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Thriving With Mesothelioma: What You Should Know

By Manjari Bansal
A mesothelioma diagnosis can feel devastating at first, but there are resources that can help you live healthily and happily long after diagnosis.

Mesothelioma is a rare, aggressive type of cancer that occurs in the tissue that lines your internal organs, but many people thrive for many years after diagnosis.  If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, here’s what you need to know about living with mesothelioma and how to find support.

What is Mesothelioma?

According to the American Cancer Society, mesothelioma is cancer that originates in your mesothelium. Your mesothelium is a thin layer of tissue that lines the inside of your chest, abdomen, and space around your heart. Asbestos exposure is considered the biggest risk factor for developing mesothelioma. According to the American Lung Association, 8 in 10 people diagnosed with mesothelioma report exposure to asbestos.

“The most commonly affected organs include the lungs, abdominal cavity and heart,” Rupesh Kotecha, MD, chief of radiosurgery at Baptist Health’s Miami Cancer Institute in Florida, tells WebMD Connect to Care. “Mesothelioma of the lung is the most common of these subtypes that we see in medical practice, accounting for approximately 80% of cases.”

According to the American Cancer Society, symptoms of lung mesothelioma (also called pleural mesothelioma) include the following:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in the chest or lower back
  • Hoarseness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Swelling of the face and arms

Living With Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is usually diagnosed when cancer has advanced and you begin to experience symptoms. Many look at a mesothelioma diagnosis as a pretty dire diagnosis. However, proper treatment, support groups, and lifestyle changes may help you thrive and improve your quality of life.

According to the National Cancer Institute, there are four types of standard treatment for patients with mesothelioma:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy

Immunotherapy as a treatment for mesothelioma is currently being tested in clinical trials.

Joining a support group may help you manage the wide range of feelings you may experience during your fight against cancer by improving self-esteem, helping with depression, decreasing anxiety, and improving your relationships, according to the American Association for Cancer Research.

“I see a huge difference in patients who have a strong family support group, as well as community support groups,” Mark Dylewski, MD, chief of thoracic surgery at Baptist Health’s Miami Cancer Institute in Florida, tells WebMD Connect to Care. “It is hard to deal with the complexities of a cancer diagnosis without individuals who have been through it before and can provide their insights.”

According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 18% of all cancers diagnosed in the U.S. are associated with physical inactivity, being overweight, excessive alcohol consumption and poor nutrition. 

“Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is most important,” Dylewski says. “Aside from exercising 20 to 30 minutes daily and avoiding excessive use of alcohol, it's important for cancer patients to adopt healthy life practices.”

Legal Help is Available.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Don’t wait. Get help now.