The bad news is that there’s not yet a reliable cure for mesothelioma. Doctors and researchers know the disease is caused by asbestos exposure, but they do not yet fully understand how the asbestos fibers spur tumor growth. Nor do they yet have a foolproof way to stop the cancer’s spread and eliminate the tumors.
Instead, people who receive a diagnosis of malignant pleural mesothelioma will learn they have options for their treatment. If they receive their diagnoses early enough, they might be able to pursue more aggressive treatments, such as surgery. However, these most aggressive treatments aren’t always an option. So, how can mesothelioma victims improve their chances for top-quality care?
The number one factor is location
A recent study explored any links between higher incomes and better mesothelioma treatment, as indicated by survival rates. Surprisingly, it found no direct link between income and quality of care. The study also downplayed the importance of tumor type. Instead, it found links between higher survival rates and a few other factors:
- Multimodality treatment
- Type of treatment facility
- The number of cases handled by the treatment facility
In other words, mesothelioma survival rates depend less on your race or income than on the knowledge and skill of the people who treat you. Accordingly, the study found lower survival rates among people who lived in rural areas or didn’t have insurance. People who had surgery most often had private insurance and traveled farther for their treatment.
The importance of expert treatment
The importance of the treatment facility likely owes to the fact that malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) is a rare form of cancer. The United States sees roughly 3,000 new cases of MPM each year. By contrast, the United States sees tens or hundreds of thousands of new cases each year of the most common cancers:
- Roughly 250,000 annual diagnoses of both lung and prostate cancer
- Over 280,000 new diagnoses of breast cancer
Accordingly, oncologists everywhere understand how to treat these cancers. Fewer doctors have significant experience with mesothelioma. They may not diagnose it early, and they may not understand the importance of pairing chemotherapy with another treatment modality.
As to the importance of multimodality treatment, the study found improved outcomes for:
- Surgery plus chemotherapy
- Chemotherapy plus radiotherapy
At the same time, the study found that roughly 40 percent of all mesothelioma patients received no specific modality of treatment at all.
Focus on the quality of care, not the cost
It’s true that mesothelioma treatment can be expensive, but there are often financial resources available to victims. Lawyers who have experience with mesothelioma cases may help victims access these resources, often without filing a lawsuit. Because these lawyers tend to stay on top of the latest mesothelioma news, they may also be able to help direct victims to top-quality medical care.
The good news is that your treatment doesn’t depend on your race, tumor type or income. It depends on the quality of care you receive. There are steps you can take toward getting better care.