Remission simply means there are no visible signs of mesothelioma in a patient. Mesothelioma survivors, therefore, are said to be in remission.
Working Toward Remission
The goal for all patients is to achieve remission of their disease. Although mesothelioma typically has a short prognosis relative to more common types of cancer, many patients have beat the odds and put their cancer into remission. Read stories of how mesothelioma survivors have reached remission in our free Mesothelioma Survivor’s Guide.
Remission is the dream of every mesothelioma patient and family member. Cancer of any kind isn’t considered “curable” because of the possibility of the cancer returning. However, when a patient reaches a point post-treatment where there is no visible sign of the cancer left in their body, they are said to be in remission.
Treatments That Lead to Remission
Finding a mesothelioma specialist who can offer the most advanced treatment options is key to reaching remission. Life-saving treatments include radical surgeries, tailored chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and novel therapies available through avenues such as clinical trials.
A mesothelioma diagnosis can be unnerving. However, it is worth remembering many patients have lived, and are living, years past their initial prognosis by finding the best doctors, the best treatments, and keeping their hopes up. Get connected to a specialist who can help you reach remission in our free Doctor Match program.
What Does It Mean to Be In Remission?
When doctors can no longer detect the presence of mesothelioma it is said to be in remission. Doctors tend to prefer this definition to using the word “cure” because, although they may not be able to detect cancer with current testing methods, the disease may still be present in undetectable amounts.
Additionally, any chronic disease that has the potential to relapse, or begin spreading again, is said to be incurable. Despite this, there are many survivors who have lived long, full lives once their cancer went into remission.
After a patient reaches remission, follow-up appointments are essential to making sure the patient’s mesothelioma is still in remission and stays there. The frequency of these appointments varies with each patient but more visits are usually required in patients who had a more serious diagnosis.
Which Treatments Offer the Best Hope of Remission?
Mesothelioma survivors attribute many different treatments to the remission of their cancer. These treatments range from surgery to successful clinical trials. The treatment offering the greatest chances of remission is surgery, especially when applied in addition to chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Chemotherapy and radiation treatment are still being researched for mesothelioma patients, so they aren’t as effective on their own. Radiation therapy alone has little effect on life expectancy and is typically reserved for the most advanced diagnoses
Surgery holds the best odds of leading to remission. This is because the tumors are completely removed before they can spread through the lymphatic system and other organs.
There are three surgical treatments for mesothelioma that have each initiated a move towards remission in many patients and have produced survivors. They are:
- Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) – pleural mesothelioma
- Pleurectomy/decortication (P/D) – pleural mesothelioma
- Cytoreductive surgery with HIPEC – peritoneal mesothelioma
The average life expectancy of mesothelioma patients is somewhere around 12 months, though survival times are constantly improving. Of course, average survival times take into account different diagnoses and treatment options available to the pool of mesothelioma patients. Survival rates for mesothelioma patients that undergo surgical treatment, for instance, tend to be much better. Some patients who had an EPP survive upwards of 19 months, and those having cytoreductive surgery with HIPEC often live years after the procedure.
Chemotherapy for mesothelioma has come a long way since its initial development. Chemotherapy wasn’t very effective when it was first used in the treatment of mesothelioma, but now there are several new chemotherapy drugs and drug combinations that have a strong effect on the reduction of mesothelioma tumors. Furthermore, the inception of intraoperative chemotherapy with surgery has produced promising results for remission, especially for peritoneal mesothelioma patients.
Radiation therapy is another traditional treatment method for all types of cancer. Unfortunately, on its own, radiation therapy is unlikely to generate a remission. However, multimodal therapy that combines radiation therapy with surgery or chemotherapy has shown significant strides towards causing remission in mesothelioma patients.
Novel Therapies and Clinical Trials
While the efficacy of novel treatments generally require more research to fully realize their potential benefits, there are several current clinical trials offering novel treatments that have serious potential. These novel therapies include treatments such as immunotherapy and gene therapy.
At some point, even the most trusted treatment methods were considered novel, so patients shouldn’t limit themselves to traditional treatments if a novel treatment holds the possibility of remission for them.
Mesothelioma survivor Kendra Ferreira participated in clinical trials that were responsible for the remission of her disease. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and are exploring treatment options, get connected to recruiting clinical trials.
Relapsing After Remission
Reappearance of mesothelioma after remission is an unfortunate but real possibility. Therefore, chronic diseases like mesothelioma should be treated as an ongoing disease that require constant management for the best results.
Patients should be diligent about checkups and recognizing symptoms that are associated with mesothelioma. If a relapse does occur, this doesn’t mean there is no hope—a patient who has achieved remission once can surely do it again.
To avoid relapse, or the cancer getting worse for patients in partial remission, many patients receive maintenance therapy to prevent the mesothelioma from spreading. Partial remissions are generally defined when there is a 50 percent or more reduction of the presence of mesothelioma. Sometimes mesothelioma can be managed for years even if full remission was never achieved.
Managing mesothelioma, as well as achieving remission and preventing relapse, is possible with patients now living longer than ever.