Mesothelioma Remission

Quick Summary

If your mesothelioma goes into remission, it means that doctors can’t find any evidence of the cancer in your body. Some patients have lived for years in remission. You may be able to achieve mesothelioma remission with proper medical treatment, including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.

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Can Mesothelioma Go Into Remission?

Yes. In cases of mesothelioma remission, you have little to no signs of cancer thanks to medical treatment. You may be able to live longer without painful symptoms of malignant mesothelioma if the cancer is in remission.

“Although very few mesothelioma patients go into remission, many patients have been able to extend survival rates long beyond previous expectations with early and effective treatment.”

– Penn Medicine Abramson Cancer Center

Remission plays a big role in improving your overall mesothelioma prognosis. While many mesothelioma patients only live for several months or years, those in remission often live longer.

When you are in remission, it’s likely you will have regular follow-up tests with your medical team. Mesothelioma cancer cells may still be in your body on a microscopic level, so your cancer could come back. If anything is found on these tests, your doctor can recommend a treatment plan as soon as possible.

Get our free veterans packet to learn how you can achieve mesothelioma remission with proper medical care.

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Remission Versus Cure

Most doctors shy away from saying a patient is cured. To doctors, the word “cure” means there is absolutely no more disease in your body.

“If you remain in complete remission for 5 years or more, some doctors may say that you are cured. Still, some cancer cells can remain in your body for many years after treatment.”

– National Cancer Institute (NCI)

Many doctors like to say that patients are in remission because there is a chance that the cancer could come back. This is true even when imaging tests like X-rays show no signs of mesothelioma, as they’re not able to detect if microscopic cancer cells are present.

Types of Mesothelioma Remission

Like many other cancers, mesothelioma can either go into full remission or partial remission.

Full Remission

In cases of full mesothelioma remission, cancer symptoms will not be present once the tumors shrink or are removed. A full remission is also called a complete response to cancer treatment.

A 2017 study from the journal Lung Cancer noted that four patients with pleural mesothelioma achieved full remission after undergoing surgery and chemotherapy. These patients were cancer-free for over 2 years on average and survived for over 6 years — in part due to their remission.

Partial Remission

A partial mesothelioma remission is much more common than a full remission. While most of the cancer is removed or destroyed, some visible tumors may remain. Patients may or may not suffer from mesothelioma symptoms in cases of a partial remission.

A 76-year-old man with pleural mesothelioma had a partial remission after receiving a thoracentesis and didn’t have symptoms for 3 years – but his cancer eventually returned.

Call (877) 450-8973 to start working toward mesothelioma remission. Our patient advocates are standing by to help you.

Chances of Mesothelioma Remission

Many mesothelioma patients have lived for years with their disease in remission.

“A lot of patients get to that blessed point of NED, which is No Evidence of Disease.”

– Julie Gundlach, Long-Term Mesothelioma Survivor

A study from Lung Cancer, a medical journal, looked at pleural mesothelioma patients who underwent chemotherapy and lung removal surgery. Roughly 7% of patients in the study went into remission following these treatments and survived for an average of 53 months longer than those who didn’t.

Further, an analysis from the Surgical Oncology & Clinical Practice Journal found that an average of 12% of patients with peritoneal mesothelioma (which forms in the abdominal lining) are able to fully achieve remission.

Factors That Affect Mesothelioma Remission

Several issues can affect a patient’s odds of achieving mesothelioma remission.

Factors that affect mesothelioma remission include:

  • Stage

    Mesothelioma can be broken down into several stages depending on how far it has spread. Those diagnosed when their cancer is in the early stages have a better chance of remission since they qualify for more aggressive treatments.

  • Cell Type

    Mesothelioma tumors can be made up of different types of cells. A study from the medical journal Lung Cancer found that patients were less likely to achieve remission if they had sarcomatoid cells since they are aggressive and hard to treat.

  • Treatment

    Getting treatment from a mesothelioma specialist is the best way to work toward remission. For example, surgery may allow doctors to remove all visible cancer tumors from a patient’s body.

Our free veterans packet has more information on how these factors affect your prognosis and chances of achieving remission.

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Treatments That Can Lead to Mesothelioma Remission

There are currently many life-saving strategies for treating mesothelioma. These include aggressive surgeries, radiation, chemotherapy, and some experimental therapies.

The best treatment for mesothelioma combines multiple therapies. For example, some patients who have surgery in combination with chemotherapy may show no visible signs of mesothelioma afterward. When several therapies are used together, it is called multimodal treatment.

Below are effective treatments that may lead to mesothelioma remission.

Surgery

Surgery is the first step to achieving partial or complete remission. Your best chance of going into remission is to remove all mesothelioma tumors.

There are three main surgeries for mesothelioma.

Extrapleural Pneumonectomy (EPP)
This surgery is used for pleural mesothelioma. Doctors remove all visible cancer tumors, the lung lining (pleura), and the lung closest to the tumors.

A 26-year-old woman from Peru who had pleural mesothelioma received an EPP alongside chemotherapy. Four years later, she was still cancer-free.

Diagram of an extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP). The lung lining (pleura), heart lining (pericardium), diaphragm, lung, and mesothelioma tumors are removed with this surgery. Diagram of an extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP). The lung lining (pleura), heart lining (pericardium), diaphragm, lung, and mesothelioma tumors are removed with this surgery.

Pleurectomy With Decortication (P/D)
A P/D is another surgical option for pleural mesothelioma. This surgery allows doctors to remove the pleura and cancerous tumors in the lung lining, but the lung itself is not removed.

The Journal of Thoracic Disease noted a 75-year-old patient who achieved full remission after undergoing a P/D and receiving chemotherapy. By the time the study was published, he was still cancer-free nearly a year after the surgery.

Diagram of a pleurectomy with decortication (P/D). The lung lining (pleura) and mesothelioma tumors are removed but the lung is spared.Diagram of a pleurectomy with decortication (P/D). The lung lining (pleura) and mesothelioma tumors are removed but the lung is spared.

Cytoreductive Surgery With HIPEC
Cytoreduction with heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) is used to treat peritoneal mesothelioma. Doctors first remove as much cancer as possible from the abdominal lining (peritoneum) through cytoreductive surgery. They then use heated chemotherapy to bathe the surgery site and kill any leftover microscopic cancer cells.

Diagram of cytoreductive surgery with HIPEC. Peritoneum and cancerous tumors are removed and heated chemotherapy is inserted in the surgery site.Diagram of cytoreductive surgery with HIPEC. Peritoneum and cancerous tumors are removed heated chemotherapy is inserted in the surgery site.

Looking to access mesothelioma treatments? Call (877) 450-8973 to speak to a patient advocate who may be able to help.

Chemotherapy

There are many types of chemotherapy for mesothelioma. Decades ago, chemotherapy only extended survival by a few months. Today, chemotherapy can help patients live for several years in some cases.

A 60-year-old man with peritoneal mesothelioma underwent chemotherapy and several minor surgeries. He was still alive 5 years after starting chemotherapy.

Radiation

Many patients with mesothelioma undergo radiation therapy. Sometimes surgeons apply radiation directly to the area inside the body where they removed the tumors.

Using only radiation to treat mesothelioma rarely helps patients achieve remission. But, a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation may help to achieve remission.

Consult with a doctor to see if you can receive radiation therapy alongside mesothelioma surgery and chemotherapy.

Novel Treatments

Novel treatments include a variety of methods that are given as part of clinical trials. Many of these treatments are still in the research stage but show promising results.

New mesothelioma treatments include:

  • Immunotherapy: After years of tests in clinical trials, immunotherapy became a fully approved mesothelioma treatment in 2020. Early studies showed its potential years before. For example, a 2015 study found this treatment induced remission in one patient. Eight lived longer than 2 years, and two people were still living 5 years later.
  • Gene therapy: This treatment modifies the genetic composition of healthy cells. This modification helps healthy cells kill mesothelioma cells.
  • Angiogenesis therapy: Angiogenesis is a natural process by which humans grow blood vessels. Angiogenesis therapy for mesothelioma inhibits the formation of blood vessels in mesothelioma tumors. This prevents tumors from growing and spreading.

Get a free veterans packet to see how treatments can help you achieve remission and live longer.

Mesothelioma Veterans GuideGet a FREE Veterans Packet

Get information on:

  • Top Treatment
  • Best Doctors
  • Improving Prognosis

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Mesothelioma Survivors in Remission

Those who achieve long-term remission are often considered mesothelioma survivors. Look to these survivors and know that remission may be possible even if your initial prognosis is grim.

  • Mary JaneDiagnosed in 2003

    After complaining of abdominal bloating and sweating, Mary Jane was diagnosed with malignant peritoneal mesothelioma in 2003. Thanks to a combination of chemotherapy and two surgeries, Mary Jane lived the rest of her life cancer-free. She passed away 15 years later without a cancer relapse.

  • PaulDiagnosed in 1997

    Paul was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 1997. Doctors originally gave him less than a year to live. Nearly 25 years later, Paul is still alive today.

  • ErnieDiagnosed in 2002

    Ernie received a diagnosis of pleural mesothelioma in 2002 after complaining about pain in his shoulder and rib cage for several years. He was able to live for seven years after his mesothelioma diagnosis before he passed away in 2009.

Mesothelioma Recurrence

Mesothelioma recurrence occurs when the cancer returns after a period of remission. Sadly, you may suffer a relapse even if your cancer has been in remission for months or years.

While it may not be possible to prevent a recurrence, you may be able to catch it early on with regular follow-up appointments. At a follow-up appointment, your doctors can discuss new treatments if there is evidence that the mesothelioma has returned.

Amy Fair
Amy FairRegistered Nurse 20+ years helping mesothelioma victims

“If your mesothelioma reoccurs, the doctor may start another regimen of the chemotherapy or radiation therapy. He might, at that time, feel like you are a surgical candidate. Sometimes with the chemotherapy, it will shrink the tumor to a phase where you can now become a surgical candidate.”

Doctors may also recommend maintenance therapy to prevent recurrence. Maintenance therapy is cancer treatment given during the absence of notable disease. A common form of maintenance therapy is a low dose of chemotherapy given after major treatments have been completed.

Get a free veterans packet to learn about treatments that can be used if your cancer returns.

Mesothelioma Veterans GuideGet a FREE Veterans Packet

Get information on:

  • Top Treatment
  • Best Doctors
  • Improving Prognosis

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How Veterans Can Work Toward Mesothelioma Remission

Veterans with mesothelioma may be able to achieve remission and live for years after a diagnosis. A great way to work toward remission is to seek medical care.

Fortunately, veterans with mesothelioma can pursue medical treatment from civilian doctors and those partnered with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Did you know?

Both civilian and VA mesothelioma specialists are well-equipped to treat this cancer and help veterans work towards remission.

Even if remission isn’t possible, medical care from specialists can help veterans live longer or manage painful mesothelioma symptoms.

Get our free veterans packet and learn how you can achieve mesothelioma remission with help from VA doctors today.

FAQs About Mesothelioma Remission

How can I achieve mesothelioma remission?

You can achieve mesothelioma remission by working with doctors and seeking high-quality medical treatment. Doctors may be able to remove much or all of the cancer, allowing you to live longer with less symptoms.

Mesothelioma remission can also occur with little to no treatment in extremely rare cases. However, most doctors may recommend that you get the most effective treatments in order to live longer.

How long does mesothelioma remission last?

Mesothelioma remission is different for every patient. Patients may be in remission for the rest of their lives in very rare cases. Some may achieve partial remission for several months or years, and others may not even reach remission at all.

It’s hard for doctors to predict how long mesothelioma remission will last for. Regular follow-up tests after treatment are important since they allow doctors to determine whether the cancer has started to come back.

It’s important to remember that long-term survival is possible even if remission is not. Some patients may enter a stable phase where their cancer is under control even though it’s not totally gone. This phase can last for months or even years.

Should I use alternative treatments to achieve mesothelioma remission?

Some mesothelioma patients claim that they used alternative treatments (like changes to their diets and rigorous exercise) to achieve remission. However, some alternative treatments can interfere with medically proven therapies like surgery and chemotherapy.

Always consult with your doctor before starting any alternative treatments. Doctors can help you determine which alternative treatments — if any — may be helpful in your case.

Veterans Support Team
Todd Gersten, MD PhotoReviewed by:Todd Gersten, MD

Double Board-Certified Oncologist and Hematologist

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Todd Gersten, MD is a double board-certified medical oncologist and hematologist specializing in general adult oncology and hematologic disease. He is a physician partner with the Florida Cancer Specialists and practices in Wellington, Florida.

Dr. Todd Gersten is an independently paid medical reviewer.

Christopher Dryfoos PhotoWritten by:

Contributing Author

Christopher Dryfoos is a journalist and member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). As the grandson of the U.S. Navy’s first forensic pathologist, he aims to help veterans with mesothelioma access needed care.

View Sources

Pacific Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. “Mesothelioma Patients Roadmap.” Retrieved from: http://www.phlbi.org/sfor-patients/mesothelioma-patients-roadmap/. Accessed on August 30th, 2017.

Cornelissen, Robin. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. “Extended Tumor Control after Dendritic Cell Vaccination with Low-Dose Cyclophosphamide as Adjuvant Treatment in Patients with Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma.” 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.atsjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1164/rccm.201508-1573OC. Accessed on August 30th, 2017.

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