It has been decades since the public learned that exposure to asbestos leads to malignant mesothelioma and a host of other serious and deadly diseases. In response to that revelation, significant changes have been made in the use of the carcinogenic material, as well as the protections provided to those at risk of exposure. There have also been remarkable strides in medical technology and treatments available to those diagnosed with the disease, yet despite both of these advancements, a recent study shows that there has been little improvement in either the incidence of pleural mesothelioma or in overall survival.
Experts Had Predicted Turnaround
As a result of regulations curtaining asbestos use in the USA, epidemiologists had predicted that the incidence of malignant pleural mesothelioma in the United States would peak between the years 2000 and 2005, and then a marked decline would become evidence. But a study conducted by researchers from the Taussig Cancer Center, Heart and Vascular Institute of the Cleveland Clinic revealed that no such decline has occured and the annual incidence of the disease has remained stable.
The study included the identification of 20,988 patients diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma that had been reported to the National Cancer Database. The researchers determined that between the year 1783 and 1961 the number of cases reported per year increased, accounting for roughly 0.3% of all reported cancers.
Treatment Has Improved But Incidence Has Not Declined
Though there have been important improvements in treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma, the statistical impact of preventive measures does not seem to have made an impact, and overall survival has not shifted. The proportion of elderly patients diagnosed with the disease has increased from 75% to 80% but the gender differential has remained the same, with only 20% of those diagnosed being female.
Importantly, there has been a jump in the proportion of patients receiving treatment, increasing from only 34% to 54%. This and improved technology have led to one-year survival increasing from 37% to 47% and three-year survival increasing from 9% to 15%, with those improvements being attributed to factors including being diagnosed at a younger age, being treated in an academic center, the availability of health insurance, higher income, and the introduction of multimodality therapies.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, taking advantage of improved technologies is essential to improving your overall outcomes. If you would like information about where to turn, start with the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net at 1-800-692-8608.