Mesothelioma Survivors

Mesothelioma survival depends on several different factors, such as the patient’s overall medical condition, age, type of mesothelioma, and treatment elected — as well as their level of overall health and fitness. It is important to bear in mind that each individual case is different, and the information below is general and based on large groups of mesothelioma patients.

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What Does It Mean to Be a Mesothelioma Survivor?

Mesothelioma survival, like in most other cancers,  is standardly determined by a relative five-year survival rate. This statistic reflects how many patients have survived five years following their cancer diagnosis.

While there are statistics, mesothelioma patients and their loved ones should always follow the guidance provided by their own doctor to understand how they can improve their prognosis and life expectancy.

Survival rates demonstrate the percentage of patients in a treatment group who are still alive for a certain period of time following a diagnosis of mesothelioma — rendering survival different from life expectancy. Life expectancy, on the other hand, is how long an individual patient may be projected to survive.

Someone who is considered a mesothelioma survivor will have extended their survival beyond their life expectancy while undergoing treatments and surgery, taking part in innovative clinical trials, and often blending different therapies.

While the majority of mesothelioma patients do not pass the one to two-year mark, there are survivors that have come to an incredible 10-year mark. They are living proof that it is possible to beat this cancer with effective and diligent treatment.

Mesothelioma Remission and Recurrence

There are two types of mesothelioma remission as there are with any form of cancer: full and partial.

Full remission indicates that all symptoms have disappeared and any sign of remaining cancer in the body has vanished. It is not, however, the same as cure.

While complete remission in mesothelioma patients is rare, it is possible.

It is important to note, however, that while in such cases a doctor may not be able to detect cancer cells with imaging studies, microscopic cancer cells may still remain in the body and there can be no full guarantee that the mesothelioma will never return.

Partial remission indicates a significant improvement in the patient’s cancer but not a complete disappearance.

The patient will likely see a great improvement in their symptoms and will, therefore, feel much better if they have achieved partial remission through mesothelioma treatment. The doctor will still see the remaining cancer on CAT or PET scans.

Did You Know?

Mesothelioma survival is directly related to the achievement of remission due to treatment. Studies across various treatment centers have found an overall median survival rate of about 4.5 years and a maximum rate of 19.5 years.

There are chances that some mesothelioma survivors will experience a recurrence of the cancer after a period of apparent complete remission. Doctors do not have to securely predict if patients may experience the relapse of mesothelioma or when it could happen.

If the patient experiences mesothelioma recurrence, it is often with the same symptoms they had before. Treatment for mesothelioma recurrence, however, will often be different — particularly if the patient has already had surgery or chemotherapy during their first treatment.

An area that was previously radiated, may not tolerate being radiated again. Some recommended treatments for mesothelioma recurrence might be first-line or second-line chemotherapy or an innovative biological therapy through a clinical trial.

Mesothelioma Survival Factors

There are several factors that will affect mesothelioma survival rates, such as the patient’s age or gender.

The placement, stage, and type of mesothelioma cancer, and the condition of the patient’s overall health, will also influence the rate of mesothelioma survival.

Early Detection and Disease Stage

While there is no cure for mesothelioma, early detection is an important factor in achieving remission and becoming a survivor.

Studies have demonstrated that nearly half of patients can expect a survival rate of two years and one-fifth can expect a rate of five years when the mesothelioma is diagnosed early and treated aggressively.

Early detection and diagnosis of mesothelioma mean the cancer may be diagnosed in the localized stage. The localized cancer is considered to be stage 1 of the disease and can often allow the surgical removal of a tumor.

After this stage, however, the cancer cells will have spread further, and total removal surgery is no longer possible.

Treating a smaller and limited area of cancer in stage 1 is easier and allows more treatment options and combinations of treatments, so the earlier the detection, the higher the survival rate.

Patient Health and Age

In general, older mesothelioma patients have a lower survival rate than younger patients.

Did You Know?

More than half of patients diagnosed before the age of 50 live one year, but less than 30 percent of patients who are 75 years or older live the same amount of time.

The difference in age and survival rate is mainly due to the eligibility of younger patients for more aggressive treatments such as surgery, whereas older patients may not be able to undergo these therapies due to poor general health or a higher risk of complications.

Specialized Treatments and Disease Management

Mesothelioma patients who are in the earlier stages of their cancer may be eligible for multimodal therapy, which is a blend of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. This has been found to have the most positive impact on mesothelioma survival rates.

Later stage patients may be able to receive such therapy as well if they have good overall health and are relatively young.

Novel treatments in a clinical trial could be a great opportunity for increasing the rate of survival.

Most phase I or II trials do not obtain better results than established treatments. However, with the recent revolution in targeted therapies, they may identify a drug that may go on to become a standard drug that is better than those currently approved.

Mesothelioma treatments and medications are in multiple clinical trials and these clinical trials may enable patients to take advantage of new treatments that may extend mesothelioma survival.

It is important to remember that the management of mesothelioma is of utmost importance. It includes being vigilant when it comes to new symptoms and carefully adhering to follow-up appointments with doctors and specialists.

Mesothelioma Survivor Cases

A 50-year-old female mesothelioma patient is now considered a survivor, having passed the 10-year survival mark.

She insisted on not only two but three second opinions and chose to undergo aggressive pleurectomy/decortication surgery and continuous follow-ups with her doctor for disease management.

She does her best to maintain a healthy lifestyle and believes that the combination of the surgery, exercise, and consistent check-ins has carried her this far.

Another patient in his mid-fifties passed the 10-year survivor mark about 6 years ago — long enough to see his children grow and start families of their own. He gives credit to the aggressive extrapleural pneumonectomy surgery for his lengthy rate of survival.

He was diagnosed in his forties, and due to this early detection, responded relatively well to the treatment he received. He continues to check for symptoms and has regular check-ups with his specialist to manage any remnants of the disease that could appear.

He also maintains a healthy, active lifestyle and insists that continuing to move and travel where possible will only strengthen the battle against the disease.

There are cases of older patients surviving mesothelioma as well. A patient in his mid-60s was diagnosed with stage three inoperable pleural mesothelioma in 2014, and specialists initially informed him that he would have less than a year to live.

However, he beat this prognosis due to undergoing a transarterial chemoperfusion clinical trial that delivered high-doses of chemotherapy directly to specific blood vessels that were feeding mesothelioma tumors.

This was an innovative clinical trial, and he credits his survival rate to this clinical trial and his consistent visits to the specialist.

He is hoping to make it to the 10-year mark, with another 4 years to go.

How Mesothelioma Research Is Improving Survival

Though mesothelioma is a fairly rare disease, researchers and specialists are optimistic. There have been extreme and consistent advancements in traditional treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy that have improved the rate of remission and survival.

There have also been innovative and emerging treatments, such as immunotherapy and gene therapy, that have arisen from clinical trial research.

These new treatments have demonstrated increased survival rates for mesothelioma patients, and there continues to be steady mesothelioma clinical trials with promising results.

Another more recent type of treatment currently being tested on mesothelioma is gene therapy, which aims to add new genes to cancer cells to make them easier to kill.

Active research speeds up the process of discovering new treatments and therapies by using data associated with an actual gene or tumor specimens collected and stored at protected institutions.

Researchers have access to the databases of these virtual banks to see what is available and to decide if it has the specimens required for a specific study.

The bank’s resources are available to medical academic researchers, nonprofit, and commercial organizations that are united in their common goal of discovering newer, more effective, and efficient ways to help mesothelioma patients achieve remission.

What You Can Do to Improve Mesothelioma Survival

Mesothelioma survival is dependent on many outside factors, but there are actions that patients can take to help improve their rate of survival.

Work With a Specialist

Mesothelioma specialists have the potential to significantly transform the care for individuals affected by mesothelioma — both for patients and their loved ones.

Finding a specialist or a team of specialists is one of the most important decisions a patient can make. Specialists offer skills — the ability to diagnose mesothelioma and develop personalized, unique treatment options for each individual patient. They also offer experience.

Though mesothelioma remains rare, specialists many patients each year, allowing them to become familiar with the cancer and its treatment.

Finally, mesothelioma specialists will have connections.

They will have knowledge about the newest, most promising treatment options for the patient and will be well connected with the clinical trial community, thereby helping their patient discover the most advanced and appropriate trial for them.

Get a Second Opinion

There are several standards that remain the same across treatment and care for mesothelioma, yet, the research and experience of every specialist will vary.

There will be several different methods preferred when treating a patient, and many different experiences and research to pull from. Having more than one mesothelioma specialist work together on the patient’s diagnosis and treatment can be beneficial and help narrow down the best possible treatment even further.

All patients have rights, and one of these rights is the opportunity to gain a second opinion regarding the diagnosis and treatment options. This just means that the patient has the ability to consult with another specialist to confirm a diagnosis or find different types of treatment options available.

It’s worth remembering that every specialist has something different to bring to the table, and with the growth and development of research come new and potentially effective different knowledge.

Seek Support and Resources

Physical treatment is as necessary as mental and emotional support. It is completely normal for patients to feel overwhelmed or frightened, and it is important for them to be with people who care about them.

Developing a strong support system is just as much of a necessity as working with a team of medical specialists. Patients will find that speaking to others in similar situations and sharing resources and knowledge will help their mental well-being and may eliminate some stress and fear.

Good mental health and a positive sense of optimism and well-being help to survive mesothelioma. Patients should look for support that fits their needs and preferences, such as counseling, mesothelioma support groups, and friends and family.

It is also important for caregivers or family members to know that mesothelioma support is also essential for their well-being.

Supporting someone with mesothelioma is stressful, and no one should go through it alone. Studies have illustrated that patients with terminal cancers — and their caretakers — who join support groups have higher survival rates and increased quality of life.

Inform Yourself About Mesothelioma

Patients should keep themselves informed about mesothelioma and new research.

Transparency between specialists, researchers, and mesothelioma patients will ensure that everyone is kept up to speed on the disease and the actions that can be taken to help achieve remission.

When patients understand their cancer, they are better equipped to treat it. Studies have shown that this type of health literacy can improve the patient’s experience, relationships, and engagement with their specialists and caretakers and improve their quality of life.

If you would like more information on improving survival rates and achieving remission please contact the team at the Mesothelioma Justice Network today.

Mesothelioma Support Team
Reviewed by:Dr. Mark Levin

Certified Oncologist and Hematologist

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Mark Levin, MD has nearly 30 years of experience in academic and community hematology and oncology. In addition to serving as Chief or Director at four different teaching institutions throughout his life, he is also still a practicing clinician, has taught and designed formal education programs, and has authored numerous publications in various fields related to hematology and oncology.

Dr. Mark Levin is an independently paid medical reviewer.

Stephanie KiddWritten by:

Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie Kidd grew up in a family of civil servants, blue-collar workers, and medical caregivers. Upon graduating Summa Cum Laude from Stetson University, she began her career specializing in worker safety regulations and communications. Now, a proud member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) and Editor-in-Chief of the Mesothelioma Justice Network, Stephanie serves as a voice for mesothelioma victims and their families.

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