What Is Remission?
Remission is a term doctors use to describe how much a patient’s cancer symptoms have decreased or disappeared. Complete remission is the ultimate goal of all patients and their health care team. It occurs when the patient is no longer exhibiting any signs of mesothelioma after treatment.
Cancers of any kind, including mesothelioma, always have a risk of returning. They also always run the risk of being present in small, undetectable amounts. For these reasons, doctors use the term “remission” instead of “cure.”
Many mesothelioma patients have achieved long-term remission despite having first been diagnosed with a poor prognosis. Some patients have achieved long-term remission for 10 years or more.
Full vs Partial Remission
Mesothelioma remission can be partial or full. Partial remission occurs when there are still cancer cells that remain, but doctors have stopped the spread of mesothelioma. Doctors usually consider partial remission to be when mesothelioma presence is reduced by 50 percent or more.
Full remission occurs when doctors no longer detect any mesothelioma cells in their patients. Achieving full remission is rare and not yet fully understood. It can happen in some patients, while others with similar cases may only achieve partial remission.
Partial and full remission can both be achieved long-term. This means patients can achieve a remission state for many months or years following their treatments.
Recurrence occurs when the mesothelioma returns in a detectable amount. It happens in spite of treatments that had sent the patient into full or partial remission. This can happen months or even years later.
Because of the risk of recurrence, doctors typically treat patients in full or partial remissions as though they have a chronic illness.
By considering mesothelioma in remission to be a chronic disease, it encourages patients to schedule follow-up appointments and closely monitor their symptoms. This is important to swiftly treat mesothelioma if it does recur.
Patients who have achieved remission once are capable of achieving it again.
Mesothelioma Remission Factors
When remission does occur, it is usually because the patient received intense multimodal treatments. These treatment methods generally combine successful surgery and long-term courses of chemotherapy and/or radiation.
Research indicates that remission success stories often include additional forms of treatment. Some cases have shown evidence that patients have achieved remission through consistent regimens of alternative therapies, nutritional supplements, diet and lifestyle changes, and emerging immunotherapy treatments.
These cases are rare, so doctors are not able to determine what contributes to remission in every case. Sometimes remission is considered spontaneous with no understandable factors. Each patient’s case is unique. Some individuals respond better to certain treatments than others and have greater chances of achieving remission.
Improving Chances of Long-Term Remission
Doctors are constantly improving their understanding of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is now considered more treatable and manageable than ever before.
All cancers have a possibility of returning. However, many patients who achieve remission have long outlived their life expectancy and are considered survivors. Doctors hope that with continued research and development, more mesothelioma patients will live longer and achieve long-term remission.