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.
As with any cancer, there are two types of remission: full and partial. Full (or complete) remission would mean that all symptoms are now gone and any sign of remaining cancer in the body has vanished.
While complete remission in mesothelioma patients is rare, it is possible. It is important to note that when a patient achieves a full mesothelioma remission it could feel as if the patient is ‘cured’ from cancer, but there can be no guarantee that the cancer will never return.
While at the current instance the doctor may no longer be able to detect cancer cells, there may still be some extremely small microscopic cells in the body after treatment.
Partial remission describes a significant improvement in the patient’s cancer but not a complete disappearance.
A patient will likely see a remarkable improvement in their symptoms and will, therefore, feel much better if they have achieved partial remission through mesothelioma treatment. The doctor will be able to see a significant depletion of the tumors and cancer cells in the patient’s body.
Pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma is difficult to treat as most patients receive a diagnosis and will then begin treatment after the disease has developed past the first stage.
Many patients may find that they would benefit from a palliative outcome of treatment, an action to help them feel better as well as providing them with a better quality of life. For other patients, there is the goal that a blend of treatments will help them achieve partial remission.
Regardless of the patient’s reasoning behind treatment, partial remission will enable them to physically feel better and will extend and improve their lives.
What Is Mesothelioma Recurrence?
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.
Surgery is the best option to achieve mesothelioma remission.
During mesothelioma surgery, the surgeon will remove the cancer lining the organs and may often combine this physical extraction with treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy to increase the success and the potential for remission.
Patients with stage 1 or stage 2 mesothelioma diagnoses are often eligible for surgery that could possibly extend their life if mesothelioma remission is achieved.
Below, learn more about some of the most common types of surgeries for mesothelioma patients.
Any surgery that is aimed at symptom relief is referred to as palliative. Typically, palliative surgeries are for patients in the late stages of mesothelioma who may not be eligible for surgeries aimed at complete cancer removal.
However, patients in the early stages of mesothelioma can also benefit from palliative surgery.
Pleurectomy/decortication is a lung surgery that removes the cancerous lining and any tumors on the surface of the lung. Surgeons may often combine the P/D with intraoperative radiation to remove remaining mesothelioma cells.
Cytoreduction With HIPEC
Peritoneal mesothelioma patients are eligible for cytoreduction with HIPEC (heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy), wherein the surgeon will remove the cancerous lining of the abdomen and any surrounding tumors.
Following this, HIPEC is conducted to remove the remaining mesothelioma cells.
Pericardiectomy is surgery intended for patients with pericardial mesothelioma, whereby the surgeon will remove the cancerous lining of the heart and any surrounding tumors that are visible.
Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP)
For patients with pleural mesothelioma, extrapleural pneumonectomy may be the best surgical option to remove the cancerous lung and any surrounding tissue.
Surgeons may often combine the EPP with intraoperative chemotherapy as this aims to extend the patient’s lifespan.
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, your doctor will be able to provide your eligibility for surgery and detail the best procedure for you.
While individual treatments can affect patients positively — perhaps leading to remission — doctors often will achieve more favorable results by combining multiple treatments that will monitor, control, and remove the cancerous cells.
Multimodal therapy is the combination of more than one type of treatment and has been found to improve the rates of survival and quality of life for patients. The patients must be eligible, however, for this relatively aggressive mesothelioma treatment approach.
A clinical trial is conducted to discover new and improved treatments for cancer and consists of several phases.
During the early phases, clinical trials examine the safety of the new treatment and common side effects will be identified.
During the latter stages of the clinical trials, specialists will test the effectiveness of this new treatment over existing treatments to determine if it should be reviewed by the FDA for potential approval as a new standard of care.
When medical specialists discover that a new treatment is working, the clinical trial will often continue.
Research and testing in cancer have found that there are often opportunities to improve effective treatments even further, sometimes by modifying doses or combining it with other forms of treatment.
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.
What You Can Do to Achieve Mesothelioma Remission
It is the goal of mesothelioma patients to achieve remission. There are several actions that can aid the medical measures even further and allow you to feel better in the meantime.
Take Charge of Your Own Health
Patients have the opportunity to be proactive and take measures to help improve their mesothelioma prognosis.
While patients cannot change factors such as their age, mesothelioma type or phase, they have the option to improve their overall health by not smoking and maintaining a healthy, balanced diet.
A strong factor is maintaining exercise and strength, as research has demonstrated that physical activity can alleviate the side effects from treatment such as pain and stiffness, as well as fatigue.
Even gentle, light activity such as walks and yoga will help patients to sleep better and will aid in the reduction of anxiety and stress.
Overall, the physical and mental health will be in a better state to undergo mesothelioma treatments while enabling the patient to feel better in general.
Get a Second Opinion
While there are standards across treatment and care for mesothelioma, the research and experiences of specialists may vary and there may be multiple methods preferred when treating a patient. As mesothelioma is a rare cancer, the treatment continuously develops and changes.
Having more than one mesothelioma specialist collaborate on the patient’s diagnosis and treatment can be beneficial and can help pinpoint the best possible treatment even further.
Surgery can be highly integral to the treatment and potential remission of mesothelioma as it will confirm the diagnosis, evaluate the tumor and any spread, and will remove or reduce the amount of the cancer.
Surgery will help to alleviate the symptoms and pain the patient is experiencing, therein enhancing the quality of their life and potentially their lifespan. Not all patients will qualify, however, for surgery.
Be sure to discuss with your doctor if this is an appropriate treatment for your cancer.
Participate in Clinical Trials
Clinical trials are how medicines and treatments get approved and become standard of care.
It is through clinical trials that medical advances are made to improve our knowledge and understanding of medical conditions and identify effective treatments.