Can Mesothelioma Go Into Remission?
Yes. Although it is rare, many patients have gone into remission despite being given a poor initial health outlook (mesothelioma prognosis).
Remission is achieved when cancer tumors decrease in size by at least half or more. Cancer patients with malignant mesothelioma can reach remission when they show no visible signs of cancer, also known as No Evidence of Disease (NED).
For patients who are eligible for life-extending treatment, the ultimate goal is full remission.
Both malignant pleural mesothelioma and peritoneal mesothelioma patients may be able to reach remission.
The odds of achieving remission are higher if the cancer is caught before it can spread (metastasize) to other areas of the body. In fact, there are mesothelioma remission cases in which patients have had NED for 20 years or longer.
Download our Free Survivors Guide now to get firsthand tips and advice from mesothelioma patients that can help improve your prognosis.
Mesothelioma Remission vs. Mesothelioma Recurrence
Mesothelioma recurrence occurs when signs of cancer return after the patient has achieved full or partial remission. Mesothelioma recurrence can happen months or even years after remission.
“When cancer comes back after treatment, doctors call it a recurrence or recurrent cancer.”
—National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Doctors typically treat patients in full or partial remission as though they have a chronic illness due to the risk of recurrence.
Patients in remission should attend regular follow-up appointments and watch for any symptoms of mesothelioma recurrence. This can help treat recurrence early if it does occur.
In cases of local mesothelioma recurrence, signs of cancer reappear in the same area where they first began, whether in the lining of the lungs (pleura), abdomen (peritoneum), heart (pericardium), or testicles (tunica vaginalis).
Other times, signs of cancer may show up in another area of the body. This is known as distant mesothelioma recurrence.
Even if a patient experiences a recurrence of mesothelioma, it is possible to enter remission again.
Types of Mesothelioma Remission
There are two types of mesothelioma remission: full and partial. Learn more about the types of remission below.
Full remission occurs when all symptoms and signs of cancer in the body are gone. Full mesothelioma remission is also known as complete response or complete remission.
Full mesothelioma remission rates are very low. That said, some patients who qualify for treatment do go on to achieve full remission and can live cancer-free for years.
It is important to note that complete remission is not a cure. There’s always a chance of recurrence, since there may still be some microscopic cancer cells in the body after treatment.
An average of 12% of patients with peritoneal mesothelioma who are treated with surgery and chemotherapy are able to achieve complete remission, according to a 2021 analysis published in Surgical Oncology & Clinical Practice Journal.
Partial remission occurs when a patient’s mesothelioma tumors decrease in size by 50% or more. This means their cancer has significantly improved but has not completely disappeared.
Patients who achieve partial remission may experience fewer symptoms and an improved quality of life.
A mesothelioma specialist can provide you with more information on partial and complete remission tailored to your specific diagnosis. Use our Free Doctor Match to get help connecting with top mesothelioma specialists near you.
Treatments That Can Promote Remission
Full or partial remission may be achieved through mesothelioma treatment.
The overall goals of mesothelioma treatment are to reduce the presence of cancer in the body, ease symptoms, and potentially improve life expectancy through remission.
Each patient’s case is unique. Some patients respond better to certain treatments than others and have greater chances of achieving remission.
Mesothelioma remission has even been achieved spontaneously without treatment playing a major role, though very few cases of this have been published in medical journals.
Registered Nurse Amy Fair discusses standard mesothelioma treatments and how patients can pick the best option. Call (866) 608-8933 today to connect with Amy and get your medical questions answered. View Transcript.
Duration: 2 min 01 sec
What do I need to know about mesothelioma treatments?
It’s really important for your doctors, your oncologists, your surgeons to explain to you what stage you’re in – to explain to you what type of mesothelioma you have. You have to understand your disease, you have to understand the type of disease, and you have to understand the stage of the disease. Many people have to make decisions as far as quality and quantity of life.
What are my treatment options for mesothelioma?
The standard treatment options for mesothelioma is a surgical approach. In pleural mesothelioma, they will offer the patient a pleural decortication where they strip the lining of the lung. They may offer to the patient a pneumonectomy and that is removing the whole lung, not just the lining. They may offer radiation to shrink the tumor first. Also, radiation gives them palliative care if that tumor is pressing on vital organs or nerves and causing pain, they may want to go in and do radiation first to shrink that tumor. Then of course there is the chemotherapy approach, and again sometimes multiple modalities are used. Surgical approach, radiation, and chemotherapy. It is a clinical individual fit for that particular person.
How can I decide what treatment is best for me?
When deciding what treatment modality is best for you it’s important to communicate with your surgeon, to communicate with your oncologist. You need to get an understanding on their thoughts if you’re a candidate for chemotherapy. Are you a candidate to have surgery? Although all that is very important, the individual decision for what type of therapy lies within the mesothelioma patient.
Learn more about treatment options that may lead to mesothelioma remission below.
Surgery is arguably the best option to achieve mesothelioma remission. During surgery, the surgeon will remove visible mesothelioma tumors.
Patients diagnosed with stage 1 or stage 2 mesothelioma are often eligible for life-extending surgical procedures that could possibly lead to remission. In these early stages, the cancer hasn’t spread very far and tumors are easier to remove.
Some common mesothelioma surgeries include:
- Cytoreduction with HIPEC: Peritoneal mesothelioma surgery to remove the cancerous lining of the abdomen and any surrounding tumors. The surgery site is then bathed in heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) to kill leftover cells not removed through surgery.
- Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP): Pleural mesothelioma surgery intended to remove all visible tumors by extracting the cancerous lung and any nearby tissue. An EPP is often combined with chemotherapy to make remission more likely.
- Pleurectomy with decortication (P/D): Pleural mesothelioma surgery to remove the cancerous pleura and any mesothelioma tumors on the surface of the lung. Neither lung is removed, unlike in an EPP. Surgeons often combine the P/D with radiation to destroy remaining mesothelioma cells.
Learn what treatments have helped mesothelioma patients become long-term survivors in our Free Guide.
Although individual treatment methods can help some patients achieve remission, many mesothelioma specialists use multimodal therapy for best results.
Multimodal therapy is the combination of more than one type of treatment and has been found to improve mesothelioma survival rates and quality of life for patients.
Treatments used to achieve mesothelioma remission in multimodal therapy include:
Patients with early-stage mesothelioma are usually the best candidates for this type of multipronged treatment approach.
Remission Through Clinical Trials
Clinical trials are conducted by researchers to test new cancer therapies and improve existing ones. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees all clinical trials and examines the safety and efficacy of each treatment being tested to determine if it should be made available to the public.
Patients who enroll in clinical trials may be able to reach mesothelioma remission if they receive the treatment being tested (versus a placebo) and their cancer responds favorably to it.
Our Patient Advocates are here to help you find mesothelioma clinical trials and other treatments that may promote remission. Call (866) 608-8933 today to get started.
Survivors Who Have Achieved Mesothelioma Remission
There are inspiring stories of patients who have achieved mesothelioma remission and outlived their life expectancies. These patients are considered mesothelioma survivors.
One example is Mike, who was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in 2011 but entered an extended period of remission before ultimately losing his cancer battle in 2020.
The medical community hopes that with continued research and treatment advances, more mesothelioma patients will live longer and achieve long-term remission.
To read the inspiring stories of 7 patients who were able to beat their prognosis, download our Free Survivors Guide now.
How to Improve Your Chances of Remission
Besides seeking treatment, there are several steps you can take to help your body fight cancer and work toward mesothelioma remission. Learn how you can boost the likelihood of mesothelioma remission below.
Stay in Good Health
While patients cannot change certain factors such as their age or the type of mesothelioma they have, they can improve their overall health by exercising, not smoking, and maintaining a healthy, balanced diet.
If cleared by your physician, start an exercise plan. Physical activity can ease pain, stiffness, fatigue, and other potential side effects of treatment. Even gentle, light exercise like walks and yoga may help you sleep better and feel less stressed.
See a Mesothelioma Specialist
Mesothelioma is a very rare type of cancer, and the only known cause is asbestos exposure. Because of this, it is important to see an oncologist (cancer doctor) who has experience diagnosing and treating patients with mesothelioma.
By getting treatments from a mesothelioma doctor, your life expectancy could be improved and you have a better chance of achieving mesothelioma remission.
Explore Emerging Therapies
It’s always worth asking your care team if you qualify for any newer or emerging treatments like immunotherapy and targeted therapy.
A 2021 study conducted by MD Anderson Cancer Center found that 40% of peritoneal mesothelioma patients achieved partial or complete remission after being treated with a combination of the immunotherapy drugs atezolizumab (TECENTRIQ®) and bevacizumab (Avastin®).
Immunotherapy and other emerging therapies may help to reduce the size of mesothelioma tumors, alleviate symptoms, and even put your cancer into remission.
However, it is important to discuss your options with a doctor who specializes in mesothelioma to determine the best treatment for you.
Get Help Achieving Mesothelioma Remission
Although mesothelioma often has a poor health outlook since it’s a very aggressive disease, patients may be able to improve their life expectancy and reach remission.
There are many treatment options available to mesothelioma patients at world-renowned cancer centers to help them reach mesothelioma remission.
Treatment options such as chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy can help you or a loved one achieve partial or full mesothelioma remission. These therapies and procedures may also help if you experience mesothelioma recurrence.
Use our Free Doctor Match today to get help connecting with potentially life-extending treatments from a top specialist.
Frequently Asked Questions About Remission and Recurrence
Does mesothelioma go into remission?
Yes, in some cases. Some patients can reach full or partial remission with the help of cancer treatment.
The goal of a curative (potentially life-extending) mesothelioma treatment plan is to help patients reach No Evidence of Disease (NED) or slow the growth of cancer if possible.
Treatment plans can also be adjusted or updated if a patient experiences a mesothelioma recurrence.
Does mesothelioma always come back?
No, mesothelioma does not always come back. However, it is important to note that this cancer typically has a poor prognosis, and the chances of mesothelioma recurrence are high.
This is why it’s so important for patients to receive regular follow-up care after mesothelioma treatments to ensure their cancer has not returned.
What is full remission of mesothelioma?
Full remission of mesothelioma is when all signs and symptoms of the disease have completely disappeared or there is no evidence of the cancer remaining in the patient’s body. Full remission is sometimes referred to as complete remission.
The following conditions must apply for a patient to be considered in full remission:
- Negative imaging scans and biopsy results
- No evidence of cancer spread (metastasis)
- Resolution of symptoms
- Tumor shrinkage