When your doctor is discussing your mesothelioma prognosis with you, you may hear them refer to remission as being the goal of your treatment. The likelihood of generating remission for mesothelioma patients will depend on your age, the stage of your cancer and additional factors. However, remission is the ideal outcome that all doctors want for their patients.
What Is Mesothelioma Remission?
When you hear that remission is the optimal goal of your cancer treatment, you may confuse it with being cured. However, since mesothelioma presents the possibility of coming back even after it has seemingly disappeared, doctors are not yet willing to refer to patients as being cured.
After a patient has achieved remission, they’ll need to continue undergoing tests and attending follow-up appointments to ensure the mesothelioma hasn’t returned. If it has, doctors will prescribe new treatment. Because of this, mesothelioma isn’t considered to have a cure.
While this may seem gloomy, the possibility of remission offers a spark of hope. Remission means that doctors cannot find any evidence of mesothelioma remaining in the body. This doesn’t mean that there are no cancerous cells—some may go undetected. But for the most part, when a patient is declared to be in remission, it appears that the mesothelioma is gone.
Patients can also be in partial remission when their tumor seems to have stopped growing or has shrunken significantly. When aggressive mesothelioma has stopped spreading, it can be a very good sign.
Treatments Offering the Best Chance of Remission for Mesothelioma
Researchers are looking into a variety of treatments for their ability to achieve mesothelioma remission. While some are thought to be more effective than others, even less impactful treatments can play a role in helping a patient achieve remission—especially as part of a multimodal treatment approach.
Surgery is an integral part of any effort to achieve remission. The more aggressive the surgery, the better it will be at removing and stopping mesothelioma.
Otherwise healthy patients with early stage mesothelioma who qualify for radical surgery typically have the best chance at achieving remission. Surgery allows doctors to completely remove (resect) all visible tumors and sometimes they scrape to remove as much cancerous tissue as possible.
The 3 primary surgical procedures that doctors use to achieve remission in patients are:
- Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) — pleural mesothelioma
- Pleurectomy/decortication (P/D) — pleural mesothelioma
- Cytoreduction with HIPEC — peritoneal mesothelioma
Chemotherapy involves the use of cytotoxic (cell-killing) agents to destroy cancerous cells. While this form of treatment has shown some success in treating mesothelioma, it works best as part of multimodal therapy.
Combining chemotherapy with radiation and/or surgery has allowed certain mesothelioma patients to reach remission.
Doctors can administer chemotherapy before surgery (neoadjuvant) to shrink mesothelioma tumors and allow for easier removal. They can also administer it during surgery (intraoperative) to kill remaining microscopic cancer cells that may remain after visible tumors are removed.
Mesothelioma Treatment Update
HIPEC (Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy) is one form of intraoperative chemotherapy that has shown incredible success in helping peritoneal mesothelioma patients send their cancer into remission. The direct application of a chemotherapeutic solution to the abdomen has allowed patients to endure higher doses of the anti-cancer drugs, with improved absorption.
In almost all cases, chemotherapy is administered after surgery (adjuvant) and for several weeks ongoing. Chemotherapy is also being continuously improved upon, with new drug combinations being researched and tested for their ability to more effectively treat mesothelioma.
Radiation therapy is another form of treatment that’s most valuable in combination with other therapies. Select studies have shown that a pleurectomy with decortication procedure followed by a chemotherapy combination (pemetrexed and cisplatin) and radiation therapy could produce remission in certain pleural mesothelioma patients.
Other studies have shown 80% survival rates when radiation therapy is administered before the EPP procedure—a treatment approach called SMART (surgery for mesothelioma after radiation therapy).
Additionally, like chemotherapy, radiation therapy can also be administered intraoperatively.
Experimental and cutting-edge treatments may not be as well understood as some of the more common mesothelioma treatments. But many of these new therapies demonstrate the potential to lead to mesothelioma remission. Some mesothelioma survivors have attributed their cancer remission to participation in clinical trials. Remember to keep in mind that all treatments were in the trial stage once. And with the new knowledge that experts have about mesothelioma, future treatment approaches could be even better. To discover chances to participate in mesothelioma clinical trials, speak with a specialist when you have a chance.
Next Steps for Patients in Remission
Achieving remission can be an exciting and emotional milestone in your experience with mesothelioma. While this is definitely worth celebrating, there is still work to be done. Your doctor will arrange follow-up visits with you to monitor your health and scan for signs of mesothelioma returning.
How often you go for visits depends on how long you’ve been in remission—the longer you’ve appeared to be mesothelioma-free, the more often the doctor will want to check for recurrence. While this may be frustrating as it may interfere with other parts of your life, it’s very important.
With frequent follow-up visits, your doctor can find recurrent mesothelioma right away and recommend additional therapies with the aim to send it back into remission.
In addition to checking in regularly with a mesothelioma specialist, you can take steps to improve your general health and immunity yourself. This can be rewarding and motivating, and you’ll notice the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle regardless of what’s happening with your mesothelioma.
While a doctor, nutritionist and/or counselor can help you form a specific, personalized plan, here are some general guidelines to help you kick-start your healthy living goals:
- Diet: Avoid junk food or overly-processed food. Try to eat a healthy, balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables to get all the nutrients you need. Following the 80/20 rule can be fun. This means you’ll eat as healthily as you can 80% of the time and leave 20% of your diet for treats and other comfort foods.
- Exercise: Stay active and get enough exercise. This doesn’t mean you need to plow away on a treadmill for hours. Take part in activities that you enjoy doing and get you moving. And take it slow—no need to push yourself too hard, too soon.
- Hydrate: Drink lots of water to stay hydrated.
- Rest: Get enough sleep so that you feel well rested enough to complete your activities for the day.
- Immune System: Do your best to avoid contracting colds or the flu from others. Getting enough rest can help you avoid colds and the flu.
- Attitude: Stay positive! Research shows patients with a good outlook on their health ultimately survive longer and have a better quality of life.
Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer and is likely to return after a patient has been in remission for some time. Even after aggressive surgery and other therapies, some microscopic mesothelioma cells can go undetected. These can then form other tumors.
Recurrence is an unfortunate reality of living with mesothelioma, but it doesn’t mean hope is lost.
Patients who have achieved remission once can certainly do so again. Some mesothelioma patients are able to live with mesothelioma in remission for years before recurrence happens. In certain cases, the cancer can disappear indefinitely.
In the case that the mesothelioma does come back, your doctor will decide how best to proceed with treatment. For patients who were in partial remission, maintenance chemotherapy can be used to manage the reduced size of the tumor and stop it from spreading.
The Future of Mesothelioma Remission
As new treatments demonstrate improved ability to achieve remission in mesothelioma patients, doctors have an enticing vision for the future of mesothelioma treatment. While finding a cure may be a long journey, doctors hope to shift towards treating mesothelioma as a chronic illness.
The goal of the mesothelioma-management approach is to achieve and maintain remission while mitigating symptoms for patients.
Patients will be able to carry on living healthy lives while working with their doctors to manage their mesothelioma, much in the same way that individuals with diabetes, arthritis or high blood pressure manage their conditions.
At Mesothelioma Help Now, our experts want to help you achieve the best chance at outliving your prognosis. Get in touch with our dedicated team today at (844) 537-6430 and get connected with top mesothelioma specialists or sign up for free Doctor Match Program.