Mesothelioma is a life-threatening asbestos disease that is often fatal. Its lethality comes, in part, from the difficulty of detecting it. This results in many late diagnoses wherein the disease is too advanced by the time it is detected for doctors to do anything to cure it. In addition, mesothelioma is considered an aggressive and incurable type of tumor. Mesothelioma can therefore be termed “terminal,” meaning life threatening. Terminal diseases like asbestos mesothelioma have five phases.
The first phase of any terminal disease, including mesothelioma, occurs before a diagnosis is even made. This is the phase in which someone suspects something is wrong, but is not yet sure what. They may be visiting several doctors at this point and undergoing multiple tests to try to determine what their condition is. They recognize the symptoms they are experiencing, but do not yet realize that it is mesothelioma.
This first phase does not occur all at once. It can take a long time to go from experiencing symptoms to reaching a diagnosis. The first phase of a terminal disease is therefore thought of as a period of time in which a person realizes they might have some sort of illness. It includes the period of time in which a person is undergoing examinations and tests to determine what their symptoms means. This phase ends when the patient is diagnosed with a terminal disease.
The next phase is called the acute phase. It is the time period in which the patient is coming to terms with their diagnosis. It may not be easy, but they are forced at this point to understand their situation and what it means for them and their loved ones. This is the time when treatment options will be presented to the patient and discussed.
Next comes the chronic phase of terminal illness, the time between the diagnosis reached in the first phase and the end result of treatments. Daily life returns to normal at this point, or as close to normal as the patient’s illness allows. At the chronic phase, patients juggle their daily responsibilities and obligations with the new reality of their disease and treatments. They must simultaneously cope with any side effects arising from their treatment. This phase can last anywhere from a few months to a several years. Today, with medicine and treatment advancing, many of those with terminal illnesses like mesothelioma can remain in chronic phase for years.
The last two phases represent the decline of the patient’s health due to the disease. The first of these last phases is called the recovery phase, though it may not necessarily mean remission of the disease. In many cases, recovery simply means that the patient has come to terms with their illness and is equipped to deal with all the consequences of their disease, from mental and social effects, to physical and financial concerns.
Lastly is the terminal phase. It is the final phase of any life-threatening illness and the point at which doctors and patients focus on prolonging life rather than curing the disease. Death is likely at this stage, so treatment centers on relieving pain and discomfort rather than eliminating the cancer. Patients may have concerns beyond their physical needs at this point, including religious concerns and worries for their family and loved ones.