People often have different views on the terms “life” and “death”. Doctors use the terms survival rate, expectancy and survival time to describe a patient’s prognosis after being diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer. These terms may sound similar, but often are not interchangeable. In this article, I will attempt to define these terms and give some examples of when each is relevant. Hopefully by the time you’ve finished reading this, you’ll have a better understanding of mesothelioma and its impact on its victims and survivors.
Life expectancy or life-span is usually expressed as the number of years a patient is expected to live. This number can range from six months to over a year. However, this number is not set in stone. It is useful to know what it means to your mesothelioma diagnosis and prognosis since many factors can affect this prediction. Life expectancy is affected by many factors including age, general health and even genetics.
Likewise, the prognosis is very important and directly impacts life expectancy. The prognosis describes what the outlook for the patient is likely to be like based on the extent of the disease, its location and the amount of radiation the doctor can hope to achieve during treatment. This can range from good to bad. In some cancers, such as those that affect the lungs, the prognosis is not possible to give much importance to. In other cancers, such as those that affect the chest wall, good to excellent. This is because the cancer has spread (metastasized) to a degree where surgery cannot remove the bulk of it.
When the doctor is considering how you are going to survive the cancer, they will evaluate your medical history and take all the symptoms into consideration. They may suggest that you have fluid draining from your chest. If the fluid is not present, they may help you to obtain some fluid, perhaps through an IV if there is not an available vein or through an operation such as a pneumonectomy, peritoneoscopy, or surgical drainage of the chest may help. Fluid is especially important in regard to asbestos mesothelioma, which often causes pleural effusions.
There are clinical trials that are currently being conducted in various countries that aim to find more effective treatments for mesothelioma and possibly new ways to diagnose it. The US National Institute of Health is conducting clinical trials aimed at diagnosing and treating pleural effusions. There are also clinical trials underway in the UK, Spain, Australia, Japan, Sweden, Norway and France. New studies are also being planned and clinical trials are expected to continue for several years.
A positive mesothelioma diagnosis can give people a new lease on life. With treatment options available and new developments in the form of new drugs and treatments being tested in clinical trials, the outlook for a person with this type of cancer is very good. With life expectancy increasing across the world, the number of people diagnosed each year is also increasing. Because of this, more financial resources are being made available to fight this disease.