Although the majority of those diagnosed with mesothelioma are told their survival rate is less than one year from the time of the cancer diagnosis, cases of patients living past their predicted survival date are continuing to surface. With each survivor story that comes to light, current mesothelioma patients are gaining a little more hope about their future.
In order to understand why most mesothelioma patients only survive for a short time, it is necessary to understand the nature of the disease. In most instances, mesothelioma is not detected until it has reached its later stages. This is because symptoms can take as long as 50 years to appear once a person has been exposed to asbestos. Without the presence of symptoms, those with mesothelioma usually do not even realize they have developed the disease.
However, with the development of new tests that aid in early diagnosis, such as the Mesomark blood test, doctors and scientists expect more mesothelioma patients to live longer, healthier lives. An early diagnosis can often open the door to more treatment options and a higher success rate in shrinking or removing tumors.
There have been a number of patients that have survived far beyond the usual one year survival period and a handful that have even been cured, with no trace of the aggressive cancer several years after treatment (though recurrence is always possible). This has stumped many medical professionals as they experience difficulty in explaining why some mesothelioma patients survive and others do not.
Research seems to show one common thread: the immune system. Studies of those who have either survived or been cured of the disease reveal that most of these patients participated in some sort of therapy that enhanced their immune system. Some treatments included clinical trials in immunology while others involved alternative therapies dealing with the immune system.
A report released more than 20 years ago theorized that "the presence of asbestos fibers in exposed workers may have caused the eventual breakdown of the host’s surveillance system and the onset of neoplasm [malignant mesothelioma]." With this philosophy in mind, some researchers believe treatments that improve the immune system can stabilize and even cure the disease. Currently, this is the most prevalent theory in explaining why some patients continue to live a healthy life while mesothelioma is in remission and why others have apparently defeated the disease.
A number of mesothelioma survivors have posted their stories on the Internet and have spoken to patients and their families with the hope of providing a brighter outlook for their future. These same survivors have also presented their cases to doctors and researchers.
The most outspoken of these individuals is Paul Kraus, an Australian mesothelioma survivor. Kraus was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 1997, a form of the disease that is tougher to treat than the more common pleural variety. Kraus worked in a factory 35 years earlier where he was exposed him to blue (crocidolite) asbestos.
Upon his diagnosis, Kraus decided he would do everything possible to fight the cancer. He altered his diet (he’s now a vegetarian), added many vitamins and supplements to his daily routine, began "juicing" and tried a treatment known as ozone therapy. Kraus explains, "They took blood out of a vein, used an ozone machine to add ozone (a molecule composed of three oxygen atoms) to the blood and reintroduced it into my body through a drip. The rationale for that was that cancer does not like an oxygenated environment."
The research in putting the protocol together took a lot of time, but in the long run, Kraus believes the combination of all these treatments stabilized his mesothelioma. Today, tests show he still has the disease and his body is a bit weaker than it was, but he has no pain and his doctors tell him he could continue living for many more years.
Kraus stresses the fact that he is not the only mesothelioma survivor. He has cited the case of a man diagnosed 14 years ago at age 58 who had a chest wall resection after diagnosis and has had no symptoms or recurrence since. His doctors believe there was "moderate host inflammatory response" and that spontaneous regression may be an immune-mediated phenomenon"—in other words, his immune system played a role in his survival.
Another survivor, Rhio O’Connor, who recently published a book about his fight with mesothelioma, has lived with the disease for seven years. He opted against surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Instead, with the help of several medical physicians, he developed a regimen that included 100 supplements per day, changed his diet drastically and now practices what he calls "mind-body medicine," such as non-stress techniques like meditation. In his book, he recommends a variety of alternatives to traditional medicines and treatments.
In an effort to help patients understand mesothelioma, http://www.asbestos.com offers a complimentary packet that contains treatment information tailored to your specific diagnosis. The packet also covers the nation’s top mesothelioma doctors and cancer centers, as well as financial assistance options to help cover medical costs. To receive your packet, go to asbestos.com.
Patients and their loved ones may enjoy reading Lean on Me – Cancer through a Carer’s Eyes, a touching story by Lorraine Kember about her husband’s battle with mesothelioma. Reading about the emotions the Kember family experienced may provide insight into the road ahead for those recently diagnosed. To receive a complimentary copy of this book, click here.