What factors play a role in determining how long you will live after receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis? Your prognosis is affected by a number of factors, some of which are out of your control, but others you have influence over. Focus on the changes you can make to improve your mesothelioma survival rate.
You can’t control the type of mesothelioma you were diagnosed with, nor can you control the stage. But you can make improvements to your overall health that will make you stronger and more capable of withstanding cancer treatment.
By focusing on the things you can influence, you won’t be as stressed by the things you can’t change. Harnessing your energy toward healing and improving your health will put your mind and body in the right place to get you through cancer treatment and recovery.
The factors you can change affect your lifestyle and health. Through research, doctors have learned that the following lifestyle and health factors can impact mesothelioma prognosis.
Among the most important changes you can make to improve your mesothelioma life span are improvements to your overall health. Some of the most important facets to good health include diet, exercise, adequate sleep and a low-stress lifestyle.
Follow the Healthy Eating Plate and Healthy Eating Pyramid for healthy diet guidelines. Read our information on how improving nutrition intake may impact your prognosis.
Healthy older adults should aim for 2.5 hours of aerobic activity per week. Adults who cannot meet this guideline should try to be as physically active as possible.
Get at least eight hours of sleep a night. People undergoing treatment, especially chemotherapy, may need to sleep much more than this.
Modify your life to reduce stress. This might mean reaching out to loved ones who can help take responsibilities off your hands, such as running errands, keeping up with bills and housework.
Coping with cancer symptoms and treatment is stressful. Ask your treatment center if a mental health counselor is available to help you learn effective coping strategies. These strategies will help you handle stress and emotions when they feel overwhelming. Keeping stress levels low will allow your immune system to function well. You can also strive to maintain a hopeful outlook to help you through difficult days. When motivation and determination are challenging to muster, you can reach out to your family and friends for support.
Researchers have found that weight loss and appetite loss are associated with a poorer prognosis. Chemotherapy can commonly cause patients to lose their appetite and drop weight. But there are things you can do to reduce these side effects or prevent them from happening. Medications are available to treat chemotherapy-related nausea and increase appetite. Diet modifications and certain herbs may also help increase appetite and prevent weight loss.
Another factor that impacts mesothelioma prognosis is smoking. Smokers don’t recover from surgeries for pleural mesothelioma as well as nonsmokers. The lungs of smokers aren’t as healthy as nonsmokers, which makes smokers more susceptible to pulmonary complications. Ask your doctor about programs to help you quit smoking.
Depending on your current health and lifestyle habits, you may be able to take other steps to improve your overall health. For example, heavy drinkers can reduce their consumption of alcohol. Inactive folks can slowly increase their activity to improve fitness. Fast-food eaters can transition to a whole-foods diet. Find the areas of your life where health improvements can be made and slowly start to make them.
There are factors that affect your prognosis that you have little to no influence over.
Patients younger than 55 years old tend to respond better to treatment and have longer overall survival. Older patients tend to not respond as well to aggressive surgery and chemotherapy.
Statistics show that women live longer with mesothelioma than men do. Researchers haven’t proven why this trend exists, but they suspect that hormonal differences and genetics are contributing factors.
The cells that make up mesothelioma tumors are classified by their shape and composition. There are three primary cell types: Epithelial is the most common, sarcomatoid is the least common, and biphasic (a mix of the other two types) is slightly more common than sarcomatoid. Epithelial cells respond best to treatment and are associated with longer survival. Sarcomatoid cells don’t respond as well to treatment and people with this cell type live an average of six months. The survival of people with biphasic tumors depends upon the ratio of epithelial to sarcomatoid cells.
Early-stage mesothelioma responds better to treatment than late-stage mesothelioma, which can extend survival for those diagnosed early. The stage of the cancer indicates how much it has grown and spread. The more the cancer has progressed, the less able surgeons are to completely remove all tumor growth. Chemotherapy is also less able to make an impact on tumors when they’ve extensively grown and spread. Catching the cancer early can positively impact your mesothelioma life span if treatment begins immediately.
Mesothelioma tumors that originate in the lining of the abdomen, called peritoneal mesothelioma, tend to respond better to treatment than tumors that originate in the lining of the lungs, called pleural mesothelioma. This better treatment response translates into longer survival for peritoneal patients who elect treatment.
Blood cell counts can serve as prognostic indicators in mesothelioma studies. Researchers have found that high white cell count and low hemoglobin level are associated with a poorer prognosis. The prognostic significance of platelets is inconclusive.
Certain biological molecules in the body may have prognostic value in mesothelioma. Called biomarkers, these molecules are often proteins like mesothelin, osteopontin, fibulin-3 and BCL2. For example, biomarker mesothelin is helpful in predicting individual response to chemotherapy. A 2013 Japanese study found low levels of mesothelin are associated with longer survival following treatment with chemotherapy. Mesothelin is also helpful in confirming a mesothelioma diagnosis.
New research is finding that certain genes are associated with improved or poorer prognosis. The research on genetic prognostic factors is just beginning, but some studies have found genes that are associated with longer survival or better response to treatment. For example, a Brigham and Women’s Hospital study found four genes that are helpful in predicting a person’s response to aggressive surgery for pleural mesothelioma.