National Cancer Survivors Day: Mesothelioma Journeys and Hope

Health & Wellness

National Cancer Survivors Day is celebrated each year on the first Sunday in June, which will be June 2 this year. It’s a day designated to recognize cancer survivors, raise awareness of the challenges they face and to celebrate life after a cancer diagnosis. 

Cancer treatment centers and cancer support organizations often host celebrations. They’re an opportunity for survivors to gather, honor their cancer journey and celebrate cancer survivorship.  

Some mesothelioma patients have shared that they wonder if they can call themselves a survivor when they’re still in treatment or have some evidence of mesothelioma. The National Cancer Institute defines a cancer survivor as any person “from the time of diagnosis.” 

Anyone who has ever been diagnosed with cancer – including mesothelioma patients – is a survivor. National Cancer Survivors Day is a special opportunity for mesothelioma survivors to reflect on their journey and celebrate their perseverance. 

Finding Hope in Mesothelioma Treatment Advances

In my experience as a mental health counselor in the field of oncology and a mesothelioma support group facilitator, I’ve heard from mesothelioma survivors that they sometimes struggle to find hope as they live with a cancer that doesn’t yet have a cure. As a cancer survivor myself, I’ve personally found looking to the past can help inspire hope for the future.

Seeing how far treatment for mesothelioma and other cancers has come since I began as a counselor in 1996 gives me hope for how far we’ll go now. Just this month the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted priority review to the combination of immunotherapy drug Keytruda and chemotherapy as a frontline treatment for metastatic malignant pleural mesothelioma. 

Hope reflects our aspirations and desires for the future. Seeing past advances that made it possible for people with mesothelioma to be diagnosed sooner, treated more effectively and live longer gives me hope. Ongoing research in mesothelioma treatment continues today and will continue to build on what we’ve learned so far.

Advances to Celebrate This National Cancer Survivors Day
  • May 2024
    FDA grants priority review to Keytruda with chemotherapy as a frontline treatment for pleural mesothelioma.
  • 2020
    FDA approved Yervoy in combination with Opdivo as a first-line treatment for inoperable pleural mesothelioma. Keytruda was also FDA-approved, but as a second-line treatment.
  • 2019
    The FDA approved Tumor Treating Fields in combination with chemotherapy for mesothelioma. TTFields use alternating electrical fields to control tumor growth.
  • 2003
    Human genome mapping led to identifying genetic factors in screening and treating certain cancers, including mesothelioma.
  • 1991
    FDA approved a new line of anti-nausea medications that greatly improve quality of life while undergoing chemotherapy and allow more patients to complete treatment.
  • 1990s
    Heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy, or HIPEC, was developed for peritoneal mesothelioma patients and has helped peritoneal mesothelioma patients live longer than 5 years.
  • 1974
    CT scans were first used on humans to detect tumor location more effectively
  • 1970s
    Decline in the use of asbestos after many studies demonstrated a link between asbestos exposure and cancer.
  • 1949
    The FDA approved the first chemotherapy drug.
  • 1937
    The National Cancer Institute was established to fund and support research into the causes, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

When I began facilitating our monthly mesothelioma support group in 2014, immunotherapy was not yet a first-line treatment option for mesothelioma as it is today. Seeing how far we’ve come to this point and the progress we’ve made in 2024 alone gives me hope. 

This year we’ve seen the FDA fast track a UV 1 vaccine in combination with Opdivo and Yervoy. Analysis of ADI-PEG20 (pegargiminase) showed it quadrupled 3-year survival rates. And early detection tests for mesothelioma are in development.

For those with mesothelioma, cancer survivor’s day can be a day of having mixed feelings. But focusing on the advances we’ve made and the significant research breakthroughs happening right now can help offer hope to those diagnosed with mesothelioma.

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