In scientific terms, a prognosis is an estimated course of a disease and a life expectancy based on a set of statistics. In laymen’s terms, it’s an educated guess.
When mesothelioma patients first receive their prognosis, it’s often downright frightening and depressing. But it’s important to remember that your doctor’s prognosis is not set in stone. Just because you’re “given” a certain amount of time to live, doesn’t mean you must live up to that expectation. Now is the time to fight and prove those doctors wrong.
How do doctors come up with a prognosis?
For mesothelioma patients, it’s important to understand where a prognosis comes from. Each patient has an individual set of circumstances, so each person’s prognosis is different. However, doctors use generalized information to come up with a prognosis, making the process somewhat flawed.
The following information is used in devising a prognosis:
- Disease Type - Of the three common types of mesothelioma -- pleural (lungs), pericardial (heart) and peritoneal (abdominal) -- the most common is pleural. Pleural mesothelioma, which accounts for up to 75 percent of all cases, is the most researched and offers the best survival rates. The other types are harder to treat and less researched.
- Cell Type - Doctors also look at the type of cells and tissue involved in the mesothelioma to determine a prognosis. Epithelial cell mesothelioma accounts for up to 60 percent of all cases and is highly treatable. The other types -- sarcomatoid and the combination epithelial and sarcomatoid (called biphasic) -- present more challenges for doctors and are more difficult to treat.
- Disease Metastasis - The spread of the disease, or metastasis, is crucial in determining a prognosis because it shows a doctor how much damage has already been done. Localized mesothelioma is easier to treat and remove. Metastasized mesothelioma cancer is harder to treat and remove because there is no one area that must be treated.
- Disease Stage - This goes hand-in-hand with metastasis because metastasis is the key to determining the stage. Stage I mesothelioma means the cancer is localized in one area. Stage II means it has somewhat spread. Stage III and IV have the disease spread to distal areas in the body, creating a more difficult treatment situation.
- General Health - If you are younger and healthy, you have a better chance at a successful outcome. That’s not to say that older patients haven’t faired well, but it’s important to keep your health at the forefront.
Options After Prognosis
With the previous information in mind, take a close look at your own body. Ask yourself questions that include ‘how can I make changes now to improve my prognosis?’ While there are some things you can’t change -- like the stage of the disease or the type of mesothelioma -- there are changes that can be made, such as improving your diet or outlook on life. Some of the most famous mesothelioma patients who have lived long and satisfying lives with the disease have made marked changes in such areas.
In addition, learn more about available mesothelioma clinical trials. These allow patients to be on the cutting edge of medical advances and possibly help come up with a cure for mesothelioma. Also, start a regime of Complementary and Alternative Medicines (CAMs) that will bring calming and nurturing elements into your life.
National Cancer Institute. “Understanding Cancer Prognosis.” Retrieved from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/support/prognosis-stats
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). “Complementary, Alternative, or Integrative Health: What’s In a Name?” Retrieved from http://nccam.nih.gov/health/whatiscam