According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 10 million people die because of cancer globally – making it one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Due to these astonishing mortality rate stats, each individual needs to learn about different types of cancer and take necessary measures to protect themselves.
In simpler words, cancer refers to a disease in which abnormal cells start developing in a human’s body rapidly and uncontrollably. The worst thing about these cancer cells is they attack primary body organs. While there are various kinds of cancer, one of the rarest types is mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that affects the thin membrane, mesothelium, covering the body’s major organs. The common symptoms of this type of cancer include dry cough, respiratory issues, loss of appetite, nausea, and fever. The symptoms, however, may vary depending on the type and stage of cancer. While no one wishes to experience mesothelioma, gaining in-depth knowledge about this cancer is crucial for all.
So let’s look!
Before we delve into what causes mesothelioma, it’s vital to understand that specialists offer patients different treatments options. However, despite various treatment plans, the deadly disease is, to this date, incurable. So if you wish to learn more about different treatment options, click here for more information about treatment.
Treatment options can only reduce symptoms, ease patients’ discomfort, or extend patient life span.
Now, without further ado, let’s dive into the causes of mesothelioma:
The primary cause of this deadly disease, but not the only one, is asbestos exposure. Asbestos refers to a naturally-occurring thin and microscopic fibrous-silicate mineral, offering heat and electricity resistance. Whenever a person absorbs or inhales asbestos, the poisonous mineral causes damage to a person’s main organs – heart, lungs, or abdomen. Since asbestos provides high resistance to fire, heat, and chemicals, many industries, including automotive and construction, utilize it. Usually, asbestos exposure doesn’t immediately affect a person’s health. Instead, it requires around 20 to 50 years for a human body to develop mesothelioma after asbestos exposure.
People working in industries with asbestos-related environments are more likely to develop mesothelioma. Yet, that’s not the only case. For example, some people develop mesothelioma because they breathe in the same air as their loved ones, who may have carried asbestos fiber on their clothes or other personal belongings.
While asbestos is a primary cause of mesothelioma, there is a link between this type of cancer and other substances. One such substance is zeolite. Zeolites are usually found in rocks or ashes. There are more than 50 types of zeolites as recognized by US Geographical Survey. Common types include erionite, mordenite, analcime, ferrierite, etc.
Many researchers believe there is some link between mesothelioma and erionite zeolite. Several decades ago, in Turkish Cappodican, there was an unusually high rate of mesothelioma. An international team of researchers went to the region to identify the cause and found the region had a high percentage of erionite, the most common zeolite type.
- Simian Virus (SV40)
Another uncommon and non-asbestos cause of mesothelioma is SV40. Many scientists believe that the SV40 contaminated the polio vaccination between 1950 to 1960. However, the vaccine was successful in reducing polio incidents. But, unfortunately, researchers thought that the contaminated vaccine caused tumors in humans. It is to note that the direct relation between mesothelioma and SV40 remains debatable. The conflicting evidence shows there needs to be more research on this fact.
Risk factor refers to something that increases the chance of developing the disease. Some of these factors are controllable, like smoking. However, other risk factors, like a person’s age or family history, are uncontrollable. Learning risk factors might help cancer patients lower some risks.
Older people are at more risk than young adults. That is not to say that mesothelioma can’t develop in children or young people. However, people under age 45 are less likely to have mesothelioma. That is because it takes a long time for an individual to start developing life-threatening symptoms for this disease.
While the malignant disease is not entirely gender-specific, the prevalence rate is higher in the male population. That is because males usually work in environments having more asbestos exposure.
- Gene changes
Another rare risk factor is BAP1 gene mutation. In this type of gene mutation, the cancer-fighting cells fail to function properly, increasing the chances of mesothelioma development.
- Radiation exposure
Having exposure to radiation after breathing in asbestos can also increase mesothelioma risks. Many cancer patients go through high doses of radiation treatments. Therefore, these people are more at risk,, however, this risk factor is still rare.
Prognosis, in medical terms, refers to the forecast of how a person’s medical condition would progress based on several different factors. Prognosis helps patients learn whether their cancer will improve, remain stable, or worsen with time. Since mesothelioma has no cure, the prognosis is undoubtedly poor. Yet, it is essential to note that prognosis may differ from case to case in this rare type of cancer.
- Prognosis depending on the stage
Earlier stages of mesothelioma (Stages 1 and 2) allow doctors to offer the best treatment that improves the survival rate. Stage 1 mesothelioma patients undergo surgery, giving them a life expectancy of about 21 months. However, patients diagnosed with mesothelioma at stage 3 or 4 can’t go under surgery, giving them a life expectancy of about 14 to 15 months.
- Prognosis depending on the type
A pleural mesothelioma patient’s prognosis is highly dependant on the cancer stage. For example, stage 1 pleural patients have a life expectancy of about 22 months, whereas, for stage 4, life expectancy is 14 to 15 months. The median life expectancy of peritoneal mesothelioma patients is around 51 months. On the other hand, pericardial mesothelioma has the shortest life expectancy, at six months. As for testicular mesothelioma, it is approximately 23 months after surgery.
Be mindful; mesothelioma prognosis depends on several other factors, including cell type, age, health, blood characteristics, gender, and overall patient health.
The signs and symptoms of this type of rare cancer may take a long period until they show up. However, if you or your close one has recently has fallen ill due to asbestos exposure, make sure to get a medical checkup as soon as possible.
Moreover, no wonder the news of mesothelioma cancer would be indeed devastating. Even the strongest person can get shaken by this news. Therefore, stay by the patient’s side as much as possible. In addition, offer genuine emotional support to your loved one dealing with mesothelioma.