremely rare form of cancer. Only 1% of the population ever gets it. Symptoms include irregular heartbeat, fluid buildup in the pericardium, and severe chest pain.
- Testicular Mesothelioma. Another rare form of cancer is testicular mesothelioma. Cancer develops within the testes. Symptoms include a mass on the testicle, testicular pain, and scrotal swelling caused by a fluid backup.
2. Diagnosing mesothelioma
In medicine, different diseases can have the same symptoms. Since mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer, don’t expect the doctor to go there suddenly. There is a protocol that needs following to ensure that it is indeed mesothelioma. Here’s how a doctor will carry out the diagnosis:
- Symptoms. A doctor will work with you according to your symptoms. You may visit a primary care physician or any doctor at the hospital. The doctor will need to know how long you’ve had these symptoms, along with any lifestyle changes. The doctor will also need to know if you have any other diseases. Finally, you will land on your family history. The doctor will need to know if similar symptoms or any closely related disease runs in the family.
- Physical exam. After the preliminary discussion, the doctor will start with the basics of listening to the heart and lungs through a stethoscope. If the doctor feels there is something wrong, they will take you for further examination. A doctor may inspect your lungs through a scoped instrument. They may even ask for a blood sample for assurance. If they feel a lump or see an obvious abnormality, a doctor will subject them to a mesothelioma test.
- Mesothelioma testing. The most common route to confirm you have mesothelioma is by doing radiology exams. You may get chest X-rays and even CT scans of the abdomen. These tests help the doctors see where you may have cancer. After they have a visual, the doctor will measure the size of the tumor and deduce its exact location. Oncologists help to make final deductions.
- Confirm diagnosis. While a doctor may be sure that you have cancer, they still need confirmation. Further testing can help them rely on more than just an image of your organ. You may need to give a blood test, a biopsy, or even another round of scanning. It is essential to take further tests because imaging can sometimes cause a shadow on your organs. Sometimes the cancer is not visible. However, biopsies by taking a sample of your tissue can help doctors deduce whether you have the disease or not.
- Relaying the results. Once the doctor is sure about your disease, they will talk to you about your results. Before they can begin treatment, they need to give you an idea of what you’re dealing with. You need to know how far the disease has progressed, including where it is. A doctor will explore all possible treatment routes with you and an expected timeline of recovery. A physician will refer you to an oncologist to help you grasp the picture better. After they get your approval, all they need to do is start your treatment route.
The treatment for mesothelioma will depend on the location and extent of the cancer. If it has already progressed into advanced stages, surgery becomes impossible. Therefore, a doctor will only give you options depending on what they deem fit. Some people want to go all the way to get rid of cancer, while some settle for the minimum. Whether you’re frantic about all possible treatment routes, discuss with your doctor. Here are some possible treatment routes:
- Surgery. A doctor will only administer surgery if cancer gets concentrated in one spot. However, it is not entirely possible to eradicate cancer with surgery. A doctor may also prescribe surgery to remove excess fluid and to remove infected tissue. They may also do surgery to remove as many cancer cells as possible and follow it with chemo.
- Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy uses chemicals to kill cancer cells. It may be administered before or after surgery. Chemo can also be inserted directly into the abdomen in the case of peritoneal mesothelioma.
- Radiation therapy. During radiation therapy, high-energy beams from X-rays get concentrated on the body. Radiation helps kill cancer cells. Doctors may do it after surgery to finish any remaining cancer cells. It is also useful when surgery is not an option.
- Clinical trials. There are cancer medications that are not mainstream yet. These medicines may still be under research with limited quantifiable data. Doctors may prescribe a clinical trial if they feel these drugs may help manage your symptoms.
Mesothelioma is an aggressive and rare type of cancer. It can occur in different places in your body. You may get it in your lungs, abdomen, heart, and testicles. Depending on the kind of cancer you have, including the extent of cancer, a doctor will prescribe a treatment route. Treatment routes include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. An oncologist will know best how to create a treatment route for you.
Mesothelioma is an overwhelming and terrifying illness. Patients typically have a significantly reduced lifespan post-diagnosis. However, with the help of a doctor, you can hopefully contain cancer.