Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
You’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, one of the most aggressive cancers there is and the questions coursing through your brain are endless. The number one question on your mind is how long you have to live.
While there are no definitive answers, the Mesothelioma Support Network is here for you, helping to guide you through this stressful time. Life expectancy with this cancer – caused by exposure to asbestos decades ago – depends on numerous factors, including your age, your general health, where it first appears and at what stage it is diagnosed.
Factors That Effect Life Expectancy
General health and age are huge. Younger, healthier individuals with mesothelioma tend to live longer with the disease – a year to 18 months. Older patients who may suffer from other afflictions such as heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease are less likely to beat the odds.
Life expectancy for those with mesothelioma has improved in recent years with more research dollars, more advanced treatments and more drugs being developed to battle this disease.
Diet and lifestyle are two areas patients can address that may help extend their lives as they fight for more time to spend with their loved ones. As breathing becomes more difficult, so does exercise. But exercise can help reduce symptoms.
Bed rest is important, but so is standing and stretching your muscles. And walking 10 to 15 minutes each day can reduce joint stiffness and overall discomfort. Exercise can also help increase an otherwise waning appetite to help a patient stay stronger.
Types of Treatments
The types of treatments that patients can pursue for mesothelioma are directly related to the stage, location of the cancer and the patient’s overall health. The three most common treatments are surgery,chemotherapy and radiation.
Because mesothelioma is such an aggressive cancer and often doesn’t appear until it is already in its late stages, surgery is not always an option. When the cancer is in the early stages, surgeons are sometimes able to remove it completely. In other cases, surgery may at least reduce the symptoms.
When surgery is not an option, or at least not a cure, chemotherapy is often pursued as palliative care . And sometimes it is used prior to surgery. Using a heating strategy to inject chemotherapy close to the source of the cancer enables doctors to reach it more directly without injuring healthy cells nearby.
Radiation may also be used to reduce the symptoms in people with pleural mesothelioma, located around the lungs. This therapy focuses high-energy beams to specific locations in the body. It is sometimes used after surgery or after a biopsy to prevent its spread to a surgical incision.
Beating the Odds
Australian Paul Kraus is the poster child for beating the odds against mesothelioma. He was exposed to asbestos in 1962 and diagnosed in 1997. Since then, he has shunned conventional methods of treatment, opting for meditation, nutrient-rich foods and ozone therapy , which he claims prevents cancer cells from surviving.
American scientist and author Stephen Jay Gould took a more scientific approach after being diagnosed in 1982, living another 20 years after carefully examining the data of life expectancy. Others credit their faith in God, support from others and an upbeat attitude. Some lived 10 or 12 years longer than expected.
A new blood test has been developed that detects protein markers at high levels, which could indicate the presence of mesothelioma and lead to an earlier diagnosis. That, in turn, could lead to a longer life expectancy.