There are many people out there who have used different methods to beat mesothelioma. Some have used experimental treatments. Others have opted for aggressive medical and surgical therapies.
Get advice on seeking treatment and improving your quality of life with a free Mesothelioma Veterans Packet.
How to Maximize Your Own Survival Chances
Even though mesothelioma tends to carry a poor prognosis, it is important to remember that everyone’s story is different. You can survive your diagnosis with the right combination of treatment and commitment to live.
Here are some things long-term mesothelioma survivors have done about their diagnosis:
- Learned all they could about the disease and never gave up the fight.
- Stayed as healthy as they could. This helped them tolerate the treatments better and heal faster.
- Found out more about mesothelioma treatments that have helped others.
- Were open to experimental treatments and clinical trials.
- Maintained a positive mindset through support networks or counseling.
- Stayed connected with their family, giving them a reason to live.
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.
Stories of Mesothelioma Survival
Bryan was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma in July 2018. Bryan had served in the U.S. Navy for 25 years, from 1964-1989.
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.
While in the Navy, Bryan held the following jobs:
- Emergency repairman
- Hull technician
All of these jobs came with a high risk of asbestos exposure.
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.
Sylvester was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in October 2017 at the age of 86. Sylvester came in contact with asbestos products regularly throughout his lifetime.
From 1951-1955, Sylvester served aboard the USS Kearsarge. This aircraft carrier was built during World War II at a time when asbestos use by the military was skyrocketing.
During his time on the USS Kearsarge, Sylvester worked as a boiler tender. Boiler rooms aboard Navy ships heavily used asbestos to insulate piping, so the risk of asbestos exposure was extremely high.
After his Navy service, Sylvester served as an aerospace machinist for nearly 40 years. For much of his career, he worked for McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Company and similar companies in California.
Later, it became known that asbestos products were regularly used by McDonnell Douglas, putting its workers at serious risk.
Richard was diagnosed with mesothelioma in October 2017 after having issues with breathing and chest pain.
Growing up near Toledo, Ohio, Richard came in contact with many asbestos-containing products. Richard’s mother worked at a local textile factory when he was a child. Asbestos was often used in textile fabrics for its fire-retardant properties and to build the factories themselves.
Later, Richard served in the U.S. Air Force from 1954-1958. This was at a time when asbestos use by the military was at its peak. 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.
Alexandra was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in the late 2000s. She was 42 years old when doctors found her mesothelioma. Her doctors found it accidentally when she underwent treatment 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 is still alive. She has become a long-term survivor.
In 2010, 63-year-old David was diagnosed with stage 4 pleural mesothelioma and wasn’t given long to live.
Fortunately, he lived near one of the best mesothelioma centers in the country. He enrolled in a program that was testing chemotherapy along with Amatuximab, an antibody that attaches to a protein that surrounds mesothelioma cells.
David continues to take Amatuximab as a way of keeping his mesothelioma in check. He credits his survival to joining the Amatuximab clinical trial. This is how he surpassed the average survival rate of most people with stage 4 mesothelioma.
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, ending up with a 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.
Marge was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in the late 1990s when she was 47 years old. She decided to use only alternative treatments that strengthened her immune system so it was able to fight off the disease.
Her treatment involved injections of serum from healthy donors who did not have mesothelioma but had strong immune systems.
The treatment worked even though she was initially given less than a year to live. She uses homeopathic remedies and herbal therapies to this day to keep her immune system strong. She has survived more than ten years so far. She credits treatments she received in the Bahamas as factors contributing to her survival.
Tom was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in 2002. He was 42 years old. He 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. This is most likely because of his aggressive surgery. 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. Tom feels he is a true pleural mesothelioma survivor.
Tina was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 2001. Still in her 30’s, Tina was diagnosed young. This is because she was exposed to asbestos as a child.
She underwent cytoreduction with HIPEC to treat her cancer. She also had radiation therapy. She just never gave up and decided she would live to see her children grown.
More than a decade later, Tina enjoys seeing the country every day with a longtime friend. She is grateful to the oncologists who recommended her procedure and has no regrets.
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.
Mesothelioma Survivor-Approved Treatments
Almost all mesothelioma survivors have several things in common that led to their cancer remission, but there’s only one thing they have that really matters — they took control of their treatment plan. They pushed for the most aggressive surgical treatments. They persistently asked their doctors about clinical trials.
Mesothelioma survivors educated themselves. They researched new treatments on the internet and asked their doctors about them. Through all this hard work, the people in the stories above became mesothelioma survivors.
Below, learn about some of the best treatments that have led to long-term survival in mesothelioma patients.
EPP with Intraoperative Chemotherapy
Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) was the first effective surgery for pleural mesothelioma. It has led to the survival of many patients.
The surgery itself removes the diseased lung, diaphragm, and lining of the heart to remove 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 25% of patients getting this treatment had long-term survival of more than 5 years.
P/D with Radiation and Maintenance Therapy
The 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 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.” This is after radiation and surgery to prevent mesothelioma recurrence.
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.
SMART 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 without the disease spreading.
SMART is still a new therapy requiring more research. Patients who have had this treatment in clinical trials survived years past their initial prognosis.
Cytoreduction with HIPEC
This is the mainstay of treatment for peritoneal mesothelioma patients. The cytoreduction procedure removes all visible tumors in the abdomen. The next step is heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy or HIPEC. After the surgeon removes all the tumors, he applies heated chemotherapy drugs directly inside the abdomen.
Dozens of peritoneal mesothelioma patients became survivors thanks to cytoreduction with HIPEC.
Immunotherapy works well as a type of maintenance therapy for mesothelioma survivors. This treatment is easy, and studies show it is effective. Patients can self-administer injections of immunotherapy drugs every day.
Get information on:
- Treatment Options
- Mesothelioma Specialists
- Veterans Benefits
Being a mesothelioma survivor is about long-term maintenance.
The initial surgeries and treatments are important to induce remission. After that, many specialists treat mesothelioma as a chronic disease that requires medication to prevent it from getting out of hand. It’s the same mindset used in treating diseases like diabetes.
Other maintenance therapies include chemotherapy and radiation if there is a mesothelioma recurrence.
Learning from Mesothelioma Survivors
Mesothelioma survivor stories show us what’s possible with a little luck and the right attitude. The best mesothelioma specialists always say that hope is one of the most important factors for survival.
Survivors are patients who ignored the statistics. They obtained second opinions and made sure they received the most aggressive treatment they could.
Here are some tips for taking control of your disease and surviving mesothelioma:
- Make sure you trust the opinions of your specialist
- Always get a second opinion (even top doctors can make a mistake)
- Urge your doctor to prescribe surgery
- Ask about clinical trials no matter what treatments you’ve had already
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.
Learn more about accessing life-extending treatments in our free Mesothelioma Veterans Packet.