Being diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma will most likely change your perspective about life. The things you put emphasis on will no longer hold the same value. The relationships and everyday things you paid little or no attention to will now seem important. Our value system as you know it changes, our viewpoints will change without any conscious awareness.
Most likely you will learn more about yourself than you ever thought. You will begin to understand what makes you tick. When recovering from mesothelioma you will learn to understand your body. A whole new relationship will form. All of a sudden you will have certain hours of the day that you will perform better than others. There will be foods that give you energy, while others that once provided comfort will now be less appealing. You will learn the art of compensation and the art of acceptance.
You may not like the limits mesothelioma has placed on you but you will learn to figure it out. Some days will be very difficult while others will go by with more ease.
Having a rare disease like malignant mesothelioma is not easy on any level. Most medical professionals will paint the worst case scenario, and then the real experts of this disease will give you all scenarios. These will range from the very best to the very worst. Some of this will be up to you.
Of course, your disease is there. The type and the extent are facts. Taking a step back after the initial shock takes place may be the best thing you can do. Picking and choosing the things or situations that you are in charge of may be helpful.
Remember the things that made you smile yesterday are still there. Make a list of the things you can do while treating Mesothelioma. Pull every positive aspect you can and write it down. Being overwhelmed can interrupt your thought process. If you can only think of a couple of items that you are in charge of then just write them down. Keep the notepad handy.
Another thing you can do is think of the things you are grateful for. It is a difficult time to feel grateful but just make the list. When you are feeling not so well some day you can go back and reflect upon these ideas. Your mesothelioma journey will take you to a place where your life will change, you will meet people and you will learn to smile again with your loved ones and your new friends.
Just last week, MesotheliomaHelp reported on a corporate partnership for blood test tools that will bring improved results in the detection of key lung cancer mutations. Blood biopsies are shown to be fast and accurate, as well as less stressful on the patients. Now, in another breakthrough using liquid biopsies, researchers report success in the early detection of mesothelioma and screening for multiple cancers using one tool.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University have developed the CancerSeek blood test that is able to screen for eight different types of cancers and can help pinpoint the location of the tumor. In a recent study of 1,005 cancer patients, the results had a “greater than 99 percent specificity for cancer,” according to a Jan. 19 press release from Johns Hopkins University.[expert_info author=”Bert Vogelstein, Johns Hopkins University”]”This test represents the next step in changing the focus of cancer research from late-stage disease to early disease, which I believe will be critical to reducing cancer deaths in the long term.”[/expert_info]
Although there are screening options for some cancers, such as breast and prostate, mesothelioma, and many other cancers, are diagnosed after the patient goes to a doctor exhibiting some of the signature symptoms of cancer: unexplained weight loss, extreme fatigue and a persistent cough. CancerSeek results had a sensitivity ranging from 69 percent to 98 percent in five cancers that do not currently have any screening test availables, including ovarian, pancreatic, and esophageal cancers.
The test, according to the researchers, looks at eight common cancer proteins and the presence of cancer gene mutations from DNA circulating in the blood. The team developed a “small yet robust panel” that could detect at least one mutation and not lead to false-positives. The test is used for cancer detection only, and does not detect specific biomarkers to drive treatment.
“The use of a combination of selected biomarkers for early detection has the potential to change the way we screen for cancer…,” says Nickolas Papadopoulos, senior author and professor of oncology and pathology at Johns Hopkins.
Pleural mesothelioma, a deadly cancer of the lungs caused by past exposure to asbestos, has a long incubation period where patients may not exhibit symptoms for decades after exposure. By then the disease is already at an advanced, incurable stage.
Early detection of cancer through screening reduces mortality from many cancers, including lung and colon, according to the National Cancer Society. When treating mesothelioma patients, the best outcome is achieved with early detection of the disease by increasing treatment options and improving the patients’ quality of life while battling the cancer.
The tests are still in the early stages of research and are not yet available; however, they may be helpful in diagnosing mesothelioma in the future. In fact, the team anticipates a relatively inexpensive test that may be conducted by a primary care provider.
Read the results of the study in the Jan. 18 issue of the journal Science.
MesotheliomaHelp has reported multiple times on the ongoing research to use liquid biopsies or blood samples to detect and manage the treatment of cancer. The non-invasive approach is easier on patients and can return results more quickly. Now, researchers report they have developed a tool that can look at a blood sample and determine whether cancer is present and its point of origin.
Find out more about research using blood tests here and here.
Researchers from The University of California, Los Angeles are using their proprietary tool CancerLocator to detect circulating cell-free DNA and to look at the genome-wide DNA methylation profile to detect cancer, according to a March 24 article in GenomeWeb. The tool, in effect, cross checks the DNA methylation data against a database the team developed that contains information about methylation markers common across cancers and specific to certain tissues, in seven cancers, including lung tissue.
“We have developed a computer-driven test that can detect cancer, and also identify the type of cancer, from a single blood sample,” said lead researcher Jasmine Zhou, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA.
During the study, the team found that the CancerLocator outperformed both the random forest and support vector machine standard algorithms in simulated data as well as with live cancer data. The test was also effective for detecting early-stage cancers.
Research shows that metastasis is the cause of nearly 90 percent of cancer deaths. Stopping tumor growth and preventing metastasis is critical, especially for mesothelioma and lung cancer where the diseases are highly aggressive. This can only be achieved if the cancer is detected early.
Mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer caused by past exposure to asbestos, is highly aggressive and is resistant to many cancer treatments making it a difficult disease to treat effectively. The prognosis for mesothelioma patients is usually grim: the average survival time varies from 4 – 18 months after diagnosis. Early detection can mean prolonged survival.
Although there are various cancer screening tools available, such as the colonoscopy for colon cancer, many of the tests are invasive and painful for the patients. However, in this case, there is no reliable method for early detection of the deadly mesothelioma cancer.
Zhou notes that with CancerLocator “the higher the fraction of tumor DNAs in blood, the more accurate the program was at producing a diagnostic result. Therefore, tumors in well-circulated organs, such as the liver or lungs, are easier to diagnose early using this approach than in less-circulated organs such as the breast.”
“The technology is in its infancy and requires further validation, but the potential benefits to patients are huge,” said Zhou.
Each year nearly 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma. The key to increased life expectancy when battling this cancer is early detection.
Read the full study in the March 24 issue of Genome Biology.
I remember the phone call so vividly: walking into the gym after a long day at work. My phone rang, and I just knew it was my mother. We were supposed to get Dad’s diagnosis at the end of the week – sure enough it was Friday and here she was calling. I dropped my bag, answered my phone, and bam, there it was. Mesothelioma. I froze. What was this? Neither my mom nor I had a clue as to what this cancer was all about.
I don’t remember if I was more scared and upset by Dad definitely having cancer, or by having no idea what my dad would go through with yet another type of cancer in his lifetime. I picked my gym bag back up and went straight home.
I talked to my mother on my way home. We cried, I listened to her tell me what the doctors said, and we took turns voicing our concerns. To my surprise, despite the news he got that day, Dad still went to work. I don’t know how my father has the strength that he has, I only hope it rubs off on me somehow because at that point I felt defeated. That night I decided to stay put in Philly at my place with my roommates. They gave me comfort that night and helped me to think through things logically, which in turn gave me strength.
Having fought cancer in the past, Dad assumed that once again he could stay in the comfort of his own home and local town for treatment. This was not an option since his past oncologist only worked with patients who had melanoma, and there were no oncologists in his hometown that specialized in mesothelioma. At first we thought that a doctor who treated lung cancer could treat him, but this was also not an option.
After an initial appointment with our family doctor, he recommended doctors in New York City and Philadelphia. This was very overwhelming to Dad because that meant traveling to one of the cities, long drives, traffic and more time off work. This was a lot to consider. My mother and I were very scared and stressed with waiting for a decision as to where to go. Dad did his research and listened to our family doctor about both places, as did my mom and I.
After researching both locations, the final decision was the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. We chose Abramson mostly because of their great reputation, and the fact that they could get Dad in for his first appointment much sooner than Memorial Sloane-Kettering in NYC. Plus I live in Philadelphia, so if my parents really needed a place to stay, they could stay with me.
After Dad’s first appointment, the doctors were aware of what they were facing and could have a conversation about treatment options. The process of treatment happened very quickly and my father began his fight with this horrible cancer. Throughout this whole experience our family’s mindset and goal was to get Dad the best treatment out there.
I can say that Dad is in very good hands and his team of doctors has been wonderful from the beginning. They continue to provide the best possible treatment and are very thorough when explaining what their plan is and how each and every appointment goes.
Check back next week for what treatments my dad went through, and how he fared throughout them all.
Know more about Mesothelioma and how you can deal with it.
In September, Duke researchers warned cancer patients of the potential of developing blood clots, or venous thromboembolism (VTE), during treatment, and up to one year after receiving chemotherapy. Now, the SAVE-ONCO study, funded by Sanofi, reports that in patients who were treated with an experimental form of heparin the risk of developing a blood clot was reduced by 65%. For mesothelioma patients facing other life-threatening complications, the addition of a blood thinner, such as heparin, to their treatment regimen may make a difference in their prognosis.
Low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) is often used during surgical procedures to limit the risk of VTE. However, many doctors are hesitant to use heparin during other forms of treatment for fear that the risk of bleeding complications outweighs the risk of a patient having a VTE.
In an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine, Drs. Elie Akl and Holger Schünemann of McMaster University discussed the potential benefits of adding ultra-low-molecular-weight heparin semuloparin during cancer treatment. The doctors referred to the results of the SAVE-ONCO study where patients receiving chemotherapy were also given a preventive dose of the medicine once daily for just over three months. The study demonstrated the benefits of the drug “without increase in major bleeding.”
The two doctors reported that the SAVE-ONCO study, taken together with prior similar studies, confirm their conclusion of “a likely small survival benefit” from the use of the drug.
The pair of doctors estimated “if 1,000 patients with cancer were to use a prophylactic dose of LMWH, approximately 30 would avert death, 20 would avert a clotting complication and one would suffer a major bleeding episode over a 12-month period.”
They added that daily injections of the LMWH could avert hospitalizations, and potentially, increase survival.
Duke researchers reported in their study that the average increase in costs associated with a VTE was $35,000 over patients without blood clots. Some doctors estimate that mesothelioma treatment already costs anywhere from $150,000 to $1 million. The added expense would place an undue, additional financial burden on the patients.
Akl and Schünemann added that patients looking for survival from their cancer will be faced with “some uncertainty” with the benefit from LMWH. They also added that more research is needed and “they are planning a sophisticated analysis of the published trials.”
Mesothelioma is a unique cancer affecting the lining of the lungs, and other organs, due to past exposure to asbestos. Treatment varies for the disease, depending on the stage of the cancer, but often involves surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease each year.
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