The National Cancer Institute, a federal clearinghouse for cancer research and information, defines a prognosis as an estimated course and overall outcome of the disease. A mesothelioma prognosis is determined based on a variety of factors, including the patient’s age, tumor size and cancer stage.
Each year, up to 3,000 patients are diagnosed with asbestos cancers. Most of those are pleural mesothelioma. Once a patient has undergone a battery of tests and the asbestos cancer diagnosis has been confirmed, doctors will determine the patient’s prognosis. It is important to remember that a prognosis is not the final say on the outcome of the disease. Many patients exceed expectations.
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How is Prognosis Determined?
There are several factors that influence the final determination of a prognosis:
- Type - There are three main types of mesothelioma -- pleural (chest), peritoneal (abdominal) and pericardial (heart). Researchers have found that up to 10 percent of pleural patients live productive lives for up to five years after an initial diagnosis.
- Stage - Like other forms of cancer, asbestos cancer is ranked by stage, or severity, from stage I to stage IV. Stages I and II are less severe and offer more treatment choices. Stages III and IV are more severe, have fewer treatment options and usually have a poor prognosis.
- Histology (Cell Type) - The types of cells involved in an asbestos cancer diagnosis directly influences the way the cancer will be treated. Some cell types are known to be more aggressive, while others are less aggressive and easier to treat.
- Scope of the Tumor - This includes location, size and shape of the tumors involved in the cancer. When tumors have spread inside the patient, the cancer is known to have metastasized. This generally means a poorer prognosis because the tumors cannot be surgically removed.
- Symptom Progression - In general, the patients who have more advanced symptoms have more advanced cancer. Common symptoms include severe coughing, unexplained fevers and sudden weight loss.
- Age and Overall Health - Younger and healthier patients have a better chance at a positive prognosis.
- Cancer Recurrence - Patients who have previously been diagnosed with cancer face a poorer long-term prognosis with a second diagnosis.
Ways to Improve Your Prognosis
While you can’t change certain elements of a mesothelioma diagnosis, such as the type of cancer and location, you can take some other steps to improve your prognosis:
- Early Detection - The best way to improve an asbestos-cancer prognosis is by detecting and treating the disease in the early stages. If it can be diagnosed before it spreads, treatment success rates are higher.
- Clinical Trials - Clinical trials often give patients access to new and progressive therapies that have shown to be more effective than the current treatments available.
- Treatment - Some common treatments include chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. In some cases, doctors are using immunotherapy, gene therapy and other newer types of treatment with success.
- Quit Smoking - Smoking increases the chances of lung complications. Some doctors will insist that patients quit smoking.
- Nutrition - Nutritionists and dieticians help patients strengthen their bodies through diet and exercise. This helps patients get stronger.
Improving your prognosis means you will improve your life expectancy.
National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health. “General Information About Malignant Mesothelioma.” Retrieved from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/malignantmesothelioma/patient#Keypoint5
National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health. “Understanding Cancer Prognosis.” Retrieved from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/support/prognosis-stats