Malignant pleural mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer that combines a remarkably long latency period with a short survival time once diagnosed. Decades go by between patients being exposed to asbestos and first manifesting symptoms, yet once patients start to feel sick they usually die in less than two years, sometimes in months. Yet Finnish researchers have identified a unique group of long-term pleural mesothelioma survivors who survive for years after diagnosis. They recently published a study identifying the characteristics of this rare group in hopes that what they find will help other patients.
Long-Term Mesothelioma Survivors Exhibit Few Symptoms, Better Health
The remarkable group of 42 pleural mesothelioma patents, who had lived for at least five years after diagnosis, shared several characteristics. According to the research published in the journal Clinical Lung Cancer, most were free of the chest pain, shortness of breath, weight loss and other symptoms that afflict most patients diagnosed with the cruel form of cancer. Lead author Juuso Paajanen writes, “Long-term survivors were younger, more frequently female, had a better performance status at time of diagnosis, and had less evidence of prior asbestos exposure.” They had smaller tumors and upon diagnosis chose aggressive surgery and chemotherapy treatment. They also had fewer health problems going into their treatment protocols.
Long-Term Mesothelioma Survival is so Rare that Researchers Had to Confirm Diagnosis
Because malignant mesothelioma is so debilitating and has such a short overall survival, the first thing that the Finnish researchers did was to confirm that the initially-identified long-term survivors’ diagnosis was correct. Each patients’ biopsy samples and CT scans were reviewed by specialists, who confirmed that 42 of 43 patients had the asbestos-related cancer, despite displaying few signs of sickness.
In their analysis of what differentiates these long-term mesothelioma survivors from others, the scientists concluded that there may be an “indolent” form of the disease that has a different genetic makeup, though other factors such as patient health and time of treatment may also play a role.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, reports of long-term survival offer significant hope. For information about resources available to patients and their caregivers, contact the Patient Advocates ate Mesothelioma.net at 1-800-692-8608.