Surviving Mesothelioma

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.

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.


o2bhiking said...

Nasty stuff. My dad passed away from lung cancer 26 years ago yesterday (the day of your post). He worked in a shipyard in World War II where asbestos exposure was commonplace, and we have always wondered if this played a role.

Anonymous said...

As a daughter of a World War II Navy vet who passed away almost two years ago from mesothelioma, I must tell you how much it gratifies me to know that you were contacted by the National Awareness Coordinator, Meso Cancer Center to spread awareness about this terrible cancer. Neither I nor any member of my family have ever heard of this position nor this organization, but since we do a considerable abount of fundraising and set up a charitable foundation in my dad's memory, we would love to contact this person. If you would be so kind to post his or her information, I would really appreciate it and I am sure the other victims of this horrible horrible disease would as well. In addition, I am astonished there are now actually individuals considered to have been "cured" of this cancer. If only my father who participated in so many debilitating clinical trials of new drugs solely to help others even when they could no longer help him could have lived to see the day. Could you possibly offer any names of patients or doctors who have cited such cases. They would provide so much hope for so many and so much satisfaction for those family members of those who suffered before them. My son has also worked to ban asbestos in the U.S. and Canada and the names of actual survivors instead of impersonal statistics would certainly help the cause. There are so many individuals out there who blog using the term "mesothelmioma" merely to make a quick buck - it is a nasty shame to play on people's emotions and hardship. Thank goodness for people like you who really seem to personally know so much more about this horrible disease. Continue to do your good work.