What is Asbestos-Related Mesothelioma?

What is Asbestos-Related Mesothelioma?

Malignant mesothelioma is a tumor of the tissue (mesothelium) lining the lungs, stomach, heart, and other organs but the most common form affects the lungs. The most common symptoms include cough, chest pain, and shortness of breath. Other symptoms include fever or night sweats, fluid around the lungs, fatigue and muscle weakness. While treatments are available to extend life expectancy and quality of life, it is a rare and aggressive cancer and there is no cure.

Risk Factors for Mesothelioma

The fact that it takes 20-50 years to develop means that the average age of diagnosis for mesothelioma is 65 or older. The people most at risk for developing this cancer are those who have worked directly with the mineral asbestos or with products containing asbestos. Asbestos in the workplace, in homes, schools, public buildings and naval ships has led to dangerous exposure. Veterans, firefighters, miners, auto mechanics, construction workers, HVAC technicians, electricians, textile mill workers and their family members are all at risk due to their possible long term exposure to asbestos. Those with a family history of mesothelioma and those who have had radiation therapy for cancer in the chest area might also have an increased risk of mesothelioma.

Prognosis and Life Expectancy

As with all cancers, the earlier mesothelioma is detected, the better the outcome that can be expected. The cancer falls into one of four stages, based on size and location. In stage 1, the cancer is localized and surgery can be effective. Median life expectancy at stage 1 is 22.2 months. In stage 2, tumors have spread to adjacent structures. While surgery is still an option, median life expectancy is 20 months. In stage 3, cancer has spread to regional lymph nodes and surgery is an option only in select cases. The median life expectancy in stage 3 is 17.9 months. In stage 4, tumors have spread to distant organs. Chemotherapy and immunotherapy ease symptoms and the median life expectancy is 14.9 months.

Age, gender, and overall health are factors that affect the outlook for those diagnosed with mesothelioma. Younger patients and women have a better prognosis than older men.

Resources for More Information

Asbestos.com – Mesothelioma

MayoClinic.org – Mesothelioma Symptoms and Causes

PennMedicine.org – The Asbestos and Mesothelioma Connection

Update on Asbestos Mesothelioma Lawsuits

Update on Asbestos Mesothelioma Lawsuits

New Innovative Blood Test May Lead to Earlier Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Recruitment is still open for the PATHFINDER 2 Study using Galleri blood tests to detect cancer by searching for changes in the DNA that signal the presence of cancer and then predicting where the cancer is located in the body. Recent research in cases where the test detected a cancer signal, it also determined which organ it arose from with 93 percent accuracy. Galleri lists more than 50 types of cancer that their early detection test can detect through a simple blood draw, including mesothelioma.

The first PATHFINDER Study of an earlier version of Galleri included approximately 6,600 participants. Final results from this Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Study were announced in September, 2022. Here are some of their reported findings:

  • Adding Multi-Cancer Early Detection (MCED) Screening to Standard of Care Screening More Than Doubled the Number of Cancers Detected
  • 71% of Participants With MCED-Detected Cancers Had Cancer Types With No Routine Screening Tests Available
  • Approximately Half of the MCED-Detected New Cancers Were Stage I or II
  • MCED-Predicted Cancer Signal Origin Had 97.1% Accuracy and Enabled Targeted Diagnostic Evaluations
  • MCED Screening was Implemented in Adults With Elevated Cancer Risk Without Study-Related Serious Adverse Events
  • Participants Reported High Satisfaction and Low Negative Psychological Impact With MCED Screening

There are currently no screening tests available for mesothelioma and many other cancers, and by the time symptoms present, tumors are usually well established and the disease is advanced. So the ability to detect these cancers early has important implications for treatment.

The PATHFINDER 2 Study start date was December 8, 2021, however they are still recruiting participants. PATHFINDER 2 is estimated to be completed by July 30, 2026.