Prolonging life expectancy after a confirmed diagnosis of the incurable asbestos-related mesothelioma or abestosis cancer is acutely dependent on recognising the early signs of mesothlioma or asbestosis symptoms.
Lack of information or asbestos awareness to the dangers of breathing-in of the fibre dust throughout many manufacturing, engineering and construction industries of the twentieth century led to countless thousands of workers to not realise they were in constant danger of contracting fatal asbestos diseases.
The exceptionally long development of asbestos disease has always meant that a period of between 15 to 50 years can elapse from the period of asbestos exposure and the ingestion of fibre dust until the victim starts to suffer any ill effects.
Too often, early symptoms for mesothelioma, such as the persistence of a dry cough, running a high temperature, a noticeable increase in shortness of breath or weight loss may be mistakenly thought of as simply a lowered immunity to the common cold, flu or bronchitis due to old age or to a lifetime of cigarette smoking.
As a result, the tumours may have spread to an extent where asbestosis treatments – ranging from combinations of radiation therapy, biopsy and surgery – may have minimal effect on remaining life expectancy, usually between 4 – 18 months. Determining the point to which mesothelioma disease has progressed is called ‘staging’ and is crucial to planning an effective course of treatment, according to the ‘stage’ the disease has reached.
Specialists use a four stage system to describe the progress of mesothelioma. Basically, the first stage is where the malignancy is localised and the other three are considered advanced according to how far the disease has spread.
Stage I. The disease will not have progressed beyond the confines of the lining of the chest wall or lung, diaphragm and/or the sac surrounding the heart. At this early stage, mesothelioma is relatively easy to treat by surgical removal, and some of the surrounding healthy tissues as well.
When the disease is still localised, but also found in more than one location, the outer membrane surrounding the lung may be removed ( called a pleurectomy) and radiation therapy used to relieve symptoms. Other treatment options at Stage 1 may include direct injection of anti-cancer medications following surgical removal of cancerous tissue.
Stage II. The malignancy will have now spread beyond the lining of the chest wall and moved into the lung tissue and/or diaphragm, but not into the lymph nodes.
Stage III. Mesothelioma has now progressed into the fatty part of the region of the chest between the lungs that contains the heart, trachea, and other organs and/or into the lymph nodes within the thorax. Malignancy may also have spread beyond the diaphragm and into the lining of the abdominal wall.
Stage IV. Presence of disease seen in organs and tissues well beyond the respiratory system and/or will have invaded critical structures such as the heart, spine and oesophagus.