Esophageal Stents As a Palliative Care Measure for Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma, a cancer that invades the wall lining of the lungs and other internal organs, is a particularly difficult type of cancer to treat. Almost universally related to the inhalation of asbestos particles, treatment of advanced stages of the disease is largely palliative. Palliative health care refers to the focus of relieving symptoms and pain as opposed to taking steps to eliminate the illness.

In many advanced cases of mesothelioma, patients experience a difficulty swallowing. The medical term for such a symptom is dysphagia. As the mesothelioma tumor spreads from the lungs to the esophagus, the tumor can reduce the diameter of the air pathway. In some cases, this reduced ability to breath and swallow is the direct cause of death.

In an effort to assuage dysphagia, prolong survival and reduce discomfort, a recent study performed at the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery in Derriford Hospital points to esophageal stents as a potential treatment.

A case report published in the January 25, 2008 Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery details the success of self-expanding esophageal stents on patience with mesothelioma. In the three patient cases discussed in the report, all three patients achieved immediate satisfactory reduction in dysphagia. However, progressive dysphagia resurfaced 1 to 6 months later. In such cases further stenting is required to open up a larger portion of the esophagus.

As dysphagia is usually an end-case symptom, patients are not expected to survive a considerable length of time as a result of the stents. However, the primary goal of the procedure is to relieve pain and improve quality of life for the patient.

Resource:

http://www.cardiothoracicsurgery.org/content/3/1/3

Mesothelioma Patterns in the United States

A recent study sheds some insight into the background rates of mesothelioma over the past several decades in the United States. The study looked at patterns for males and females in five age groups.

According to the study performed by Exponent Inc., a health sciences practice in New York City, mesothelioma rates remained relatively constant for young individuals. Rates of older age groups declined overtime and male rates were about five times greater than female rates for individuals 60 years of age and older. Overall rates of mesothelioma were higher among large shipyard areas located on the West Coast. In total, the background rate of the deadly cancer was found to be around one individual per million for the American citizens below the age of 50. Estimations for older ages will require additional studies.

The data for the study was collected via the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) registry and pertains to data collected between 1973 and 2002. SEER is a program dedicated to collecting and publishing cancer cases and survival data. The data they collect is exhaustive, and encompasses 26 percent of the United States population. The program has also taken considerable measures to unify the network of cancer registry systems so that population-based data may be more easily accessible. It is this accessibility that allowed the researchers to investigate these mesothelioma trends.

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18941374?dopt=Abstract

http://seer.cancer.gov/about/