Mesothelioma is a rare lung cancer that begins in the mesothelium. The mesothelium is made up of mesothelial cells which line the chest and abdominal cavities as well as the cavity around the heart. The mesotheium also produces a lubricating fluid that allows the organs to move easily.
About the cancer
Mesothelioma is most often a cancer associated with large amounts of exposure to asbestos. This cancer affects about 2,000 to 3,000 Americans every year.
Tumors found in the mesothelioma can be both benign or malignant. Malignant tumors are often called malignant mesothelioma or just mesothelioma.
Types of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma can be divided into three different types. Epithelioid- which has the best prognosis out of the three types. Sarcomatoid- which has about a 7 – 20% survival rate. Mixed/biphasic- which has about a 20 – 35% survival rate.
Since symptoms of mesothelioma, which can include pain in the lower back and shortness of breath, are often mistaken for other problems, mesothelioma is most frequently not diagnosed until it is in an advanced stage.
Treatment options for all three types of mesothelioma are the same. Until recently there was no effective treatment for mesothelioma. A new drug, Alimta, was recently approved by the FDA.
In a clinical study of 448 patients Alimta was successful in increasing survival time of patients by approximately 30%. Alimta is administered in one ten minute infusion every three weeks. It has also shown great results in conjunction with cisplatin, a standard chemotherapy drug.
Alimta has also improved lung function in many patients. Side effect include low white blood cell counts, vomiting, nausea, fatigue, diarrhea, and rash. However, taking folic acid and the vitamin B12 helps reduce the intensity of side effects.
Surgical removal is possible in some cases but in many cases removal of the tumor alone is not enough. There are also many cases in which surgery is not an option.
Mesothelioma patients prognosis in large part depends on which type of mesthelioma they have. With the new drug Alimta and chemotherapy, as well as surgery mesothelioma patients are beginning to live longer than they could have hoped for in the past.