Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that forms in the lining of organs. This type of cancer occurs most often in the lining of the lungs (pleural) but can also form in the linings of the stomach (peritoneal) and heart (pericardial) as well. The only known cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos, a substance that was used widely throughout the 20th century in a number of industrial applications.
This type of cancer has a very low survival rate because mesothelioma symptoms lay dormant for 25 to 50 years after asbestos exposure. By the time the cancer is diagnosed it is usually too late for treatment to be effective. But, while the usual mesothelioma survival rate is less than one year from the time of diagnosis, cases of patients living past their predicted survival date are continuing to surface. With each survivor story that comes to light, current mesothelioma sufferers are gaining a little more hope about their future.
There have been a number of mesothelioma victims that have lived far beyond the typical one year survival period and a handful that have even been cured, with no trace of the cancer many years after treatment (though recurrence is always probable). This has perplexed many medical professionals as they experience difficulty in explaining why some mesothelioma patients survive and others do not.
Research shows one common thread – the immune system. Studies of those who have either survived or been cured of the disease reveal that most of these patients took part in some sort of treatment that improved their immune system. Some treatments incorporated clinical trials in immunology while others involved alternative therapies dealing with the immune system.
One case where this immune system theory proved true was with a man who was diagnosed with mesothelioma at age 58 (no name was given in the report*). He had a chest wall resection performed after he was diagnosed and has had no symptoms or recurrence since. His doctors think there was "moderate host inflammatory response" and that spontaneous regression may be an immune-mediated phenomenon" - in other words, his immune system played a role in his survival.
A number of mesothelioma cancer survivors have posted their stories on the Internet and have spoken to patients and their families with the hope of providing a brighter outlook for their future.
*Pilling, J.E., et al., Prolonged Survival Due to Spontaneous Regression and Surgical Excision of Malignant Mesothelioma, Ann Thorac Surg, 2007; 83: 314-5.
Recently I was contacted by National Awareness Coordinator,Mesothelioma Cancer Center and asked if I could help spread awareness about this terrible cancer. Please take a minute to read this guest post and share it with friends and family.
Posted by Meaghan on Friday, May 15, 2009