While advances in medicine continue to expand over the years, Mesothelioma should be controlled through treatment until a cure has been found. This allows patients to experience the best quality of life possible.
What is Mesothelioma Remission?
While all cancer is incurable due to the possibility of its return, when a patient reaches a point after treatment when there is no visible remnant of the cancer remaining, the patient is said to be in remission. This remission is the goal for patients with mesothelioma. While the disease has a shorter prognosis that is relative to other forms of cancer, many patients have seen success with treatment and have achieved mesothelioma remission.
As with any cancer, there are two types of remission: full and partial. Full remission would mean that all symptoms are now gone and any sign of remaining cancer in the body has vanished.While complete remission in mesothelioma patients is rare, it is possible. It is important to note that when a patient achieves a full mesothelioma remission it could feel as if the patient is ‘cured’ from cancer, but there can be no full guarantee that the cancer will never return. While at the current instance the doctor may no longer be able to detect cancer cells, there may still be some extremely small microscopic cells in the body after treatment.
Partial remission describes a significant improvement in the patient’s cancer but not a complete disappearance. A patient will likely see a remarkable improvement in their symptoms and will, therefore, feel much better if they have achieved partial remission through mesothelioma treatment. The doctor will be able to see a significant depletion of the tumors and cancer cells in the patient’s body.
Pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma is difficult to treat as most patients receive a diagnosis and will then begin treatment after the disease has developed past the first stage. Many patients may find that they would benefit from a palliative outcome of treatment, an action to help them feel better as well as providing them with a better quality of life. For other patients, there is the goal that a blend of treatments will help them achieve partial remission. Regardless of the patient’s reasoning behind treatment, partial remission will enable them to physically feel better and will extend and improve their lives.
Factors Affecting Mesothelioma Remission
Surgery is the best option to achieve mesothelioma remission. During surgery, the surgeon will remove the cancer lining the organs and may often combine this physical extraction with treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy to increase the success and the potential for remission. Patients that carry stage one or stage two mesothelioma are often eligible for surgery that could possibly extend their life if mesothelioma remission is achieved. Some of the most common types of surgeries for mesothelioma patients are:
Palliative: Any surgery that is aimed at pain alleviation are referred to as ‘palliative’. Typically, palliative surgeries are for patients in the late stages of mesothelioma who may not be eligible for surgeries aimed at complete cancer removal; however, patients at the early stages of mesothelioma can also benefit from palliative surgery.
Pleurectomy/decortication (P/D): The pleurectomy/decortication is a lung surgery that removes the cancerous lining and any tumors on the surface of the lung. Surgeons may often combine the P/D with intraoperative radiation to remove remaining mesothelioma cells.Cytoreduction with HIPEC: Peritoneal mesothelioma patients are eligible for cytoreduction with HIPEC (heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy), wherein the surgeon will remove the cancerous lining of the abdomen and any tumors that surround this. Following this, HIPEC is conducted to remove remaining mesothelioma cells.
Pericardiectomy: Pericardiectomy is surgery intended for patients with pericardial mesothelioma, whereby the surgeon will remove the cancerous lining of the heart and any surrounding tumors that are visible.
Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP): For patients with pleural mesothelioma, extrapleural pneumonectomy may be the best surgery option the cancerous lung and any surrounding tissue is removed. Surgeons may often combine the EPP with intraoperative chemotherapy as this aims to extend the patient’s lifespan.
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, your doctor will be able to provide your eligibility for surgery and detail the best procedure for you.
While individual treatments can affect patients positively – perhaps leading to remission – doctors often will achieve more favorable results by blending several treatments that will monitor, control and remove the cancerous cells.
Multimodal therapy is the blend of several types of treatment that has been found to improve the rates of survival and improve the quality of life for patients. The patients eligible, however, must be qualified for this relatively aggressive mesothelioma treatment. Multimodal treatment often focuses on a prominent surgery that will remove the tumor, with chemotherapy and radiation conducted prior, during or following the surgery.
Cytoreductive abdominal surgery combined with HIPEC has been named as the most effective treatment approach for peritoneal mesothelioma patients, granted that they are eligible and pronounced well enough to undergo it.
For pleural mesothelioma patients, there is no one treatment plan that triumphs the others at this moment. The treatment will depend on each patient’s individual situation and can be discussed with the doctors caring for them.
It should be noted that multimodal treatment is considered an aggressive form of cancer treatment and not all mesothelioma patients are candidates or will qualify as candidates for such an approach. Such treatments always come with risks, but it is also important to remember that there are many mesothelioma and other cancer survivors that have extended their lifespan for years beyond the initial prognosis due to such treatments.
A clinical trial is conducted to discover new and improved treatments for cancer and consists of several phases. During the early phases, clinical trials examine the safety of the medicine and drugs used and will note common side effects. During the latter stages of the clinical trials, specialists will test the effectiveness of this new treatment over existing treatments for continuous improvement.
When medical specialists discover that a new treatment is working, the clinical trial will often continue. Research and testing in cancer has found that there are often opportunities to improve effective treatments even further, sometimes by varying doses or blending it with other forms of treatment.
There are generally three phases of clinical trials, though some will have an earlier stage zero and some will have a fourth stage conducted following the license of the medication. It is also worth remembering that not every clinical trial will examine specific medication or drugs; many clinical trials will examine surgery and radiotherapy treatments, as well as lifestyle effects, support and care provided.
What is Mesothelioma Recurrence?
There are chances that some mesothelioma survivors will experience a recurrence of cancer after a period of apparent remission where any cancer cells were undetectable. There is currently no method to estimate or predict with certainty which, if any, patients will experience this return of mesothelioma or when it could happen. Because of this uncertainty, it is recommended for mesothelioma patients to follow their medical appointments and remains aware of any symptoms of recurrence.
If the patient experiences mesothelioma recurrence, it is often with the same symptoms they experienced in the first instance. Treatment for mesothelioma recurrence, however, will often be different – particularly if the patient has already undergone surgery in the first instance of treatment. Some treatments that may be recommended for mesothelioma recurrence could be first-line or second-line chemotherapy or a novel biological therapy that is available through a clinical trial.
Importance of Mesothelioma Follow-Up Appointments
When a patient has achieved remission, it is essential that they continue attending their scheduled follow-up appointments. This will ensure that the mesothelioma is remaining in remission and, as above, will enable the mesothelioma specialist to catch any symptoms of mesothelioma recurrence. Once mesothelioma is in remission, it is considered as a chronic and managed disease such as diabetes that can be monitored regularly.
The schedule and frequency of the follow-up appointment will vary from patient to patient, but generally, the more serious diagnosis the more frequent the visit required.
What You Can Do to Achieve Mesothelioma Remission
It is the goal of mesothelioma patients to achieve remission. There are several actions that can aid the medical measures even further and allow you to feel better in the meantime.
Take Charge of Your Own Health
Mesothelioma patients have the opportunity to be proactive and take measures to help improve their prognosis. While patients cannot change factors such as their age, mesothelioma type or phase, they have the option to improve their overall health by not smoking and maintaining a healthy, balanced diet. A strong factor is maintaining exercise and strength, as research has demonstrated that physical activity can alleviate the side effects from treatment such as pain and stiffness, as well as fatigue. Even gentle, light activity such as walks and yoga will help patients to sleep better and will aid in the reduction of anxiety and stress. Overall, the physical and mental health will be in a better state to undergo mesothelioma treatments while enabling the patient to feel better in general.
Get a Second Opinion
While there are standards across treatment and care for mesothelioma, the research and experiences of specialists may vary and there may be multiple methods preferred when treating a patient. As mesothelioma is rare cancer, the treatment continuously develops and changes.
Having more than one mesothelioma specialist collaborate on the patient’s diagnosis and treatment can be beneficial and can help pinpoint the best possible treatment even further.
Surgery can be highly integral to the treatment and potential remission of mesothelioma as it will confirm the diagnosis, evaluate the tumor and any spread, and will remove or reduce the amount of the cancer. Surgery will help to alleviate the symptoms and pain the patient is experiencing, therein enhancing the quality of their life and potentially their lifespan.
Participate in Clinical Trials
Much of the medications and treatments that have been tested during clinical trials are now commonplace in standard cancer treatments – it is a standard research and testing measure in medicine and it is due to continuous clinical trials that we are able to develop our knowledge regarding successful and effective treatments.
Clinical trials can assist in:
- preventing new cancer by testing a vaccine
- detecting or diagnosing cancer by testing a scan or blood test
- treating illnesses through testing new or existing medicines
- discovering how to best provide mental and emotional support
- discovering how patients may control their symptoms or improve their quality of life by examining how a particular diet affects the disease
If you would like more information and support on achieving and maintaining remission please contact asbestos.net. Our Patient Advocates are able to answer questions and will help support you in obtaining the treatment you deserve. Mesothelioma remission is our joint aim.