Seniors Have Higher Risk of Developing Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that primarily develops in the lining of the lungs, known as the pleura. Doctors diagnose 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma each year.
The primary cause of mesothelioma comes from inhaling or swallowing airborne asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral fiber. Many cases are linked to long-term exposure in industrial workplace settings such as factories, shipyards, auto repair shops and old houses or buildings.
The cancer has an unusually long latency period, also known as the gap between first exposure and appearance of symptoms. Mesothelioma symptoms typically appear several decades after exposure, with a median latency period of 30 to 45 years.
This is the main factor why seniors are more at risk. By the time symptoms of the disease become nagging or debilitating and a diagnosis occurs, patients are usually in their 60s or 70s.
Common symptoms, such as coughing, difficulty breathing and chest pain, mirror many other types of lung-related diseases or a cold. Early signs are often mistaken as normal aches and pains or as common infectious diseases, making the cancer difficult to detect.
Issues for Seniors with Mesothelioma Older mesothelioma patients have a much lower survival rate compared to younger patients. This can generally be attributed to a few factors:
- As we age, our bodies lose the ability to recover from aggressive therapies and procedures.
- Elderly people often battle one or more chronic medical conditions in addition to mesothelioma such as heart disease, COPD or diabetes.
- Poor overall health, existing conditions or a combination of the two make it difficult for seniors to be eligible for the latest treatments, including clinical trials and surgery. Younger patients are usually in better health, making them eligible for intensive treatments.
Survival rates can also vary based on gender, race and other factors like the location, cell type and stage of the cancer.
Coping with These Issues While many seniors may be ineligible for certain treatments because of these reasons, there are measures to increase survival rates and improve overall quality of life.
Mesothelioma oncologists highly recommend exercise and a healthy diet for mesothelioma cancer patients. Both can lessen fatigue, increase muscle mass, and strength and improve mood.
Mesothelioma patients cope with difficulty breathing, chest pain and reduced energy levels. This makes regular exercise difficult — especially among elderly patients — but it is important to avoid inactivity. Low-impact exercises, such as walking, restorative yoga and lightweight strength training, are safe, effective ways to improve energy levels and quality of life.
Adequate nutrition is equally important. A balanced, healthy diet can maintain weight and energy, help with recovery from treatments and even fight off infection.
There are also many ways to positively impact emotional health and well-being when dealing with issues cancer-related issues such as anxiety, depression and pain. These include emotional effect therapies (meditation, counseling and pet therapy), energy therapies (music and sound therapy, Therapeutic Touch, Reiki and Jin Shin Jyutsu) and mind-body therapies such as yoga and tai chi.