Mesothelioma Survivors

Quick Summary

A mesothelioma diagnosis can be incredibly stressful and difficult. Mesothelioma is a malignant form of cancer that has a poor five-year survival rate. This isn’t the whole story though — some mesothelioma survivors are beating the odds every day.

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How to Maximize Your Own Mesothelioma Survival Chances

man and doctor discussing a treatment plan

Even though mesothelioma tends to carry a poor prognosis, it is important to remember that everyone’s story is different. With the right combination of treatment, healthy habits, and good luck you can possibly extend your life expectancy after a mesothelioma diagnosis.

Here are some things long-term mesothelioma survivors did after their diagnosis:

  • Explored mesothelioma treatments that have helped others.
  • Learned all they could about the disease.
  • Looked into experimental treatments and clinical trials.
  • Maintained a positive mindset through support networks or counseling.
  • Stayed as healthy as they could. Staying healthy lets patients tolerate treatments better and heal faster from radiation or surgery
  • Stayed connected with friends and family.

All of these things may help improve your life expectancy — just like the mesothelioma survivors mentioned below. You can also learn more about improving your prognosis in your free mesothelioma veterans packet.

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Stories of Mesothelioma Survival

  • Alexandra P.

    Alexandra was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in the late 2000s. She was 42 years old when doctors found her mesothelioma while treating her for gallbladder disease.

    She decided to have aggressive surgery to remove tumors and part of her diaphragm. She is still alive after more than five years.

    She was recently married, refusing to let the cancer take away her happiness. She still lives with the idea that she might have traces of mesothelioma inside her body — but she has beaten the odds and become a long-term survivor.

    Disclaimer
    Patients can benefit from taking part in new treatments, studies, and alternative medical practices but should only alter their treatment with the supervision and guidance of their doctors. 

  • Art P.

    Art worked on cars starting in the 1960s and mostly took on brake work.

    Unfortunately, these brakes were made using asbestos.

    Asbestos use in brakes was rampant during the time that Art was working on cars and, in fact, is still relatively common today. So it’s no surprise, unfortunately, that he was diagnosed with mesothelioma — as this cancer is only known to be caused by asbestos exposure.

    Since his diagnosis in 2018, Art has gone through chemotherapy and immunotherapy. Both treatments seemed to work initially, but became less effective over time. With two nurses in the family, though, Art had help in finding his next treatment: holistic medicine.

    Art’s wife prepares a blend of asparagus, beetroot powder, cottage cheese, and various oils twice a day. Since beginning holistic treatment in 2020, Art has been able to eat solid foods again and reports feeling much better.

    Given about six months to live in 2018, Art is doing well four years later. In addition to his immune-boosting diet, Art attributes his positive attitude to the slow progression. He has accepted that there is no cure but chooses to focus on enjoying as much time as he has left. “We can’t change the outcome,” he said, “but we’re enjoying the ride.”

Art Putt Testimonial Video Thumbnail

Video Summary: Arthur Putt received a mesothelioma diagnosis after working as a mechanic for decades. He and his wife Jan filed a lawsuit with Simmons Hanly Conroy, a national firm, to pursue justice.

Arthur Putt:
What we do every night, we sit together and we'll watch TV, and then at 07:00, we have our ice cream
bar.

Jan Putt:
My name is Jan Putt. I'm married to Art who was diagnosed with mesothelioma in April 2018. Originally,
the doctor said he would have possibly six months to a year, and that was four years ago. So I love him. I
still got him.

Arthur Putt:
I feel sorry for somebody that loses someone and they don't have that time to say what they think or
last or how they feel. We do it every day, and it has been that way even before this happened. We did
everything together, remodeling our homes and stuff like that, her woodworking.

Jan Putt:
We used to go out for long drives, just go out sightseeing, and we'd be gone for four or five hours.

Arthur Putt:
We never get tired of being together.

Jan Putt:
His very early symptoms were just a very light hacky cough, and I couldn't get him to go to see the
doctor until it got a little worse one day and he decided maybe he needed to go see somebody. They did
a X-ray and they thought he had pneumonia, but the radiologist wasn't happy with that and wanted
more tests. So they did some scans, and that was the first time they said he had mesothelioma.

Arthur Putt:
It was kind of good to know that there was no cure for it in a way. I was able to make the best out of my
life from that point on. We just got positive about it, that I was lucky to have time, to spend quality time
with her and say what I wanted to say, and not just all of a sudden be gone. So we cherish every day of
it.

I really wasn't much of a mechanic at first. I got a job at a service station. We did a lot of brakes. That
was probably our, besides tune-up, that was our next busiest thing. We had done it the old-fashioned
way and we had dust everywhere.

Jan Putt:
We filed a mesothelioma lawsuit because we had family members and stuff that encouraged us to do it.
Our daughter in Indiana knew somebody that had worked with Simmons Hanly Conroy and had had a
very good experience.
Come on in.

John Barnerd:
It's so good to see you.

Jan Putt:
John first came here and we had several meetings with him and crowds of people at times.

John Barnerd:
Within about nine or 10 months, I think from when we had filed the case-ts

Arthur Putt:
We had four settlement jury verdict, and only one we had to go to court for. The one thing that shocked
and amazed me was when they called me in to see them. I walked in there and it must have been 8, 10
lawyers in there all working on this thing.

What he did for us, made our financial situation a whole lot better. We gave all that money to our kids,
paid our house off. It made our life a little easier. We've got no financial worries, and that makes it
easier for me to know that she's taken care of, and we have John and his firm to thank for all that.
What I tell people, is it's the one good thing that came out of something bad. I can't say how miserable
this would be without him and what he did and his firm, and his family as far as we're concerned.

  • Bryan M.

    Bryan served in the U.S. Navy for 25 years, from 1964-1989. He was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma in July 2018.

    Asbestos use by the Navy was rampant for most of Bryan’s time in the service. The Navy used more asbestos-containing materials than any other branch of the military. In fact, many Navy ships were lined tip to stern with asbestos products.

    Bryan traveled to places such as Japan, Vietnam, Hawaii, Spain, and Turkey while in the Navy, and his duties during this time put him in direct contact with asbestos-containing products.

    Since his diagnosis of mesothelioma, Bryan finds himself traveling yet again. Today, he must travel 4-5 hours for each doctor’s visit.

    He contacted the Mesothelioma Veterans Center to learn about benefits he was eligible for through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and other compensation he could receive. Using these resources, Bryan could help pay for medical expenses as well as provide for his family during his fight with mesothelioma. So far, it’s a fight he’s winning.

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  • Richard W.

    Richard was diagnosed with mesothelioma in October 2017 after having issues with breathing and chest pain — and having been exposed to asbestos throughout his life.

    Richard’s mother worked at a textile factory when he was a child — and asbestos was often used in textiles to reduce the risk of fires.

    Later, Richard served in the U.S. Air Force from 1954-1958, a time when asbestos products were regularly used in Air Force bases and aircraft parts such as engines and brake pads.

    When Richard first sought medical treatment, doctors could not determine the cause of his issues. This happens all too often in mesothelioma patients, as the disease is notoriously difficult to diagnose.

    Richard sought a second opinion, and a needle biopsy was conducted to collect fluid. Upon examination, doctors confirmed Richard had terminal mesothelioma. He was given less than a week to live. Determined to survive, Richard long exceeded his initial prognosis.

  • Sandy M.

    Sandy was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in 2011. Her tactic to fight mesothelioma was to learn everything she could about the disease. She underwent multiple surgeries, including an extrapleural pneumonectomy in 2012. This aggressive, lung-removing treatment has clearly paid off.

    Because of the treatment she received, Sandy has lived long past the original prognosis she was given. She credits her success to being a fighter and doing whatever she could to get rid of the disease. She is living a successful life, continuing to battle her cancer.

  • Tina D.

    Tina was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 2001. Still, in her 30s, Tina was diagnosed young. Such an early onset of mesothelioma is only possible because she was exposed to asbestos as a child.

    She underwent cytoreduction with HIPEC to treat her cancer. She also had radiation therapy. Tina never gave up and decided she would live to see her children grow up.

    More than a decade later, she says she still lives with the thought that mesothelioma may still be in her system, but she tries not to worry. Instead, she is enjoying life as a survivor of mesothelioma. She is also grateful to the oncologists who recommended her procedure and has no regrets.

  • Tom G.

    Tom was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in 2002. He was 42 years old and was given less than a year to live.

    When he first heard this he was ready to give up, but his family convinced him to have aggressive surgery. With the support of his loved ones, Tom had an extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP).

    He underwent the surgery in Boston. The surgery gave him more than a decade of life he didn’t think he’d get, far beyond his original mesothelioma prognosis.

    Like a lot of patients, he still lives with some chronic pain. Despite this, he feels like he has lived a lifetime in the years since his surgery.

    Tom also won a mesothelioma settlement because of his asbestos exposure on the job. The settlement has helped him pay college tuition for two of his three children. He credits his success to having aggressive surgery and never giving up.

Mesothelioma Survivor-Approved Treatments

Many mesothelioma survivors have one factor in common that led to their cancer remission: They took control of their treatment plan.

They pushed for the most aggressive surgical treatments. They persistently asked their doctors about clinical trials.

Many mesothelioma survivors also educated themselves, researching new treatments online and asking their doctors about them. Below, learn about some of the best treatments that have led to long-term survival in mesothelioma patients.

Extrapleural Pneumonectomy

Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) was the first effective surgery for pleural mesothelioma. It has helped many patients live longer, and some have become survivors thanks to this treatment.

The surgery allows doctors to remove the diseased lung, diaphragm, lining of the heart, and as much of the diseased tissue in the chest as possible.

After the removal of the cancer, some doctors use chemotherapy to wash out the chest cavity, referred to as intraoperative chemotherapy. Its purpose is to kill leftover mesothelioma cells that surgeons can’t see.

Some studies have demonstrated that 24% of patients achieved long-term survival by living for 5 years after getting this treatment.

Pleurectomy With Decortication

Pleurectomy with decortication (P/D) is championed by Dr. Robert Cameron, considered one of the best mesothelioma surgeons in the country. At his cancer center, patients go through a three-part process to reach cancer remission.

First, surgeons perform the P/D, removing the lining of the lung and tumors in the crevices of the lung. After surgeons remove all visible signs of mesothelioma, they apply radiation to the surgical area, which helps destroy the remaining cancer cells.

Following this aggressive treatment, patients are put on a regimen of maintenance therapy.

Dr. Cameron says his patients “begin long-term maintenance therapy with daily self-administered injections of immunotherapy” to prevent mesothelioma recurrence (where the cancer comes back).

SMART

SMART stands for Surgery for Mesothelioma After Radiation Therapy. It is an experimental treatment in which patients receive a massive dose of radiation days before getting an EPP.

The idea behind this surgery is to kill off all mesothelioma cells in the area surrounding the affected lung. Once the tumors around the lung have shrunk, it’s time for surgery. Doctors remove the lung and surrounding tissue to prevent the cancer from spreading.

SMART is still a new therapy requiring more research. Patients who have had this treatment in clinical trials sometimes survived years past their initial prognosis.

Cytoreduction with HIPEC

This is the mainstay of treatment for peritoneal mesothelioma patients. It is a two-part treatment combining surgery and chemotherapy. First, the cytoreduction surgery removes all visible tumors in the abdomen.

The next step is heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy or HIPEC. After the surgeon removes all the tumors, they apply heated chemotherapy drugs directly inside the abdomen. This destroys cancer cells that might not have been removed during the surgery.

Dozens of peritoneal mesothelioma patients became long-term survivors thanks to cytoreduction with HIPEC.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is a newer mesothelioma treatment in which medications boost the body’s immune response to cancer.

Immunotherapy was approved in 2020 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a mainstream treatment for pleural mesothelioma after clinical trials revealed that patients treated with this medication lived for four months longer than those treated with just chemotherapy.

This breakthrough means that immunotherapy could help other patients become long-term mesothelioma survivors in the future. Immunotherapy can also be used as a type of maintenance therapy to help cancer from coming back, according to Dr. Robert Cameron.

Get a free veterans packet to learn more about immunotherapy, surgery, and other treatments that may help you become a long-term mesothelioma survivor.

Mesothelioma Veterans Guide
Get a FREE Veterans Packet

Get information on:

  • Top Treatments
  • Best Doctors
  • Improving Prognosis

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Learning from Mesothelioma Survivors

Two veterans stand next to one another outside and smile. Both are older men and wear black hats that say what wars they fought in.

Mesothelioma survivor stories show us what’s possible with a little luck, the right attitude, and an expert care team providing the best treatments possible. Depending on your diagnosis, it may be possible for you to become a mesothelioma survivor as well.

Here are some tips for potentially surviving mesothelioma:

  • Always get a second opinion (even top doctors can make a mistake)
  • Ask your doctor if major surgery is right for your case
  • Look into clinical trials that may be testing newer treatments
  • Make sure you trust the opinions of your specialist and care team

U.S. veterans have a wider spectrum of options than most mesothelioma patients. There are VA hospitals and other cancer centers across the country that employ top mesothelioma specialists who are ready to help you work toward long-term survival.

Learn more about accessing life-extending treatments in our free Mesothelioma Veterans Packet.

Disclaimer

The Mesothelioma Veterans Center has no affiliation with and is not endorsed or sponsored by Dr. Robert B. Cameron. The contact information above is listed for informational purposes only. You have the right to contact Dr. Cameron directly.

FAQs About Mesothelioma Survivors

What’s the longest someone has survived with mesothelioma?

Paul Kraus was 52 years old when he was first diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 1997. He is still alive more than 25 years later and has written several books about surviving mesothelioma as well as other cancers.

Can mesothelioma be cured?

Mesothelioma has no known cure at this time, but long-term survival is still possible thanks to medical treatment.

If the cancer is caught early enough, it’s possible for the cancerous tissue to be removed, potentially stopping the progression of the disease entirely.

Some patients have lived for years or even decades without their cancer returning. Further, even if your mesothelioma does come back, there may be treatments to help keep it at bay and help you live longer.

How early can you detect mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma can take decades to develop after exposure to asbestos. For those with known exposure, some doctors recommend regular chest x-rays or CT scans so that, if the cancer does develop, it can be caught early.

Unfortunately, many of the earliest symptoms of mesothelioma can be hard to identify — coughing, chest pains, and shortness of breath. By the time these symptoms become severe enough to cause concern, the cancer may have had a chance to spread.

That said, some patients have been lucky and gotten diagnosed with early-stage mesothelioma. Patients diagnosed in these stages have a better chance of becoming long-term survivors.

How can I become a mesothelioma survivor?

There’s no guaranteed way to become a mesothelioma survivor, but you have a better chance if you undergo cancer treatments. The initial surgeries and treatments are important to induce remission. Following your initial treatments, you may be declared cancer-free.

Make sure to follow up with your doctors regularly after your treatments. Doing so will allow them to monitor your cancer in the event it starts to spread again or comes back.

If your cancer totally disappears following your first round of treatments, you may be given maintenance therapy to keep it from returning. Maintenance therapies include chemotherapy and radiation. These treatments, along with others like minor surgeries, could also be used in the event of a recurrence.

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.

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  4. National Cancer Institute. “Mesothelioma Treatment Options.” Retrieved November 28, 2022, from https://www.cancer.gov/types/mesothelioma/patient/mesothelioma-treatment-pdq