Malignant mesothelioma is a rare and complicated disease. It’s a diagnosis that oncologists don’t like giving and one that individuals dread. It’s a form of cancer that, though rare, has impacted so many lives in the United States and beyond, especially since – in most cases – the development of the disease could have been avoided if companies had stopped using asbestos as soon as concerns about the mineral were brought forth.
Nevertheless, the disease is still diagnosed in about 2,000 to 3,000 Americans each year. Most of those diagnosed have the pleural variety of the disease, but tumors can also happen in the peritoneum or pericardium.
Sarcomatoid Mesothelioma – Least Common, Most Lethal
For further classification, malignant mesothelioma is divided into three subcategories/types: epithelial, biphasic, and sarcomatoid mesothelioma. Each one of these classifications have an impact on the patient’s prognosis.
Researchers and doctors have determined that the sarcomatoid mesothelioma form of the disease is the most lethal. Thankfully, it is also the least common. However, it is this type that responds least to all standard forms of cancer treatment.
In many studies, including one completed by a group of pathologists from around the world in 2010, statistics show that the patient with sarcomatoid malignant mesothelioma rarely survives for more than six months after diagnosis.
In this same study, it was evident that this sarcomatoid type of malignant mesothelioma was likely caused by exposure to the amosite form of asbestos as amosite fibers were those most commonly identified in the patients studied.
Amosite asbestos, also known as brown asbestos, is generally considered to be the second-most dangerous type of the toxic mineral. It is no longer mined though it was once extensively cultivated in the mines of South Africa.
It is characterized by long, thin, brittle fibers that are easy to inhale. As a result, mine workers in that country were among those most likely to be diagnosed with malignant sarcomatoid mesothelioma.
For several decades, amosite asbestos was used in a variety of thermal insulation products. Americans who worked in facilities that used brown asbestos in the manufacture of these and other products are also candidates for this form of the disease.
As a result of the poor prognosis of sarcomatoid mesothelioma patients, the options for treatment are very limited. These patients are certainly not candidates for surgeries such as the pleurectomy or extrapleural pneumonectomy.
Often, patients with this type of the disease refuse any sort of treatments that may make them even sicker, especially chemotherapy. Many of these mesothelioma victims and their families opt only for palliative treatments that serve to make the patient more comfortable during their last months, weeks, or days.
The world’s leading doctors and researchers in the field of mesothelioma study and treatment continue to look at the histology of the sarcomatoid form of the disease to determine how they can better serve those who are burdened with it. No notable advances have been made in the recent past but there are hopes that newer types of treatment, including immunotherapy, may assist in lengthening the life span of those with malignant sarcomatoid mesothelioma.