There is no cure for mesothelioma cancer. However, it is possible to increase your long-term survival with the right treatments and medical care. A small group of people with mesothelioma have even lived 10 years or longer after their diagnosis. Medical professionals can help you choose the best treatment options.
Mesothelioma Cures vs. Treatments
Mesothelioma is currently not a curable disease. It is considered by medical professionals to be a terminal cancer for almost everyone who is diagnosed.
While some forms of cancer are highly treatable, mesothelioma grows in the linings of the body as opposed to specific organs, which makes it harder to remove. It also produces little to no symptoms before it has spread, which makes it difficult to catch and treat early on.
Fortunately, doctors have made significant treatment breakthroughs over the last several decades, allowing many patients to live longer and suffer less. Some mesothelioma patients can even extend their life expectancy by many years or decades with the right medical care and treatments.
Treatments and Mesothelioma Cures
Until there is a definitive cure for mesothelioma, patients must rely on different treatment options to live longer. The most common mesothelioma treatments include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy. Researchers are also studying new treatments with hopes of finding a mesothelioma cure via clinical trials.
Mesothelioma surgeries seek to remove as much of the cancer as possible from the body.
Commonly used mesothelioma surgeries include:
- Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP): This surgical treatment is used on patients with pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lungs. It involves the removal of a lung along with a part of the diaphragm and the pleura (lining of the lungs). A portion of the pericardium (heart lining) may be removed as well.
- Pleurectomy with decortication (P/D): Also used to treat pleural mesothelioma, this procedure removes the pleura and all visible mesothelioma tumors but keeps both lungs intact. This allows patients to recover faster than if they had a lung removed.
- Cytoreductive surgery: This surgery is used to treat peritoneal mesothelioma patients. Doctors extract cancerous tumors from the abdomen through surgery. They often follow the surgery with hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC), a bath of heated chemotherapy on the surgery site.
Other Mesothelioma Treatments
Doctors may use a few other types of therapies alongside (or instead of) mesothelioma surgeries.
These therapies include:
- Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy involves using high energy particles to damage cancerous cells. It is generally used in conjunction with surgery in mesothelioma cases.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy drugs help to shrink tumors and kill cancerous cells. The most common types of mesothelioma chemotherapy drugs are pemetrexed and cisplatin.
- Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy is a relatively new form of treatment. Mesothelioma immunotherapy drugs train the body’s immune system to identify and attack cancerous cells. There is some evidence immunotherapies have fewer side effects than other cancer treatments.
Clinical Trials and New Treatments For Mesothelioma
As previously noted, mesothelioma clinical trials allow doctors to try new treatment options that may help patients live longer or even cure them of their disease. Clinical trials are recruiting mesothelioma patients across the country.
If you are interested in being a part of a mesothelioma clinical trial, you should talk with your doctor. There may be a trial near you that you can join.
Remember that clinical trials are experimental. You may be able to get access to a new treatment before it reaches the general public, but there’s not a guarantee it will be more helpful than standard treatments. Make sure to talk with your doctor to make sure you are a good candidate for clinical trials.
Are Long-Term Mesothelioma Survivors Cured?
Though the average life expectancy of mesothelioma patients is often low, long-term survivorship is possible. While they were never “cured” in the traditional sense, these survivors offer inspiration to others battling this deadly cancer.
See two examples of patients who survived for much longer than originally expected.
Julie was in her early 30s when doctors found a mass in her abdomen. Although it was initially believed to be ovarian cancer, it was determined to be peritoneal mesothelioma.
Julie never was directly exposed to asbestos. She suffered from secondhand exposure from her father, who worked as an electrician.
She aggressively fought the disease by taking charge of her care and visiting the top doctors in her area. Diagnosed in 2006, she was given 12 months or less to live. Thankfully, Julie is still alive as of 2020 and now serves as an advocate for others facing this disease.
Mary Jane was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 2003 after gallbladder surgery. Her family helped her to immediately take action.
Through surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, Mary Jane was able to successfully fight mesothelioma. She was a 15-year mesothelioma survivor before passing away from Alzheimer’s disease in 2018.
Finding a Cure for Mesothelioma Cancer and Improving Survival
It may be possible for mesothelioma patients to live for many years with this cancer. The key is finding the right treatments for your particular situation and diagnosis. Improving treatment methods is also important to one day find a cure for mesothelioma cancer.
If you are facing mesothelioma, remember that you are not alone. Treatments are available across the country right now. Our team can tell you more about accessing treatments and affording them — get a free case review and learn more.