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.
How to Maximize Your Own Survival Chances
Even though mesothelioma carries 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 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 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 can contribute to your being a mesothelioma survivor just like the people mentioned below. You can also Learn More about improving your prognosis in your free Mesothelioma Veterans Packet.
Stories of Survival
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. Many Navy ships were lined tip to stern with asbestos products.
Although Bryan had many traveled to such places such as Japan, Vietnam, Hawaii, Spain and Turkey and with the Navy, 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 being diagnosed with mesothelioma, Bryan finds himself traveling yet again. Today, he must travel 4-5 hours for each doctor’s visit. He contacted the Mesothelioma Justice 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 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.
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.
Here are some of the best treatments that have led to long-term survival in mesothelioma patients:
- EPP with Intraoperative Chemotherapy. The 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. This is an experimental treatment. 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 before heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy or HIPEC. Dozens of Peritoneal Mesothelioma patients have survived thanks to cytoreduction with HIPEC.
- Immunotherapy. Other doctors have begun using immunotherapy as a maintenance therapy similarly to the way Dr. Cameron uses it post-surgery. Immunotherapy works well as maintenance therapy for mesothelioma survivors. This treatment is easy and studies demonstrate its effectiveness. Patients can self-administer injections of immunotherapy every day.
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 the 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:
- Make sure you trust the opinions of your specialist.
- Always get a second opinion (even the best doctor 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 mesothelioma cancer centers and specialists across the country ready to help you. And there are two VA hospitals each with a team led by the top specialists in the country. Find out more about the top doctors.