When a person discovers they have contracted a life-threatening disease like malignant Mesothelioma, their world changes dramatically. One of the first questions asked often is “Can I Survive?” Indeed, with this rare and deadly form of cancer, survival is a huge challenge to face. Getting help for your medical problem is the first important step to take to improve survival chances.

Malignant Mesothelioma – Challenges

According to the American Cancer Society, malignant Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer today, but for about 3000 people per year, it becomes a fact and a threat to life. Incidences of this form of cancer were at a peak from the 1970s through the early 1990s. It now is decreasing for men, and it has always been lower for women. This may be related to workplace exposure to asbestos, the prime culprit responsible for Mesothelioma. Survival can be enhanced by getting prompt treatment and having knowledge about this disease.

This disease is very dangerous, with a 5-year survival rate of only 5% to 10%. Some people, however, have survived much longer, up to 20 years. Most people diagnosed with this disease average around age 69. It also is more common in Whites and Hispanics/Latinos, less common in African Americans or Asian Americans. Part of the problem with diagnosing and treating Mesothelioma is that it can be several decades of time between exposure to asbestos and the detection of symptoms. By the time symptoms are noticed, the disease has already spread and taken its toll.

  • Target Areas – Malignant Mesothelioma attacks the thin tissue linings that are near and around essential organs including the lungs, heart and in the abdomen. In rare cases, it appears elsewhere, like in the testicles.
  • Asbestos Hazards – Mesothelioma is an insidious disease which begins when tiny particles of asbestos enter the body, either by inhalation or ingestion. Asbestos is a hazardous material that causes cancer. It was used freely around the world during the mid-20th Century because of its known strength and its capacity to resist heat and fire. Asbestos materials were made from several types of asbestos minerals, including chrysotile, crocidolite, amosite, tremolite, anthophyllite, and actinolite. These materials were used in building products, insulation, brakes, clutches, flooring, shingles, military equipment and other products. Millions of people were exposed to asbestos fibers at work and even when workers innocently carried asbestos particles around on clothing.
  • Disease Progression – This disease begins with the introduction of fine asbestos particles into the body. These particles become lodged in fine tissue linings around the lungs, chest wall, heart and other organs. They become embedded, create inflammation and then the cancer cells develop. If not removed by surgery, this cancer spreads around the body. It may take 30 to 50 years before a person notices symptoms, but by then this form of cancer is quite deadly. The person afflicted also is much older then, and it becomes more difficult to combat this cancer when the victim is older.

Can You Survive?

The most important questions people with malignant Mesothelioma want answers to is if they can survive. It is possible, but in most cases, not likely. This is due in part to the long time the cancer has to develop and spread within the body before any symptoms are noticed. A delay in removal of cancerous tissue or other treatments makes survival changes slim, although some people have survived to live a normal lifespan.

  • Treatment – Surgery is the most effective solution for malignant Mesothelioma. If this is not possible, other treatments are available. Alternative treatments include radiation, chemotherapy and the newest clinical trial treatments of biologic and targeted therapy. The hope with all of these is to find and destroy the cancerous cells wherever they are located. These options are used when surgery is not a possible remedy. Clinical trials test new drugs, and patients who participate may benefit remarkably if a new drug is proven effective. Follow up tests are also needed to make sure the cancer does not reappear.
  • After Effects – Anyone undergoing cancer treatments will also have to endure a variety of after effects. In addition to possible physical side effects, there may be emotional side effects, lifestyle changes and insurance issues to resolve. There are many support programs and also clinical trial programs to consider joining. If the cancer is removed, a support group may be helpful to get past the emotional trauma of this experience. If the cancer remains, it might be wise to consider joining a clinical trial testing new drug therapies for cancer. Most people who have survived cancer do have fears about a recurrence. Treatments like chemotherapy and radiation may also have after effects to deal with, such as hair loss. Other possible side effects include pain, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, anemia, and other problems like Lymphedema, infections, and fertility or sexual problems.

Survival Rates

Survival rates are based upon data from previous studies, so remember that it is always possible that there are improvements today that have increased survival rates. The rates also are based on data from a large number of cases, but your case is still individual and could easily have a different outcome. Many factors affect survival, including age, overall health and the types of treatment that has been received. A major factor also is the stage of the progression of a cancer. Cancer that is at the earliest stage is most likely to respond to treatments that are successful in eliminating the disease. In those cases, people may go on to live a full and normal life expectancy.

Survival after having malignant Mesothelioma is best when the cancer can be removed by surgery at an early stage. It would be at its worst if the cancer is at the most advanced stage and has spread to other organs. Once estimate based on stages estimates median life expectancy at between 12 months for Stage IV to 21 months at Stage I. Regardless of the stage, treatments are available and well worth using for best results. Quality of life and time of life are important factors to consider also. Remember that published survival rates for Mesothelioma are rough estimates; your individual case will have its own roadmap and possibilities. Your doctor or a Mesothelioma specialist can best predict your survival chances, based on your personal data.

Maintaining a positive attitude, getting the best possible treatments at any stage of Mesothelioma should bring good results. Never give up hope; miracles and new developments in medicine happen every day. You will survive with malignant Mesothelioma for some time; it is important to make the best of every moment. In the best case, your cancer will be eliminated and you will continue to live a normal lifespan.