Shock and confusion are understandable reactions after being diagnosed with any serious disease, including mesothelioma. Patients diagnosed with mesothelioma often undergo difficult and overwhelming emotions after learning about their condition, treatment options, and prognosis. At the same time, they and their loved ones are trying to quickly absorb a lot of information amid a flurry of tests and consultations with medical experts. After all, rapid responses are crucial to extending patients’ life expectancies after being diagnosed with the aggressive disease. But even after all the meetings with general physicians, pulmonologists, oncologists, radiologists, and others, there are bound to be unanswered questions. Here are a few of the most common questions associated with mesothelioma:
Questions for Your Medical Team
How Did I Get It?
Mesothelioma has been tied to asbestos exposure, and over 3,000 cases are diagnosed in the U.S. every year. Mesothelioma takes 20 to 50 years to develop. If you did not work in an asbestos-related industry, but your spouse or family member did, you may have secondhand exposure.
What Type Do I Have?
Depending on the origin of your mesothelioma, you will have one of four types. Pleural originates in the lungs, peritoneal in the abdomen, pericardial in the heart, and testicular in the testicles. Pleural is the most common, accounting for 75% of cases. Based on symptoms and testing, your doctor should be able to asses quickly which type of mesothelioma you have.
What Stage Is My Cancer?
Staging mesothelioma — determining how far the cancer has spread — is based on the results of exams, imaging tests, and biopsies. Pleural mesothelioma is the only type for which a formal staging system currently exists and is based on the TNM: T (spread of primary tumor), N (spread of cancer to the nearby lymph nodes), and M (indicates whether the cancer has metastasized to other organs).
What Are My Treatment Options?
Once your cancer is found and staged, your team will discuss your treatment options. Depending on the location and extent, treatment can include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and/or surgery. A combination of these options may be recommended, but be sure to ask about other treatment options including clinical trials, alternative medicine, and palliative care.
What Is My Prognosis?
Every mesothelioma case is different. Key factors include the patient’s physical condition, age, location of the cancer, the stage, and type of the disease. Treatment can sometimes extend the lives of mesothelioma victims well beyond the usual survival threshold of between 1 to 2 years after diagnosis.
How Is Mesothelioma Diagnosed?
Specialists are used for mesothelioma diagnoses. From your initial symptoms, doctor visits, X-rays, CT scans, and ultimate diagnosis, time passes and there will be lots of information to take in and process. According to the American Cancer Society, here is a breakdown of a typical process from discovery to diagnosis:
Initial Symptoms: Mesothelioma often goes undiagnosed due to the lack of symptoms or because initial symptoms are common to a variety of illnesses that are not life-threatening. If you worked in a field with heavy asbestos use, symptoms may not present themselves until between 10 and 50 years later. While every case is unique, common symptoms for mesothelioma include:
- Dry cough or wheezing.
- Respiratory problems or trouble breathing.
- Abdomen or chest pain.
- Pleural effusions.
Consulting with your Physician: If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, you should see your general physician. While these symptoms alone are not indicative of mesothelioma, if you have worked with or in an asbestos-related field, your doctor will investigate and recommend tests to rule out or confirm cancer. Be prepared to:
- Review your medical history.
- Review your work history.
- Discuss your symptoms.
- Have physical exams.
Imaging Tests: Testing can be a long and arduous process. It involves multiple diagnostic tools, doctor visits, reviews with specialists, and potential biopsies to determine the nature and extent of your cancer. While there is no standard course of testing, most processes involve two or more of these tests:
- CT scans.
- PET scans.
- Blood tests.
We Can Help
Developing mesothelioma is directly related to asbestos exposure and is the responsibility of those companies which manufactured, distributed, and sold asbestos products without an adequate warning of the dangers of breathing asbestos. You have options. Weitz & Luxenberg has 30 years of experience in asbestos litigation. We are compassionate and skilled representatives for mesothelioma patients seeking compensation.
If you or your loved one is dealing with mesothelioma, please contact our office at (833) 544-0604 for a free consultation.