13 Min Read
Last Updated: 05/21/2024
Fact Checked

Written by Michelle Whitmer | Medically Reviewed By Dana Nolan, MS, LMHC | Edited By Walter Pacheco

Fact Checked

Surviving Mesothelioma 

A person with mesothelioma is considered a survivor from the time of diagnosis through the rest of their life. While living with mesothelioma is a challenging journey, many patients focus on improving quality of life and spending time with family. 

Most long-term survivors found a specialist with training and experience in mesothelioma treatment. Don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion or travel for treatment. The right specialist or clinical trial can make a big impact. 

In 2023, a clinical trial that combined immunotherapy with chemotherapy reported that 25% of advanced stage pleural mesothelioma patients lived longer than 3 years. Reports of long-term stage 4 cases have described patients who responded well to systemic therapies. Another 2023 case report of advanced pleural mesothelioma described an 11-year survivor who only received systemic chemotherapy and immunotherapy. 

Facing mesothelioma is difficult for a patient’s whole family, and caregivers need just as much help as patients do. If you’re taking care of a loved one with mesothelioma, don’t hesitate to seek support for yourself as well.

Why Do Some Mesothelioma Patients Live Longer Than Others?

How long someone lives following a diagnosis heavily depends on the stage of the cancer. It also depends on where the cancer is in the body, how fast it spreads, and a person’s overall health, age and gender.

Mesothelioma life expectancy varies from case to case because some patients respond better to treatment. Emerging treatments and clinical trials help some patients outlive their life expectancy. While early detection has historically played a major role in becoming a long-term survivor, advancements in treatment are helping late-stage patients live longer.

Factors That May Extend Survival
  • Age: Younger people respond better to treatment and often live longer with this cancer.
  • Cell Type: Patients with epithelioid cells tend to live longer with mesothelioma.
  • Early Stage: Those diagnosed early may qualify for aggressive treatment that extends survival.
  • Gender: Women tend to live longer with the disease than men.
  • Treatment: Those who elect treatment can improve survival and control symptom progression.
  • Tumor Location: Patients with peritoneal mesothelioma have a better chance of longer survival.

specialist can treat the cancer and increase the odds of long-term survival. Improved surgical techniques, better drug combinations and more targeted therapies are important to improve survival rates.

We feature inspirational stories on our Wall of Hope. These include first-person accounts of how mesothelioma survivors are winning their battles.

Support for Survivors and Their Families 

Finding out you or a loved one have mesothelioma can feel overwhelming. But you don’t have to face this situation alone. There are plenty of resources to help you through this difficult time.

Survivors find support from family, friends, neighbors and community organizations. Support can also come from online support groups.

Mesothelioma Resources and Support
  • Educational Resources: The resources on Asbestos.com help people learn as much as possible about this rare cancer to make empowered choices about their care. You may search specialists on the website to locate a doctor in your area who can give a second opinion.
  • Financial Support: Patients and families have access to financial assistance for mesothelioma. Veterans also qualify for financial compensation and medical care.
  • Patient Advocates: Our advocates help find top mesothelioma specialists and cancer centers near you. They help you understand insurance and Medicare processes and provide assistance filing VA benefits claims.
  • Support Groups: Support groups help people learn more about coping by connecting with others who are going through the same situation. Our support group is open to patients and their caregivers, and a mental health counselor facilitates the group

Many hospitals and churches host cancer support groups. You may not find many people familiar with mesothelioma near where you live. However, if you search online, you can find active communities you can turn to for support. Learning from medical professionals, patient advocates and mesothelioma survivors will help guide you on your treatment journey.

Dr. Jacques Fontaine and Dr. Virginia Wolf
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How The Mesothelioma Center Helps Patients Improve Survival

The team of Patient Advocates at The Mesothelioma Center matches patients with doctors and medical resources. They also help patients navigate the health care system. Testimonials from people we’ve helped offer examples of what our advocates can do for patients and their families.

Patient Advocate Karen Selby has been my angel. I can’t tell you how amazing she has been through every step of the way. Her knowledge has been golden for us. From connecting us with specialists, to just bouncing ideas off her, I couldn’t have done this for Michael without her. We’d be lost.

Our Veterans Outreach team connects veterans with VA treatment centers that provide the best treatment for mesothelioma. The team works directly with veterans across the country, helping them complete VA disability claims for military asbestos exposure.

Mesothelioma Survivors and Their Stories

Advancements in treatment and earlier detection have helped mesothelioma patients improve their prognosis. These survivor stories provide hope and inspiration.

Stories From Our Wall of Hope

Our Wall of Hope serves as a collection of stories from survivors who have lived beyond their life expectancies, taken unique steps to keep themselves and their loved ones engaged as well as accounts of the treatments they underwent to live better lives.

Pleural mesothelioma survivor Patricia Stevens
Patricia Stevens
Diagnosis: pleural mesothelioma, 2021

Patricia’s love of travel wouldn’t let her stay down for long after the chemotherapy and pleurectomy and decortication surgery she received for pleural mesothelioma. Prior to treatment, she had traveled to 47 states and five continents throughout her lifetime. “I learned a long time ago, you can lose everything – your home, your money, your health – but that travel experience, it never goes away,” she said. She has plans to visit the remaining three states and two continents. Cancer runs in her family. Her mother and cousin also died of mesothelioma.

Read Patricia’s Story
Comedian Quincy Jones in his HBO show
Quincy Jones
Diagnosis: peritoneal mesothelioma, 2015

Quincy turned his diagnosis into an opportunity to follow his passion for stand-up comedy in 2016 when he appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Soon, he had a one-hour special on HBO, “Quincy Jones: Burning the Light,” filmed shortly after a round of chemotherapy. Quincy initially underwent cytoreductive surgery with heated chemotherapy, which kept him free of recurrence until doctors discovered new tumors on his lungs in 2021. Another round of chemotherapy kept the recurrence under control. He returned to performing stand-up comedy in Los Angeles.

Read Quincy’s Story
Alexis K.
Diagnosis: peritoneal mesothelioma, 2007

Alexis was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 2007 at age 37. She had major surgery that removed part of her diaphragm, yet she kept her wedding plans in place. Alexis refuses to let mesothelioma get in the way of the life she and her husband have built. In 2017, she helped him through a stage 3 skin cancer diagnosis. They don’t know how many wedding anniversaries they will have, but they celebrate their time together. “It’s kind of cool now to hear people say, ‘You don’t look or act sick,’” Alexis said. “They start to see cancer in a different way when they see me.”

Read Alexis’s Story
Michelle M., Peritoneal mesothelioma survivor
Michelle M.
Diagnosis: peritoneal mesothelioma, 2002

Michelle wanted something special to commemorate her 10-year milestone as a mesothelioma survivor. She had an artist tattoo “FAITH” on her left wrist, where she could see it anytime she needed help. “I do believe everything happens for a reason, and I have faith that God has a plan for me,” Michelle says. “After everything I’ve been through, it would be impossible to think otherwise.” Michelle was diagnosed at 44. Her daughter was 5 at the time. The hardest part emotionally was getting past the thought of leaving her daughter at such a young age.

Read Michelle’s Story
Mesothelioma survivor Trina Reif
Trina Reif
Diagnosis: peritoneal mesothelioma, 2001

Trina traveled the country — and loved every minute of it — after recovering from a combination of cytoreductive surgery and heated chemotherapy. She was diagnosed young, at 36, which gave her a fighting chance at long-term survival. “The diagnosis was devastating, but I was determined to live long enough to see who my two children would become,” Trina said.

Read Trina’s Story
Mesothelioma survivor Ruth Phillips and her husband Glenn.
Ruth Phillips
Diagnosis: peritoneal mesothelioma, 1999

Ruth opted against the conventional treatments recommended upon her diagnosis of peritoneal mesothelioma in 1999, taking an alternative therapy approach instead. She found the Immune Augmentative Therapy Centre, now known as Quantum Immunotherapy, in Freeport, Bahamas, which focused on rebuilding her immune system. Ruth returned to Freeport annually for many years and now relies on vitamins, supplements and herbal formulas to stay healthy. “I think it was fortunate that we happen to hit on something that worked,” she said.

Read Ruth’s Story
Kevin Hession visiting St. Peter's Basilica
Kevin Hession
Survivor

Kevin Hession is passionate about sharing his story and reaching out to other mesothelioma survivors. Kevin was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in August 2021. His goal is to raise awareness about this rare cancer and help others who are on similar journeys.

Read Kevin’s Story
Raeleen Minchuk Prokopetz
Raeleen Minchuk Prokopetz
Diagnosis: peritoneal mesothelioma, 2014

Raeleen celebrates hitting her 10-year survivor milestone in October 2024. She was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma when she was only 36 years old. “The day that I was told I was going to die I was 36 years old and a mother,” Raeleen told us. Now she’s sharing some advice for other survivors on the same journey as herself.

Read Raeleen’s Story

In Memoriam: Mesothelioma Survivors We Lost

We honor the stories of mesothelioma survivors who lived their lives to the fullest before they died. Their stories serve as a reminder of the medical advancements needed to cure this disease.

Tim C., Pleural mesothelioma survivor
Tim Crisler
Diagnosis: pleural mesothelioma, 2002

Tim originally decided against surgery and chemotherapy when he was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in 2002, but his daughter convinced him otherwise. He traveled to Boston and underwent an extrapleural pneumonectomy at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The surgery and chemotherapy were taxing, but he exceeded all expectations. He was among America’s longest-living male pleural mesothelioma survivors. Tim died in December 2023.

Read Tim’s Story
Mesothelioma survivor Cheryl Pilkington
Cheryl Pilkington
Diagnosis: pleural mesothelioma, 2020

Cheryl’s diagnosis may have limited her golf and tennis, not her desire to serve others. She worked as a board-certified family physician and regular volunteer in her community. She helped at her church, a veterans’ club, a local homeless shelter and a home for disabled children. “It’s just who I am,” Cheryl said. “I try to live every day as positively as I can. I’ve been lucky.” Her treatment included a pleurectomy and decortication surgery, chemotherapy and immunotherapy. Cheryl died in October 2023.

Read Cheryl’s Story
Emily Ward, pleural mesothelioma survivor
Emily Ward
Diagnosis: pleural mesothelioma, 2012

Following her diagnosis, Emily found the best mesothelioma surgeon at the time, Dr. David Sugarbaker. Emily credited Sugarbaker for her nearly 10-year survival with pleural mesothelioma. The diagnosis forced her to retire after 43 years as a nurse. However, she soon returned to work as a pharmacy tech and lodging manager at a physical therapy center. Emily continued caring for others by volunteering in her community and supporting the mesothelioma community. Emily died in May 2022.

Read Emily’s Story
Colonel Doug Thomas and wife Tiffany
Col. Doug Thomas
Diagnosis: pleural mesothelioma, 2020

Col. Doug Thomas served as chief of operations for the Long Range Precision Fires Cross-Functional Team at the Fort Sill Army Base. He was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in May 2020 and underwent extensive treatment at the Baylor Medical Center in Houston. “When I was diagnosed with mesothelioma it made me realize the disproportionate number of veterans who develop cancer compared to their civilian counterparts,” he said. Doug died in May 2021.

Read Col.’s Story
Sydney R, Mesothelioma Survivor
Sydney R.
Diagnosis: pleural mesothelioma, 2011

Sydney R., of Katy, Texas, never forgot what she learned fighting for her life as a child more than 60 years ago, framing her perspective as she battled malignant pleural mesothelioma. She was diagnosed in 2011. “If you’re unlucky enough to get this disease (mesothelioma), then you better put your big-girl clothes on, and come ready for a fight,” she said. “It’s the only way you’re going to make it through. You have to be aggressive.”

Read Sydney’s Story
Andy Ashcraft
Diagnosis: pleural mesothelioma, 2010

Andy survived a horrific motorcycle crash in 2004 that almost killed him, and he had every intention of surviving his 2010 diagnosis of pleural mesothelioma. Andy was not a surgical candidate because his cancer had already metastasized, but he found something better. With the help of mesothelioma specialist Dr. David Jablons, Andy enrolled in a clinical trial involving amatuximab. He also used medical cannabis. Andy died in 2017.

Read Andy’s Story
Wayne N., mesothelioma survivor
Wayne N.
Diagnosis: pleural mesothelioma, 1991

Wayne N. knew exactly what caused the mesothelioma cancer that pushed him into an earlier-than-planned retirement as a union electrician in Cincinnati, Ohio. Wayne believed his mesothelioma developed after a 35-year career as an electrician handling insulation material. He was diagnosed in 1991. A good friend and fellow union member he worked close with died from mesothelioma. Wayne died in 2016.

Read Wayne’s Story

Common Questions About Mesothelioma Survivors

What are some long-term effects or complications of mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma and its treatment may cause long-term nerve pain, edema, weight loss and fatigue. Breathing difficulties and digestive issues may result from pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma, respectively.

How often should mesothelioma survivors undergo follow-up appointments or scans?

The frequency of follow-up appointments depends on the patient and the type of treatment they receive. Your doctor may recommend scans every three or four months, and routine check-ups may occur more frequently.

Can mesothelioma recur after treatment?

Yes, unfortunately, mesothelioma commonly recurs after treatment. Depending on the stage of the disease, recurrences may be treated with surgery, immunotherapy, chemotherapy or radiation. Many patients have lived for years with mesothelioma thanks to effective treatment of recurring tumors.

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