Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that represents 0.3% of all cancer diagnoses in the United States. Each year in the U.S., approximately 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma and another 2,500 die from it.
Most of these people had malignant pleural mesothelioma, which accounts for 75% of all cases.
This type of cancer may not be common, but it is devastating to those who are diagnosed with it and their families because it is always fatal.
Mesothelioma is also a silent killer because it usually is not diagnosed until the late stages, when the patient may not have long to live.
The Average Mesothelioma Patient
Anyone can get mesothelioma, but it primarily affects men over the age of 65 who have been in the military or worked blue-collar jobs.
This is because they were in industries that made them susceptible to mesothelioma because they were exposed to asbestos. The average age to get diagnosed with mesothelioma is 72.
If you’ve been in the military or you’ve worked in the following industries, you may be at greater risk for developing mesothelioma:
- Working in a shipyard
- Refining chemicals
- Generation of electricity
More than 90% of people who are diagnosed with mesothelioma are white, followed by Hispanics, blacks, and Asians.
Approximately 25% of cases are diagnosed in women, who have better outcomes than men. One year after being diagnosed, only 38% of men with the condition will still be alive compared to 45% of women.
The Four Types of Mesothelioma
The type of mesothelioma you have is determined by the location of your cancerous tumors and the type of cells involved. Once you’ve been evaluated by an oncologist or other medical specialist, you will receive one of the following four diagnoses.
Pleural mesothelioma is a cancer that affects the pleura, which is the protective membrane around your lungs that facilitates the expansion and contraction of your lungs.
Approximately 75% of all cases are pleural mesothelioma, making this the most common form of the disease. Some of the symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include:
- Chest pain
- Lower back pain
- Swelling of the face
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss
- Difficulty swallowing
When this condition is described as malignant pleural mesothelioma, that means the cancer is likely to metastasize. This kind of mesothelioma may be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation.
Peritoneal mesothelioma is a cancer of the tissue in the abdomen. Approximately 15% to 20% of all cases are peritoneal. Some of the symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma are:
- Swelling of the abdomen
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
This form of the disease is often treated with a combination of surgery with heated chemotherapy. With hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) patients may survive for more than five years.
Pericardial mesothelioma accounts for 1% to 2% of all mesothelioma diagnoses, making this an extremely rare form of the disease.
This condition affects the pericardium, which is the membrane that protects the heart. One interesting fact about this form of mesothelioma is it is usually only diagnosed during an autopsy.
Testicular mesothelioma is a cancer of the tunica vaginalis testis, which is the pouch of membranes that covers the testes. This is also a rare form of the disease, accounting for just 5% of cases.
This type of mesothelioma has better outcomes than others, with 33% of all men who are diagnosed living ten more years.
The Cost of Mesothelioma
.On top of being painful, stressful, and debilitating, mesothelioma can also take a tremendous financial toll on the families of its victims.
The Cost to Individuals and Families
The standard treatments individuals with mesothelioma receive can cost $12,000 per month. If you seek out any other treatments beyond the standard they will be even more costly. If you have to travel to receive those treatments, that adds a new set of expenses.
Most mesothelioma cases were caused by exposure to asbestos at work. Companies have a duty to protect their workers from hazards and to provide personal protective equipment.
If the company you worked for was negligent and now you have this fatal condition, you may want to consider hiring a lawyer to help with expenses.
The Cost to Society
Asbestos exposure has also had devastating financial consequences for society. The production of asbestos in the United States has been severely limited, but people are still getting sick and dying.
It’s estimated that over the next 40 years mesothelioma will cost the asbestos industry $70 billion and cost the U.S. $200 billion.
Until asbestos product manufacturers are held to higher standards or the country bans asbestos altogether, society will be forced to take on the burden of paying most of these healthcare costs while families bear the burden of suffering.