Mesothelioma is a rare, but deadly form of cancer that develops in the mesothelia, the lining found around your lungs, heart and other organs, and development of the disease usually means that the patient was exposed to asbestos. Because mesothelioma has a latency period of as much as 60 years, many people who develop the disease may not even have been aware they were exposed. In fact, spouses and children of many workers who worked with asbestos sometimes develop the disease after breathing fibers on contaminated clothing. (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/mesothelioma.html)
Asbestos and Mesothelioma
In June 2010, an article in Science Daily reported that a study conducted at the University of Hawaii Cancer Research Center found that when asbestos kills a cell, it uses a process known as “programmed cell necrosis,” which introduces a molecule that begins an inflammatory reaction that promotes tumor growth. The study attempted to learn how asbestos, which kills any cell its fibers invade, could cause tumors to grow as a dead cell should not be able to divide at all. Researchers hope that this discovery could lead to better treatments, and possibly a cure for the deadly disease, as currently, the disease has a high mortality rate. (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100629094153.htm)
Current Mesothelioma Treatments
Because there is no cure for mesothelioma, treatments currently involve slowing the progress of the disease and lessening the symptoms. Prognosis and treatments often depend on the stage of the disease when it is diagnosed, as later stages of the disease, like most cancers, are difficult to treat. In addition, because the symptoms of mesothelioma often mimic other illnesses, diagnosis may be delayed as doctors rule out other reasons for a patient to be short of breath, pain located below the rib cage, abdominal swelling, or unexplained weight loss. Surgery is one treatment used to treat mesothelioma, and some of the surgeries performed may be extensive, including:
• Removal of the tumor and the healthy cells surrounding it
• Partial removal of the lungs, lining of the chest and portions of the outside surface of the lung
• Removal of one lung, portions of the chest lining and diaphragm, as well as portions of the lining of the heart
• Surgically introducing chemicals to create a scar between the layers of the pleura which helps stop the build-up of fluid in the cavity
Chemotherapy and radiation are additional treatments used to slow the progression of the disease, and some patients who undergo surgery must also receive these types of treatments. Clinical trials are being conducted using biologic therapy and hyperthermic intraperitoneal therapy.
With advances in technology and growing knowledge about the development of mesothelioma, earlier detection has helped promote remission in some patients with malignant mesothelioma. However, in patients with advanced disease, life expectancy is still between one and two years. Despite this grim prognosis, newer treatments are leading to some patients seeing some forms of remission. Some treatments are providing patients with partial remission, where the tumors either shrink or cease to grow larger. This increases the patient’s quality of life as symptoms decrease, and even though the tumors still exist, life expectancy may be longer. Rarely, patients experience complete remission where all evidence of the cancer disappears. Researchers are still studying why some patients achieve complete remission, some patients have partial remission, while still others do not enter remission at all. Research into systemic therapy that treats cancer cells throughout the body, as well as immunotherapy which uses specific cells that target and kill mesothelioma cells are showing promise in putting patients into remission. (http://www.kulfoto.com/mesothelioma/about/20/mesothelioma-cancer-remission.htm)
Difference Between Remission and Cure
According to the National Cancer Institute, a cure means that all traces of cancer are gone from the patient, and although there are no guarantees the cancer will not return, it is less likely. Remission means that there are either no signs of the cancer in the patient or that the cancer is reduced so that symptoms are lessened, improving the quality of life for the patient. If the patient remains in complete remission for more than five years, a doctor may claim them cured, but because cancer cells can remain in the body undetected, especially mesothelioma, it is possible for a remission to end even after five years. (http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Support/prognosis-stats)
Mesothelioma Lawsuits and Remission
Currently, there is no cure for mesothelioma and remission for people diagnosed with the disease is rare. Therefore, entering remission should have no bearing on any settlements regarding asbestos exposure that more than likely caused the illness. The prognosis for those diagnosed with mesothelioma is a less than five year survival rate, and even those who enter remission may still succumb to the illness within five years. Even those who survive past five years have no guarantee that the disease will remain in remission permanently. Therefore, lawsuits pending regarding a mesothelioma diagnosis, settlements received or even the potential for settlement offers should not change due to remission.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with asbestos cancer, even if the disease is in remission, contact a qualified personal injury attorney to learn what rights you may have. Contact us today online or by telephone to set up your initial consultation.