Following a diagnosis of mesothelioma, physicians typically give an overall estimate of the patient's prognosis, the medical prediction for the general outcome of the disease. Even though there is no known cure for mesothelioma, there are a number of factors that influence a prognosis:
- Prognosis: An estimate of the course of the disease based on statistics from previous patients.
- Diagnosis: The act of identifying and determining a disease based on its signs and symptoms.
- Survival Rate: The percentage of patients in a disease study group still alive following a certain period of time. A five-year survival rate is used in the field of oncology to estimate the number of patients alive five years after an initial diagnosis.
- Oncology: The branch of medicine that specifically deals with the study of cancer and tumors. This field of study includes the origin, diagnosis, classification and treatment of tumors.
- Malignant: cancerous; can cause harm.
- Benign: noninvasive; favorable for recovery.
Primary Factors That Affect Your Prognosis
The greater the amount of symptoms the more the likelihood the disease has spread. In advanced stage mesothelioma, treatment options focus on patient comfort.
Type of mesothelioma is a leading factor to determining a successful outcome of the disease. Statistics show that patients with pleural mesothelioma, most common type of mesothelioma, have a greater survival rate and a more optimistic prognosis. This is partly because more research and funding have gone into pleural mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma cancer stages range from stage I to stage IV, with the latter being the most severe. A stage I diagnosis allows for a larger range of treatment options. Many mesothelioma diagnoses come at the later stages of the disease, limiting the number of treatment options.
Location and Tumor Size
Mesothelioma tumors that are confined to one section of the body can be more aggressively treated than those that have metastasized, or spread. Typically confined tumors can be removed surgically, offering a better prognosis. Stage and location go hand-in-hand.
How far the cancer has spread from the original location is another determining factor in the overall prognosis of the disease. Cancer that has metastasized is more difficult to treat.
Histology (Cell Types)
Also known as cell type, this can influence the way some types of mesothelioma are treated. Epithelial mesothelioma is known to have the most successful treatment prognosis.
Mesothelioma is known to have a long latency period meaning it can take a long period for the disease symptoms to appear. In the case of mesothelioma, the latency period is up to five decades. Typically, by the time major symptoms of the disease appear the disease has already advanced.
As the most effective line of mesothelioma treatment, surgery is often only available to those in the early stages of the disease. In advanced stage mesothelioma, oncologists use chemotherapy and radiation.
Generally, patients who are diagnosed with mesothelioma are age 55 and older. Patients who are on the younger end of the scale generally fare better from treatment.
Patients who smoke have an overall lesser chance of a mesothelioma recovery.
Patients who are otherwise healthy are generally more successful in treatment because they are physically and emotionally able to deal with its effects.
Favorable Prognosis vs Unfavorable Prognosis
Generally when receiving a prognosis, the doctor will inform you on whether or not you have a favorable or unfavorable prognosis. Below are some factors that would help determine which one of these you should expect:
- Diagnosed at Stage I or II
- Localized cancer tumors
- Good health
- Age 55 or younger
- Diagnosed at Stage III or IV
- Disease spread (metastasis)
- Poor health
- Over age 55
Getting A Second Oppinion
In addition to the clinical diagnostic measures that can predict a positive outcome, it is also important to independently pursue other avenues to improve the overall prognosis. This includes getting a second opinion, using a skilled mesothelioma cancer specialist and opting for experimental treatments or clinical trials that can offer a better quality of life.
- American Cancer Society. How is malignant mesothelioma staged. Retrieved from http://www.cancer.org/cancer/malignantmesothelioma/detailedguide/malignant-mesothelioma-staging
- WedMD. Mesothelioma: Tests, Diagnosis and Treatments. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/lung/mesothelioma-tests-diagnosis-and-treatments.