Mesothelioma Treatments

Mesothelioma Survivors

As far as the various and sundry types of malignant cancers go, mesothelioma is perhaps the worst. Building up and spreading in a sheet on the layer between the lungs (or other internal organs such as the stomach or heart) and the inner wall of the chest and/or abdomen, it literally suffocates the victim or squeezes these vital organs painfully until they can no longer function. Historically, this type of cancer has undetectable until it is far advanced. Except in rare cases, symptoms usually do not appear until decades after initial exposure to asbestos, and patients' life expectancy after such a diagnosis have been measured in weeks.

There is a silver lining however. As medical science gains greater understanding of mesothelioma and the mechanisms that cause it and other cancers, victims of this vicious disease are actually living for years - and even decades - after diagnosis.

Part of this has to do with better treatments and in some cases, radical lifestyle changes. The other part of the equation has to do with the development of better diagnostic tools, allowing oncologists to detect mesothelioma at much earlier stages when there is a chance to cure the disease.

Meet a Survivor

Paul Kraus is possibly the most famous mesothelioma survivor in the world. Australia has some of the world's highest rates of mesothelioma, and the type of asbestos with which Mr. Kraus worked with as a youth during the summer of 1962 is of the "blue" crocidolite variety - one of the deadliest kinds. He was diagnosed with the disease in 1997, and of this writing (2009) remains alive and well.

Following his diagnosis, Kraus was determined to learn everything he could about the disease. What he discovered was that high levels of oxygenation make for a hostile environment when it comes to cancer cells - something that medical science has confirmed. In addition to a vegetarian diet, Kraus undergoes regular ozone therapy (ozone is a form of molecular oxygen with an extra atom).

Kraus also attributes his ongoing survival to a diet consisting of fresh, organic fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. He chooses foods that are dense in nutrients and help the body to flush out old toxins while preventing the build-up of new ones. In his book, Surviving Mesothelioma and Other Cancers: A Patient's Guide, Paul Kraus also emphasizes the importance of maintaining a positive outlook: "When you affirm and fully believe that your diet, along with everything helping you to get well again, your mind is sending strong, 'live' messages to your body. In time, your body will respond."

Other Survivors

The April 2007 issue of Cancer Monthly featured brief stories of three other survivors who underwent surgeries or minimal radiation treatments, and remained alive for several years afterwards. In all three cases, the patients lived for up to fourteen years following their diagnoses - including one whose mesothelioma was detected in the 1970s, when cancer treatments were far less advanced.

The Role of the Immune System

What Paul Kraus does essentially "jump-starts" and strengthens his immune system. Oncology research increasingly suggests that the body's immune function plays a role in the survival of these patients.

The idea of using the body's own defenses against cancer is not a new one. Back in the 1980s, it was theorized that the presence of asbestos fibers - an inorganic substance - caused the immune system to malfunction. This has since been confirmed in a recent Swiss study which indicates that the presence of asbestos fibers cause ongoing inflammation of lung and pleural tissues. Essentially, the immune system appears to become "fatigued."

Another challenge lies in the fact that cancer cells are not "foreign invaders" - they are simply the body's own cells that have begun uncontrolled growth and refuse to die off normally. Thus, phagocytes (the white blood cells that actually attack pathogens) do not "see" them. Immune therapies currently being studied focus on "training" these phagocytes to recognize cancer cells as a pathogenic threat.

Earlier Detection, Better Treatments

The vast majority of cancers are curable - if diagnosed in the very early stages. As mentioned above however, symptoms of mesothelioma do not become apparent until thirty to fifty years after a patient's exposure to asbestos. A recent test developed by a Japanese biotech company is now enabling oncologists to detect the early markers of mesothelioma in a patient's blood - specifically Soluble Mesothelin-Related Peptides, or SMRP. Peptides are a type of amino acid or protein; mesothelin is one such peptide that is normally present on the mesothelial lining. However, when this peptide shows up in the blood in large amounts, it indicates the presence of a malignancy.

In addition to earlier detection, mesothelin is being studied as a therapeutic agent as well. Currently, clinical trials are underway involving the use of recombinant "immunotoxins" that bind to mesothelin, which in turn transports the substance to the cancerous cells on the surface of the mesothelium. These immunotoxic substances then force "cell-death," or apoptosis on the malignant cells.

The Mind-Body Connection

Eastern, or Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has long recognized the connection between mind and body - something Western medicine is only now beginning to understand. While Paul Kraus attributes his longevity to a positive mental outlook and meditation, he is not the only one. Rhio O'Connor, another mesothelioma survivor, practices "mind-body medicine," a combination of stress-reduction exercises and meditation in addition to taking supplements.

Most mesothelioma survivors agree that when it comes to survival, attitude and outlook play a large part. To get a complete information packet with more information about mesothelioma survival, please fill out the web form on this page.

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