Authors: Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance
Proper staging, early detection and accurate diagnosis all play a key role in successful treatment for cancer patients. This holds especially true for those facing rare cancers. Malignant mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive environmental cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Mesothelioma is known for being difficult to diagnose and equally difficult to treat.
Concurrent with other rare cancers, low incident rates and unique ways of presenting means that the treatment options for mesothelioma vary greatly; depending on the type and stage of diagnosis and carries more weight while planning a course of treatment than more commonly treated cancers.
Upon diagnosis, patients are typically given a prognosis of only 12–21 months and predominantly left with aggressive treatment options . With such a limited amount of time, early detection becomes vital and appropriately staging patients can mean the difference between taking action or having no recourse for treatment. For patients who are able to seek curative treatment, the best-case survival revolves around the ability to explore all treatment options available, from surgery all the way through to emerging last resort options such as immunotherapy and other emerging treatments.
A multimodal approach
Mesothelioma develops slowly after exposure to asbestos, taking between 10–50 years to start presenting symptoms. In addition to the slow impact of exposure, as the asbestos fibers irritate the linings of organs over many years, the initial symptoms are often very general and difficult to recognize conclusively as mesothelioma. As such, the disease is often diagnosed at a late stage, which can limit patients’ treatment options.