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Treatment of Mesothelioma - And Other Facts You Need To Know

Updated on May 9, 2011

The Diagnosis We all Fear

Mesothelioma cancer ... with a low survival rate, many consider this diagnosis as a death sentence, unaware that mesothelioma treatment options have improved greatly over the past twenty years.

While we could focus on the percentage of those who die in the first five years, let's focus on the survivors instead ... with the hope that you or your loved one will be among those who face this disease and live on.

As with any other cancer, early detection and aggressive treatment increases the odds of living longer ... and there are those who have beaten this disease, so being diagnosed with this killer disease does not deny one all hope.

In this article we will examine the causes of mesothelioma cancer, the damage it can cause to your body, the treatments options available and what we need to do to give ourselves the best chance at becoming one of the survivors.

Asbestos Is The Leading Cause Of Mesothelioma Cancer

Inhalation or ingestion of asbestos causes mesothelioma cancer. Over time, exposure to asbestos damages the mesothelial cells inside the body, causing them to eventually turn cancerous.

As the mesothelial cells continue to divide out of control they invade and damage nearby organs and tissues.This is what makes mesothelioma so difficult to diagnose early, as by the time it causes a noticeable degradation on the function of the human body it's already spread about to cause much damage.

That's why you need to have yourself checked annually if you have had any exposure to asbestos. While you might consider yourself not at risk because you wore a respirator and properly insulated clothing, the fact remains ... mistakes can be made, leading to possible exposure.

But I'm Always Careful Around Asbestos

And I'm careful around lions at the zoo ... to the point that I refuse to crawl into the cage with them. Risk requires exposure and exposure only requires a method to gain access to the body ... whether through respiration or direct ingestion.

Case in point. Your working in a high school to remove asbestos and you make sure every day that you wear a full respirator and a hazard suit. As such, you have zero exposure to asbestos, right? Maybe ... maybe not.

Let's say you go outside for lunch. You remove your respirator and then take off your gloves. You then open your lunch box and start eating your sandwich ... unaware that a small amount of asbestos from your hazmat suit has shook off onto your bread ... and you ingest that asbestos.

Even if the asbestos doesn't shake off onto your sandwich, make you are having a tough time removing your glove and use your teeth to assist. Exposure happens that easily ... so anyone who works daily in the presence of asbestos should be checked annually for mesthelioma.

Also, if you discover a building you have worked in had asbestos insulation, get checked. If your children went to a school where they had asbestos insulation, get them checked.

Yes ... with as much as we know about asbestos today, the odds for such exposure are small and the tests will probably prove unwarranted - but - if you are that one in a million that find you or a loved one has contracted mesothelioma cancer, then you set yourself as a possible candidate to be the ine in many that survive through early detection.

Here's a good analogy:

If a waiter walks out into the restaurant while you are eating and states they have found a fatal poison in some of the food that was cooked - how long do you wait to run to the hospital and have it checked out?

When we know there is a clear and present danger, we react right away. Asbestos is definitely such a danger, and anyone who has had a possibility of contact with this substance should have themselves checked - for peace of mind.

Mesothelioma Symptoms

Symptoms of mesothelioma can take 15 to 50 years to present themselves. Most symptoms present themselves as minor aggravations, which are excused as lesser maladies. As such, you can't use your 'feeling of general good health' as an indication of whether or not you have mesothelioma. This is why annual checkups are highly recommended for those who have had prior exposure to asbestos and for those who have worked to clean it up, regardless of the precautions taken while doing so.

As I mentioned earlier, even the most cautious worked could be exposed, given a momentary lapse of judgment. As such, consider your annual checkup as proof the disease hasn't metabolized yet, and if you live to be a hundred, sue me. I write these medical articles to bring about awareness that will help extend the lives of others, and to have a survivor standing at my door that wouldn't have made it otherwise ... well ... nothing would make me feel prouder of all of my efforts.

Provided you make your doctor aware of the possibility of previous asbestos exposure, annual chest x-rays and pulmonary function tests can catch the disease at a relatively early stage, making your odds for survival that much better.

Mesothelioma Treatments

Mesothelioma is typically treated with:

  • Surgery¬†
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Chemotherapy

We will examine each one to give you a better view of each procedure. As I know you are not a doctor, we will keep the conversation to things we can easily understand and will leave all the gibberish aside. After all, does it really help to know the name of every procedure and what occurs during each one?

At this stage of the game we are interested in only one thing ... survival ... and this brings us to learning what must be done to survive this disease.


A diagnosis of mesothelioma is typically confirmed through a biopsy ... a procedure where the doctor goes into your body and removes a sample believed to be cancerous or infected. The doctor then examines the biopsy sample and determines of its mesothelioma or something else.

Once you are diagnosed as having mesothelioma the doctor might recommend surgery. In some cases the surgery will be to remove the symptom and in others to remove the cause.

Palliative procedures focus on treating the life threatening symptoms of mesothelioma, extending the patient's life and providing more time for treating the disease itself.

Curative procedures typically focus on the removal of tumors. As the disease can remain behind in a microbial stage this method of treatment often provides a remission from the disease, more so than a cure.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is often used to attack the residual disease after surgery, destroying the microbials that remain. It can also be used to control symptoms. By directly focusing radiation on the diseased cells, the doctor can kill them off with a minimized risk of damaging nearby tissue and organs.

So many exciting advances are being made in this area of cancer research that we can only begin to wonder how many more will begin surviving tomorrow. Of course, radiation therapy isn't a definite cure, but it opens up the door to extending the lives of many patients from months to years.


When mesothelioma is inoperable, chemotherapy is typically used to slow down the progression if the disease. In most cases it is used to relieve the pain that can be associated with mesothelioma.

Chemotherapy is not a cure for mesothelioma, but it can be used as an offsetting means of giving a patient more time for a new cure to be found. Given the speed at which new miracles are discovered in medical science nowadays, it's a decent roll of the dice to take.

The burning thought leads one to this treatment ... If I live just one more day, might they find the cure? There really is no full and honest answer to the question. But given the chance, one must decide for themselves.

There's Always Hope

Measles, mumps, polio, smallpox, chickenpox, and tetanus ... all of these diseases killed many in their time, but in our time they are rare occurrences, due to advances in medical science. No doubt, cancer (in all of its forms) will someday be added to this list. It's only a matter of time. As such, if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, all hope hasn't yet been lost.

Seek treatment early and ask your doctor questions so that you thoroughly understand what you are up against. Above all else, believe there can always be a chance ... My prayers go out to you and your loved ones ...

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