In the latter part of the 1900s, the American public became more aware of the dangers of asbestos. They learned that asbestos is a carcinogen, and can lead to serious cancers such as mesothelioma. (mesotheliomaguide.com)

The understanding of the dangers of asbestos led to more regulations in the US and increased scrutiny of companies that use the mineral. May people thought asbestos-related disease such as mesothelioma would top out in the early 21st century and would eventually fade away.

This has not occurred and it does not appear it will any time soon.

The World Journal of Surgery states that pleural mesothelioma cases have increased from 2004 to 2014. The journal analyzed the National Cancer Database’s information for incidents of mesothelioma during this period. The result from the study showed mesothelioma has actually become more common in the US.

Mesothelioma Statistics on the National Cancer Database

In 2004 it was reported there were 1783 pleural mesothelioma cases in the United States. In 2014, there were 1961 such cases. That is a rise of 10%.

Pleural mesothelioma accounts for 70-80% of mesothelioma cases that are reported. Peritoneal mesothelioma and pericardial mesothelioma make up the 20% to 30% of the other mesothelioma cases.

Many sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, say there are 3000 to 3300 new cases of mesothelioma annually. From 212 to 2016, there were 3253 new cases every year. Just in 2016, there were 3096 new cases reported.

If we adhere to the rule that 70% to 80% of all of the reported cases involve pleural mesothelioma, that would mean there would be 2100 to 2500 new pleural mesothelioma cases in 2016. As we mentioned above, mesothelioma is not going away. Mesothelioma incidence is stagnant and could be increasing annually. But there is good news.

Mesothelioma Treatment Options Are Improving

Cancer science continues to evolve. This means treatment for diseases continuously gets better. This is a good sign for patients and their families.

In early 2019, FDA approved the Novo TTF-100L medical device that is made to treat pleural mesothelioma. At this time, it is limited to humanitarian use device distinction. But the FDA approval is a major moment for mesothelioma patients and physicians.

Peritoneal mesothelioma treatment is getting better as well. Many cancer patients now receive cytoreductive surgery, as well as heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy right after the operation. According to a clinical study published in the Annals of Surgical Oncology, 55% of participants who had this treatment survived for three years. About 37% survived for five years or more.

This study only included a limited number of peritoneal mesothelioma patients and other related studies report different percentages. But there are all close to the following numbers:

  • Between 50% and 65% survived three years
  • 35% to 47% survived five years

These figures are promising, but new teaching methods show better survival rates. A specialist in intraperitoneal chemotherapy found that using this type of chemo plus cytroreduction and HIPEC can increase the life expectancies of many people. His report stated that of the patients who had this treatment regularly, 70% survived a minimum of five years.

Patients with Mesothelioma Are Having Treatments More Often

The best way to get better from mesothelioma is to have regular treatment. Surgery is usually the first option, then chemotherapy and radiation. If more patients get advanced medical help, more will survive, right? The National Cancer Database supports this theory. In 2004, treatment and survival rates for mesothelioma were as follows:

  • 34% of pleural mesothelioma patients had cancer treatment.
  • 37% of them lived at least one year after diagnosis.
  • 9% survived at least three years.

In 2014, the rates had improved:

  • 54% of patients received treatments.
  • Roughly 47% survived at least a year after diagnosis.
  • Approximately 15% survived three years or more.

So, more patients are receiving treatment for their cancers, and more are living longer.

How to Establish a Mesothelioma Treatment Plan

After you have been diagnosed and tested, you will need an individualized treatment plan. A cancer treatment plan will offer you and your family peace of mind and will outline the most successful treatment options, a timeline of treatment frequencies, and will set up your medical care team.

Your medical care team is dedicated to giving you the care you need to receive your mesothelioma treatment and to help you deal with the side effects and other issues:

  • Facility nurses
  • Nutritionists and dieticians
  • Oncologists
  • Psychologist
  • Social worker
  • Hospice or home care
  • Family and friend

As noted above, there have been advances in the treatment of mesothelioma. But there are still three basic treatment options, all of which can be used together, depending on the patient: (mesotheliomadiagnosis.com)

  • Surgery: The purpose is to remove as much of the cancerous tumors as possible, if the mesothelioma is diagnosed early enough. For people in stage 3 or stage 4, surgery serves a palliative purpose to remove fluid buildup so the patient can breathe easier.
  • Chemotherapy: Can be used to shrink mesothelioma tumors or to kill any cancer cells remaining after surgery. Chemotherapy drugs can be used by themselves, in multimodal treatment or palliatively.
  • Radiation: Destroys cancerous cells and prevents them from reproducing. Radiation is often recommended for mesothelioma patients in poor health who cannot tolerate side effects.

Mesothelioma Clinical Trials and New Treatments

Emerging treatments and clinical trials are offering hope to mesothelioma patients. There are new and innovative options such as immunotherapy that show much success in treating malignant mesothelioma. Clinical trials allow doctors to test how effective new treatment options are, and patients can try something new if their cancer is not being responsible to regular treatments. Some new experimental therapies include:

  • Immunotherapy
  • Gene therapy
  • Photodynamic therapy
  • Gene therapy
  • Mesothelioma virotherapy
  • Epigenetic therapy
  • Cryotherapy

Mesothelioma Palliative Care

Patients who were diagnosed with mesothelioma in the late stages may not be able to handle some traditional treatments due to their weakened health. They may need to receive palliative care:

  • Poor health: Patients who have poor overall health have a weak immune system and cannot take the side effects of chemotherapy.
  • Late stage diagnosis: Patients who are diagnosed early have several options for treatment. But people diagnosed in stage 3 or 4 often an only receive palliative care if the disease has metastasized to distant organs and the lymph nodes. (See mesothelioma lawsuit after death options).
  • Aggressive cancer: Sarcomatoid mesothelioma is quite aggressive and hard to treat, so treatment options are limited.

Mesothelioma Clinical Trials and New Treatments

Emerging treatments and clinical trials are offering hope to mesothelioma patients. There are new and innovative options such as immunotherapy that show much success in treating malignant mesothelioma. Clinical trials allow doctors to test how effective new treatment options are, and patients can try something new if their cancer is not being responsible to regular treatments. Some new experimental therapies include:

  • Immunotherapy
  • Gene therapy
  • Photodynamic therapy
  • Gene therapy
  • Mesothelioma virotherapy
  • Epigenetic therapy
  • Cryotherapy

Mesothelioma Palliative Care

Patients who were diagnosed with mesothelioma in the late stages may not be able to handle some traditional treatments due to their weakened health. They may need to receive palliative care:

  • Poor health: Patients who have poor overall health have a weak immune system and cannot take the side effects of chemotherapy.
  • Late stage diagnosis: Patients who are diagnosed early have several options for treatment. But people diagnosed in stage 3 or 4 often only receive palliative care if the disease has metastasized to distant organs and the lymph nodes.
  • Aggressive cancer: Sarcomatoid mesothelioma is quite aggressive and hard to treat, so treatment options are limited.

Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Use and Mesothelioma

In the past decades, most of the focus on mesothelioma has been from asbestos exposure in mining, heavy industry and manufacturing. Workers were exposed in these hazardous environments to high levels of asbestos for years, which lead them getting mesothelioma.

But in recent years, Johnson & Johnson has been besieged by personal injury lawsuits alleging the companies famous Baby Powder once contained traces of asbestos. When the powder was used on the female genitalia for hygiene purposes, these lawsuits allege the trace amounts of asbestos caused women to develop mesothelioma and ovarian cancer.

The link between ovarian cancer (cervical cancer and baby powder) in particular is still uncertain, but there is no doubt if baby powder is tainted with asbestos, it can be breathed into the lungs and lead to mesothelioma with enough repeated use.

Even with the evidence sometimes inconclusive in some trials, juries have seen enough evidence against Johnson & Johnson the last few years to often find in favor of plaintiffs with baby powder cancer.

For example, a woman in California won a $29 million verdict in 2019, alleging that her use of J&J Baby Powder for years caused her mesothelioma. (NPR.org)

Recent Mesothelioma Lawsuits and Settlements

There have been 13,000 lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson in recent years alleging their Baby Powder causes mesothelioma and cancer. Below are some of the ongoing talcum powder ovarian cancer lawsuit cases as well as those that reached a verdict or settlement.

  • Johnson & Johnson Agrees to First Talcum Powder Settlement for $1.5 Million: J&J paid $1.5 million to a woman in New York in early 2019 who claimed baby powder use caused her mesothelioma. The woman, 78 year-old Ann Zoas, said she used baby powder in her daily hygiene routine for decades and was diagnosed with the cancer in 2016. (com)
  • J&J and Colgate-Palmolive Ordered to Pay $10 Million: A woman dying from ovarian cancer from using baby powder will receive $10 million from the two companies, according to a 2018 report. (com)
  • Johnson & Johnson Told to Pay $4.7 Billion in Talcum Powder Lawsuit: In 2018, J&J was ordered by a St. Louis jury to pay $4.68 billion to 22 women who claimed the product caused them to develop ovarian cancer. (com)
  • J&J Settles 3 Talcum Powder Cases in One Day: In March 2019, J&J took an unusual step in settling three plaintiffs’ claims that its talc-based produced caused their cancers. The cases involved a 71 year-old woman with peritoneal mesothelioma; a 36 year-old who said she had mesothelioma from using baby powder since childhood, and a 41 year-old with peritoneal mesothelioma. The settlement amounts were undisclosed. (com)
  • J&J Ordered to Pay $325 Million in Talcum Powder Lawsuit: In May 2019, a New York jury required J&J to pay $325 million to Donna Olson, a woman who was diagnosed with mesothelioma. She testified she used Baby Powder for years before she was diagnosed with mesothelioma. (Mesowatch.com)
Michael Bennett
About the Author

Michael Bennett

Michael Bennett is Editor-in-Chief of Consumer Protect.com. Since 1999, he's worked across a multitude of areas of consumer protection including defective products, environmental issues, identity theft, predatory lending and more. If you find his articles helpful please share them with your readers.