10 Things You Should Know about Mesothelioma
- Cancer & Caregiving
- Oct. 18, 2011
Knowledge is strength. The more you know about mesothelioma, the better equipped you will be to tackle it, both physically and emotionally.
Caused almost exclusively by an exposure to asbestos, mesothelioma has a latency period of anywhere between 10 to 50 years before the symptoms even start to appear. Unfortunately, the typical prognosis is considerably shorter, anywhere from four months to 18 months.
Because mesothelioma is a rare cancer, an estimated 3,000 cases diagnosed annually in the United States, most people don’t understand it. Many can’t even pronounce it.
If facing mesothelioma, learn everything about it. Read, ask questions, demand answers. There is new ground to be broken, so break it.
Here, then, is our Top 10 list of things you should know about mesothelioma:
This is not a death sentence. Although there is no cure for malignant mesothelioma, one of the most aggressive cancers there is, there are enough success stories out there to provide hope. There are exceptions to the usually grim prognosis, survivors with 5, 10, even 15 years behind them, so make up your mind to be the next one. Larry Davis in South Florida ran a triathlon earlier this year. David Cutts in New Jersey was dancing at his grandson’s wedding in June. Ruth Phillips in Georgia is walking a few miles every day. They all are living active lives, all more than five years after being diagnosed with mesothelioma. You can read about them on our site.
Few doctors have an expertise with this cancer. Find one. This is such a rare cancer that many doctors, even good oncologists, don’t know all the intricacies of mesothelioma. You don’t want someone who only sees it once or twice a year. More than ever, you want a great specialist, someone who sees it every day. You deserve the best. It will make a difference.The best ones are on our website. Maybe you don’t live close to them, but make every effort to see one of them. Don’t let finances prevent you from going. Some of these specialists work with charitable organizations that can help defray the costs. At least explore the possibility. Take advantage of our Doctor Match Program. It’s free. You only have your life to gain.
Don’t forget about diet and nutrition. It will make a huge difference in how you feel. Eating healthy, even if you don’t feel like it anymore, can help significantly. Good nutrition doesn’t cure any cancers, but nutritional therapy helps your own immune system function more efficiently, and work harder in fighting the cancer. There are positive side effects from eating healthy.Keep a log, and chart what you eat. There are foods to eat and foods to avoid. Take note of what foods make you feel better. Conventional mesothelioma treatments really take a toxic toll on your body, so it needs to be fueled for the fight. This isn’t going to be easy, but a good diet can make things go a little easier.
Alternative treatment options are available. Just because your doctor recommends one treatment plan, it’s not gospel. Even experts can’t guarantee success with mesothelioma. Think about the quality-of-life issue if surgery is suggested. This is not a one-size-fits-all disease. Conventional therapy isn’t the best for everyone. The IAT Clinic in the Bahamas has some incredible success stories to share. The Annie Appleseed Project is a non-profit that offers a variety of alternative therapies, many revolving around the rebuilding of the body’s own immune system. At least look into this option.
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You are not alone. There are support groups to help. Find one and participate. Sharing your highs and your lows can provide an emotional boost for you and for others. Mesothelioma patients all were exposed to asbestos at one time. They have something in common.
Families who have been through a cancer fight learn from the experience, and often are more than willing to share what they learned. You will have questions about what to do, where to go, how to handle everything. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. We have patient advocates who can direct you.
You have legal rights. Even with the best health insurance, the battle with mesothelioma can get costly. Make sure you see an attorney who has worked with cases like this before. Just like the doctors, attorneys need experience to handle mesothelioma cases. Companies that made products with asbestos knew how toxic it was. They were negligent. They should be held accountable. A good mesothelioma attorney can help you.
Find a clinical trial. Because there is no definitive cure, there always are on-going clinical trials, typically used to evaluate the latest medications and therapies. You might get lucky and find one that helps you tremendously. At the very least, participating provides an emotional boost, a feeling that you are not alone. Who knows, you might play a small role in finding a cure.
Veterans make up a third of diagnoses. This is a disease most often associated with blue-collar professions -- construction trades -- but it has hit the hardest on those who served in the Armed Forces, particularly in the Navy, where ships built before 1980 were loaded with asbestos from bow to stern. If you are in this category, talk to the veterans on staff at Asbestos.com. They can guide you through the complex VA roadmap, where you might find help.
Amazingly, asbestos still is being mined in North America. For all the pain and suffering it has caused — it has been banned in almost 50 countries worldwide — asbestos still is being mined in Canada and sold in mass quantities to still-developing countries, mostly in Asia and Africa. Although its use has been restricted in both the United States and Canada, it remains on the shelves in some products here. Speaking out and raising awareness about this problem can help future generations.
Genetics play a role here. Not everyone who is exposed to asbestos will get mesothelioma. Far from it, actually. Although this is one of the few cancers that are usually work-related and caused by direct negligence, some people are more predisposed to getting it than others. Some people have spent a life around asbestos and never got the disease. Others have had only brief exposure to it, and developed the disease.
Tim Povtak is an award-winning writer with more than 30 years of reporting national and international news. His specialty is interviewing top mesothelioma specialists and researchers, reporting the latest news at mesothelioma cancer centers and talking with survivors and caregivers.