If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma – or any kind of cancer or serious disease – one of the first questions you probably asked your oncologist was: “Can I be a mesothelioma survivor?” Happily, for many cancer patients these days, the answer is a resounding “yes”.
Is Being a Mesothelioma Survivor Possible?
For mesothelioma victims, the picture isn’t quite as cheery. Though the numbers of asbestos cancer survivors have increased over the years, thanks to improvements in treatments, most experts agree that only about 10 percent of all meso patients make it to the 5-year survival mark. So, why is being a mesothelioma survivor so difficult?
The Challenges of Early Detection
Mesothelioma is a rare cancer…but it’s also a very unusual form of cancer. It lays dormant in the body for as much as 50 years, and by the time it surfaces, it has often progressed to Stage 3 or 4. That means the cancer is no longer contained at the primary site – the pleura, peritoneum, or pericardium – but has spread to the lymph nodes and other parts of the body.
That makes treatment especially difficult. Because of this long latency period, diagnosing mesothelioma at Stage 1 or 2, where the chances of survival are better, has been difficult. However, researchers are consistently working on methods for early detection, like the Mesomark© Assay, which is a simple blood test that measures biomarkers for mesothelioma long before symptoms appear.
A “positive” result means doctors can begin treatment immediately and, as such, the chance of surviving years instead of months becomes a possibility.
In reviewing a list of long-time mesothelioma survivors, you’ll find that most of them opted for radical but dangerous surgeries at the beginning of their treatment protocol. Understand, of course, that some patients are simply not candidates for surgery, due to age, overall health, and co-existing conditions. However, those who’ve been told that surgery would be a good choice should seriously consider the option. Younger patients are especially good candidates for surgeries such as the pleurectomy (removal of the diseased pleura) or extrapleural pneumonectomy (removal of the lung, pleura, pericardium, and diaphragm).
Opting for Clinical Trials
To put it in today’s modern terms…clinical trials are a crap shoot. No one truly knows whether a clinical trial will be successful for a particular patient, but those who prefer not to play it safe and plan to fight with all their might should opt for participation in a clinical trial. Obviously, the drugs or therapies used in a clinical trial are being “tested”, so there are certainly risks associated with participating. However, every year, months or years are added to the lives of individuals who participate in clinical trials of all kinds.
Choosing the Right Doctor
Most of all, when you or a loved one are diagnosed with mesothelioma, you’ll want to find an oncologist who is truly an expert in treating asbestos-caused cancer. There are many of them located at hospitals and cancer centers throughout the country.
You may have to travel or live away from home for a short amount of time if you want to be treated by the best, but most patients who’ve done this will tell you that being cared for by an expert is worth the trouble because these individuals stay abreast of the latest in treatments and have access to the most promising clinical trials. That alone could add months or years to your life, positively contributing to your goal of surviving mesothelioma.