Mesothelioma is an incurable disease, but early detection can improve treatment options and outcomes. Unfortunately, the time between first exposure to asbestos and diagnosis is usually between 20 and 50 years, so the disease is often detected when it is advanced. However, if mesothelioma is found in its early stages, treatment options and prognosis are more favorable. Short-term remission is possible if cancer is detected before it spreads through the body, and some patients have achieved long-term remission for 10 years or more.
Surgeons may be able to remove mesothelioma when it is diagnosed at an early stage, which can sometimes cure cancer. Radiation therapy may also be used to reduce the size of tumors before surgery. Unfortunately, it is rarely possible to cure mesothelioma, but treatment can help control symptoms. The main difference between stage 1 pleural mesothelioma and later stages is how much the cancer has spread.
Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma (mesothelioma of the lining of the abdomen) may include abdominal pain, bloating or fluid in the abdomen, weight loss, nausea and vomiting, and constipation. During a biopsy, a sample of fluid or tissue is collected and sent to a laboratory where pathologists will test the cells for unique features of mesothelioma. Patients with stage 1 mesothelioma can often receive life-prolonging treatments such as aggressive surgery since the cancer is still relatively contained. Doctors may use radiation therapy directly before surgery to reduce the size of tumors so that they are easier to remove.
Prognostic determination helps physicians create personalized treatment plans for patients with stage 1 mesothelioma. Before performing surgery, mesothelioma specialists usually use a practice called Surgery for Mesothelioma After Radiation Therapy (SMART). Patients seeking clinical trials should be aware of the stage of cancer, as many trials only test treatments in patients whose mesothelioma has progressed by a certain amount. These periods of remission give hope to patients with mesothelioma, who can continue to lead active lifestyles without needing to continue treatment.
During mesothelioma surgery, the surgeon will remove the cancer that lines the organs and may incorporate chemotherapy or radiation therapy to increase the chances of remission. Patients with early-stage mesothelioma are often the best candidates for this type of aggressive treatment regimen.Although rare, some patients have achieved short-term or long-term remission of mesothelioma with multiple treatments. Veterans are more likely to develop mesothelioma overall due to widespread use of asbestos by military.