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Mesothelioma Survival Rates

Mesothelioma can lay undetected – hidden inside your body for 40 or 50 years – before it rears its ugly head. It could be decades from the time of exposure to asbestos, the only known cause of the disease, until symptoms appear. And by then, the disease may have spread through the body.

Once it is diagnosed, there is pretty much just one thing on your mind – your survival rate and what you can do to optimize it. There is no easy answer. The disease affects everyone differently, and depends on a patient’s age, sex, the type and length of asbestos exposure and the specific cells that are involved.

People under the age of 45 tend to have a better prognosis – about 20 percent of patients included in an American Cancer Society study from that age group survived for more than five years.

The Mesothelioma Support Network is here to help those suffering from mesothelioma find the answers they need.

Facts and Statistics

Mesothelioma shows up at the rate of about 2,000 to 3,000 new cases each year and commonly occurs in people 50 to 70 years old. That is 14 to 30 people out of every one million. About three quarters of those diagnosed have the cancer develop in the pleura, which is the membrane surrounding the lungs.

Many of them – about 11 million, according to The National Institute of Health (NIH) – were exposed between 1940 and 1978 when asbestos was used extensively in everything from car brake linings to construction and manufacturing due to its resistance to fire, heat and electrical damage. About half of those that develop mesothelioma will have a remaining life span of eight to 18 months after treatment and about 30 percent will live five years or longer.

Those diagnosed in the early stages of mesothelioma have a general life span of 32 months, while people diagnosed in the later stages have a life expectancy of about 6.5 months.

Factors That Alter Survival Rates

Because it is one of the most aggressive types of cancer, mesothelioma patients rarely go into remission. The disease can quickly spread, or metastasize from the lungs, abdominal cavity or lymph notes into the rest of the body. But for those treated early enough, many are able to extend their survival rate beyond expectations. Conventional treatment options include radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery.

One form of therapy, known as TomoTherapy® Highly Integrated Adaptive Radiotherapy (HI-ART) combines an advanced form of radiation therapy known as intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) with CT scanning technology to treat hard-to-reach tumors while minimizing damage to nearby healthy tissue. The technology zeroes in on the target with radiation beams, based on the size and location of a tumor.

The survival rate tends to be longer for those whose mesothelioma is centered in the pleura, around the lungs, because treatment is easier. This cancer develops in the pleura in about 75 percent of diagnosed cases.

Extending Survival Time

Many patients seeking to prolong their survival rate combine conventional treatment methods with complementary and alternative medicines (CAM), like body-stress reduction, nutritional supplements and herbal teas, then live years past what is expected.

Age does make a difference. Older patients are less likely to survive past the typical time frame of one to five years because they tend to also suffer from heart disease, diabetes, hypertension or kidney disease.

Most doctors will treat mesothelioma very aggressively, and if a patient is otherwise healthy and can undergo surgery to remove the tumors, the survival rate can climb higher.

There are always exceptions to the survival rate. One Australian man has been living with the disease since 1997, having shunned conventional treatments and developed his own remedies. Others treated with standard forms of therapy have lived 10 years or more after their diagnosis.

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