Being diagnosed with and recovering from cancer can be an excruciating journey loaded with hurdles for both the patient and their family.
On top of the emotional turmoil and physical pain, complete recovery is very rare, making things even worse.
However, you must remember that there certainly are ways you can improve your lifespan living condition after a mesothelioma diagnosis.
The normal life expectancy for most mesothelioma patients is 12 to 21 months, but several factors influence it. Some factors that can impact your life expectancy include the following:
- Type of mesothelioma: some types of mesothelioma have greater life expectancies than others.
For instance, life expectancy for pleural mesothelioma is around 1 to 2 years, 51.5 months for peritoneal mesothelioma, and six months for pericardial mesothelioma.
- Stage of diagnosis: the earlier you diagnose the problem and seek treatment, the better. Life expectancy significantly drops if your cancer escalates to stage 3 or 4.
- Cell type: mesothelioma cancer cells can be epithelioid, sarcomatoid, or biphasic. Life expectancy is highest for epithelioid cell types (12 to 24 months). For Biphasic, it is 12 months, and for sarcomatoid, it is six months.
Treatment can significantly increase your life expectancy, sometimes even by years. The treatment for mesothelioma surely is costly.
But, if mesothelioma results from asbestos exposure at work, the responsible company has to pay compensation.
At the same time, some professions, like the military, offer benefits to employees with mesothelioma because the risk of this type of cancer is high in their work.
For instance, veterans are eligible for the mesothelioma veterans benefits ranging from $2,000 to $3,500 monthly. Often, these benefits also include free or low-cost treatments.
However, in addition to these, uncontrollable factors affect life expectancy. At the same time, there are others that you can exercise control over.
Following a mesothelioma diagnosis, your treatment and lifestyle choices will have major implications for your recovery.
In the following ways, you can improve your life expectancy:
Mesothelioma surgery is one of the most common traditional interventions opted for by people. This procedure involves surgically removing a tumor.
A surgery combined with chemotherapy is the best treatment for mesothelioma and is most effective in improving life expectancy. Tumor-removing surgery is an aggressive procedure where the goal is to remove as many tumors as possible.
In some surgeries like Cytoreductive and Debulking techniques, in removing as many tumors as possible, sometimes even the entire lung or the stomach lining can be removed.
Other surgical interventions aim to alleviate cancer side effects and minimize pain. These surgeries are less invasive than tumor-removing surgeries and are also known to improve life span, but not as well.
The goal of chemotherapy is to control the growth of cancerous cells using chemicals like pemetrexed and cisplatin.
Once injected, these travel through the bloodstream until they reach the tumor, kill or shrink cancerous cells, and prevent new tumor growths.
One drawback of chemotherapy is that it destroys bone marrow or the cells lining the mouth and kills cancer cells.
Patients undergoing chemotherapy experience hair loss, diarrhea, nausea, mouth sores, appetite loss, fatigue, etc.
These side-effects usually last only until the treatment lasts and lessen with time.
Fortunately, research proves that chemotherapy improves survival rates. A study conducted in 2016 showed that patients undergoing chemotherapy live thrice as long as other patients.
Instead of resorting to drugs in immunotherapy, the treatment focuses on using the patient’s immune system to fight against the tumor cells.
This treatment has improved the life expectancy of some patients by a year. One major advantage of this intervention over chemotherapy is that it targets only the tumor cells and doesn’t harm healthy cells.
Secondly, It is also known to create long-lasting immunity against cancer for many years. Although immunotherapy has side effects like nausea, constipation, fever, diarrhea, coughing, skin irritation, etc., these side effects are more manageable than those of other treatments.
Immune checkpoint inhibitors, cancer vaccines, and monoclonal antibodies are some types of immunotherapy interventions you can resort to.
- Seek clinical trials for emerging treatments
Over the years, many new therapies have been introduced for cancers, and all started as clinical trials to experiment with new treatments.
New treatment interventions are expected to boost life expectancy can be sought as well. Today researchers are developing gene therapy and other such interventions for mesothelioma patients.
Consult your oncologist to find a clinical trial that suits your specific case.
- Increase your activity level
Maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle during recovery is crucial for most other medical illnesses. The term used to describe the activity level in mesothelioma patients is ‘performance status.’
A lot of research conducted on performance status shows that staying active impacts the survival rate of patients.
Activity improves physical function, boosts energy and mood, enhances mental health, minimizes the impact of stress on the body, increases body mass and strength, and lessens fatigue.
- Eat healthily
Your eating habits during recovery from mesothelioma will have a major impact on overcoming the side effects of treatments like chemotherapy.
Good nutrition boosts your immune system and helps your body recover faster. At the same time, it is also important that you eat safely; during recovery, your immune system is weak.
The risk of catching food-borne diseases through bacteria, viruses, or parasites is higher than healthy people.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services instructs individuals to ‘clean,’ ‘separate,’ ‘cook,’ and ‘chill’ every food item to ensure food safety. To outline a healthy diet plan, consult a registered dietitian.
Some recognized cancer-fighting foods include protein-rich food, yellow, white, purple, and orange root vegetables, and fruits like cherries, blueberries, black raspberries, mulberries, cranberries, strawberries, etc.
Proteins are crucial for muscle growth and recovery; therefore, cancer patients need at least 0.65 to 0.75 grams of protein for each pound of their body weight.
Life following a cancer diagnosis is filled with many challenges, and the path to recovery is very uncertain for most mesothelioma patients.
Life expectancy rates vary from individual to individual based on several factors, but certain choices can help improve survival rates and life span.
Seek tumor-removing treatment interventions, look for clinical trials for emerging treatments, stay active, and eat healthily.
Together with all other factors like stage of diagnosis or mesothelioma type, these lifestyle choices will have a major impact on your battle against cancer