Can You Survive Mesothelioma?
Most mesothelioma patients only live a few years — or months — after a diagnosis, but a few have gone on to live much longer. Patients who have lived well beyond their prognosis or were diagnosed early are known as mesothelioma survivors.
Mesothelioma survivors have lived for 10, 15, and even 20 years or more, even though mesothelioma has no cure and is very aggressive.
It may be possible for patients with mesothelioma to achieve survival and outlive their life expectancy through innovative treatments like surgery, participating in new clinical research trials, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
There are also new mesothelioma treatments that may increase your odds of survival.
Patients and their loved ones should always follow their doctor’s guidance to understand how they can improve their mesothelioma prognosis and work to achieve long-term survival.
Let Us Help You Survive Mesothelioma
For over 20 years, the Mesothelioma Hope team and our trusted medical associates have helped mesothelioma cancer patients in many ways. We will do everything we can to help you become a survivor.
Our caring and skilled Patient Advocates help in a variety of ways, including:
Call us now at (866) 608-8933 to speak with a Patient Advocate, or request your Free Mesothelioma Guide for comprehensive information about this cancer and the various resources that can help.
Mesothelioma Survivors and Their Stories
We often hear this question: “Are there any mesothelioma survivors?”
While there is no cure for mesothelioma, advancements in treatment and cancer research are helping some patients live longer. The following mesothelioma survivor stories include some who outlived their initial prognosis for a time and those who have continued to survive their disease today.
- Diagnosis: Peritoneal mesothelioma
- Year of Diagnosis: 2006
- Treatment: Surgery and chemotherapy
Julie has been living with mesothelioma since she was 35. She was exposed to asbestos secondhand as a child through her father, who worked as an electrician. One year after her father died from asbestos-related lung cancer, Julie received her own diagnosis: malignant peritoneal mesothelioma. She was given 6-12 months to live.
“My biggest fear was that my daughter would grow up and not remember her mother.”
—Julie, 15+ year mesothelioma survivor
Julie was determined to fight her disease so she could be a part of her daughter’s life. After five intensive surgeries and multiple rounds of chemotherapy, Julie’s cancer is now stable.
As Julie underwent treatment, she found much-needed support from groups that advocate for mesothelioma patients. In turn, she became an advocate herself, speaking at many conferences and meeting with Congress to push for a full asbestos ban.
- Diagnosis: Peritoneal mesothelioma
- Year of Diagnosis: 2010
- Treatment: Surgery and chemotherapy
Ginger’s life was turned upside down when she was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma at age 40 while her husband was already fighting a brain tumor.
Ginger found strength in her faith and underwent a surgery called cytoreduction with HIPEC to remove the cancer from her abdominal cavity.
More than a decade after being diagnosed, Ginger is still living her life and finding ways to give back to others. She volunteered at the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation and led a prayer group for families of mesothelioma victims, survivors, and caregivers.
- Diagnosis: Pleural mesothelioma
- Year of Diagnosis: 2011
- Treatment: Surgery and chemotherapy
Mike was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma at just 29 and was told he had less than a year to live. However, through four rounds of chemotherapy and a surgery known as an extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP), Mike was declared cancer-free.
After his treatments, Mike and his wife were able to have a baby girl in 2016. Mike’s daughter motivated him to dedicate his life to advocating for the ban on asbestos and research into finding a cure for mesothelioma.
Despite a period of remission, Mike ultimately lost his brave battle with mesothelioma in April 2020. Today, he is remembered for his legacy of fierce advocacy for mesothelioma victims and his fight to help ban asbestos-containing products.
- Diagnosis: Pleural mesothelioma
- Year of Diagnosis: 2002
- Treatment: Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation
Ernie suffered from pain in his shoulder and rib cage — two common symptoms of pleural mesothelioma — for nearly eight years before his diagnosis. He was exposed to asbestos for most of his life, particularly while working as a mechanic for Ford.
After his mesothelioma diagnosis, Ernie’s doctors treated him using chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. These treatments, combined with Ernie’s resilience, helped him survive mesothelioma for over 7 years.
Ernie maintained a positive attitude throughout his cancer battle that served as an inspiration for others.
We can connect you with treatments that may help you become a mesothelioma survivor.
Factors That Impact Mesothelioma Survival
Several factors affect if you’ll become a mesothelioma survivor. Certain factors are out of your control, such as your age, gender, what type of mesothelioma you have, and its stage at the time of diagnosis.
However, proactive measures like early detection and healthy lifestyle choices can affect mesothelioma survival.
Patient Health and Age
Older mesothelioma patients generally have lower survival rates (percentage of patients still alive after a diagnosis) than younger patients. More than half of patients diagnosed before age 50 live one year, but less than 30% of patients who are 75 years or older live the same amount of time.
The difference in overall survival between younger and older patients is mainly because younger patients can often withstand more aggressive treatments, like surgery.
Older patients may not be able to undergo major treatments if they’re in poor health, have a weak immune system, or are at higher risk of medical complications.
Mesothelioma Survivors Diet & Nutrition
Maintaining a good diet can also help. By eating nutrient-rich foods under the guidance of your doctors, you may have more energy to fight cancer.
Top hospitals and treatment centers often have dietitians on staff who can help prepare a mesothelioma cancer survivors diet.
Early Detection and Disease Stage
Early detection is important in achieving remission and becoming a mesothelioma survivor. The earlier a patient is diagnosed with mesothelioma, the more treatment options they will have available to them.
Localized cancer is considered stage 1 of the disease and can often be treated with surgery. By the third and fourth stages, the cancer cells will have spread further, and total removal of cancerous masses via surgery may no longer be attainable.
In rare cases, some stage 3 and stage 4 mesothelioma patients have still achieved remission with medical treatment or lived far beyond their prognosis.
Specialized Treatments and Disease Management
Multimodal therapy is when doctors combine surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and other treatments to help patients achieve long-term survival.
Multimodal treatment plans for early-stage patients often include surgery. Late-stage patients may be able to receive chemotherapy, radiation, and other therapies together if they’re in good overall health and are relatively young.
Additionally, new and alternative treatments are currently being tested in clinical trials. Gene therapy, virus therapy, and targeted therapies are prime examples. If these treatments can help patients live longer in a trial, they may be approved for mainstream use.
Finally, pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma survivors might regularly meet with their doctors even after treatments have stopped. This is called disease management. Mesothelioma survivors are encouraged to report any new symptoms or concerns during these follow-up visits.
How to Become a Mesothelioma Survivor
There’s no guaranteed way to become a mesothelioma survivor, but there are some steps you can take to increase your odds.
Get a Second Opinion
Every mesothelioma patient has the right to ask for a second opinion about their diagnosis and treatment options. Getting a second opinion can help a mesothelioma patient feel more confident about the accuracy of their diagnosis and ensure that the planned course of treatment is appropriate.
Getting a second opinion is highly recommended since mesothelioma is often misdiagnosed at first — which may give the cancer more time to worsen and reduce a patient’s odds of long-term survival.
Find a Specialist
Finding the right mesothelioma doctor is one of the most important decisions a patient can make. Top doctors can diagnose mesothelioma and develop personalized treatment plans for each patient. They can also help manage any side effects associated with treatments.
Some specialists, like Dr. Robert Cameron and the late Dr. David Sugarbaker, have pioneered new treatments to help patients live beyond their prognosis and achieve long-term survival.
Mesothelioma specialists can see if a patient is eligible for newer treatments, including ones only available in clinical trials. We can help find a top specialist near you — use our Free Mesothelioma Doctor Match now.
Seek Emotional Support and Resources
A mesothelioma diagnosis can be devastating, and no one should have to go through it alone. Developing a strong support system is key to maintaining a positive outlook and quality of life. This might include seeing a licensed counselor, attending mesothelioma support groups, or talking to friends and family.
Connecting with other patients or a therapist may help improve mental well-being and ease stress. Patients should look for resources that meet their personal needs and preferences.
Participating in a mesothelioma support group is more than just emotional support. Many support group members may have already pursued treatment and can provide helpful guidance as you walk the same road.
Remission and Mesothelioma Survivors
What sets mesothelioma survivors apart from other patients is that they often achieve remission from mesothelioma. Achieving remission is essential to becoming a mesothelioma survivor.
When cancer is in remission, the tumors either fully disappear or shrink, allowing patients to live with fewer or no symptoms.
There are two types of remission: full and partial.
- Full remission: This occurs when a patient has no evidence of disease (NED). NED describes the state when all visible traces of cancer are gone from the body. Because the cancer could still come back, doctors often use the terms “NED” and “remission” instead of “cured” when they cannot detect any signs of cancer.
- Partial remission: This occurs when the mesothelioma tumors have been reduced by 50% or more. Partial remission can allow doctors to treat mesothelioma more easily, even if the cancer isn’t fully gone.
Mesothelioma survival is directly related to the achievement of remission through treatment. Studies across various cancer centers have found an overall median survival rate of about 4.5 years and a maximum rate of 19.5 years for those who achieve remission through treatment.
Our Patient Advocates can help you find the right treatment to help you achieve remission and become a mesothelioma survivor. Call (866) 608-8933 right now.
Mesothelioma Recurrence in Survivors
Unfortunately, there is always a risk that mesothelioma might come back long after treatment, as microscopic cancer cells may remain in the body. When this happens, it’s called a recurrence.
Some long-term mesothelioma survivors may experience a recurrence after remission. Doctors can’t predict which patients will have a recurrence or when it might occur.
When a patient’s mesothelioma recurs, they experience the same symptoms as before. However, each mesothelioma recurrence may be treated differently. For example, an area that was previously radiated may not tolerate further radiation, so another treatment may be used.
Some treatments for mesothelioma recurrence may include:
- Chest wall resection surgery to remove part of a tumor without affecting any nearby organs or major structures
- First-line chemotherapy (if a patient has not previously received chemotherapy)
- Innovative biological therapies (currently being studied in clinical trials)
- Second-line chemotherapy using different medications (if patients had chemotherapy before)
Mesothelioma specialists and patients need to regularly stay in contact even when remission occurs. Doing so may allow doctors to catch and treat a recurrence before it spreads very far.
Get Help & Work Toward Mesothelioma Survival
No one ever deserves to develop a life-threatening cancer like mesothelioma. Thankfully — with the supervision of top cancer doctors — you may be able to become a mesothelioma survivor.
Have hope and trust in your care team to help you maintain a high quality of life on your journey to survivorship.
Mesothelioma Hope’s medical team has relationships with skilled doctors, cancer centers, and many mesothelioma survivors. We can connect you with these specialists and proven treatment methods that may help you become a survivor. Get matched with top mesothelioma doctors right now.
Mesothelioma Survivors FAQs
Has anyone survived mesothelioma?
Yes. Many mesothelioma patients have survived the disease and outlived their initial prognosis with the use of traditional and emerging treatments.
Generally speaking, the earlier mesothelioma is detected, the longer a patient can live for.
What is the longest someone has lived with mesothelioma?
Diagnosed in 1997 at age 52, Paul Kraus is currently the longest-living mesothelioma survivor in the world.
Doctors thought Paul would only live for six months, but he has been able to survive for more than 25 years since his mesothelioma diagnosis. He credits much of his success to healthy living and diet.
Does mesothelioma always come back?
Many survivors experience recurrences of their disease because it’s virtually impossible to remove every cancer cell unless caught early.
While mesothelioma recurrence is very common, it might not happen in all patients who achieve remission and become long-term survivors.
Further, patients who do experience a recurrence can still possibly live for long periods. Doctors can recommend treatments to help patients live as long as possible after a recurrence.
Is mesothelioma a death sentence?
No, if caught early or if the patient’s disease is localized. While mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer, it is not an automatic death sentence.
The medical community continues to develop more sophisticated methods to diagnose and treat mesothelioma. As a result, some victims have survived for years without recurrence.
If you or a loved one think you have mesothelioma, it’s important to find a specialist who’s experienced in researching, diagnosing, and treating the disease.