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What do long-term mesothelioma survivors do differently?

On Behalf of | Sep 12, 2023 | Mesothelioma/Asbestos-Related Illness

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer for which there is currently no known cure. This isn’t what you want to hear if you receive a mesothelioma diagnosis, but it’s important to come to grips with the facts.

Indeed, one study suggests that mesothelioma victims fare better when they accept the facts of their new situation. They can then turn their focus toward coping strategies.

The three recurring themes of long-term survivorship

Published by BMJ Open Respiratory Research, the study looked for the different themes common to long-term survivor stories. According to the study’s authors, this meant survivorship of three or more years.

Unlike most scientific studies, which look for hard data like genetic markings, signature proteins and number sets, this focused on interviews with 15 patients. The researchers asked the patients and their primary caregivers a series of questions about several larger concerns:

  • Diagnoses
  • Treatments
  • Current physical and emotional health
  • Support needs
  • Hopes and concerns

The researchers then transcribed the interviews and looked for recurring themes. They found three notable themes in common:

  1. The patients and their caregivers all acknowledged that there is no known cure for mesothelioma, so they focused on coping.
  2. They all said they had struggled to cope with stalled progress or downturns after longer periods of stability.
  3. They also realized the importance of quality care and often sought to overcome limitations by looking for new treatments or clinical trials.

This last point is important because it echoes other survivor stories we’ve heard. Because mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer, doctors don’t always know how best to deal with it. This places an emphasis, as one woman noted, on advocating for yourself and the best possible treatment. While it’s important to accept the reality of your situation, you don’t want to accept one doctor’s defeatist stance. Keep looking. Get another opinion. Find the best available treatment.

Top-quality treatment is critical

The importance of top-quality treatment is clear in quantitative studies, as well as qualitative ones. Earlier studies found that patients who pursue more aggressive treatment strategies tend to live an average of 30% longer than patients who focus just on palliative care. Accepting reality is important, but that doesn’t mean giving up.

In the end, the studies suggest that you need to recognize your limits and the limits of science. But, at the same time, science keeps pushing its limits forward. As a result, you want to make sure you know what treatment options are available. Accept the things you cannot change, but keep pushing to change the things you can.

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