Mesothelioma Patient Becomes Rare Five-Year Survivor

07/30/2010 // Chicago, IL, USA // Cooney & Conway // Mesothelioma lawyers: Cooney & Conway

One of the grim realities of asbestos exposure is that mesothelioma researchers have not seen nearly the success of mesothelioma lawyers. The asbestos-related disease—a cancer of the protective lining that covers many of the body’s internal organs—is almost always fatal.

So while asbestos lawsuits have helped victims and their families recover compensation and medical costs for a disease that should never have happened, a cure—even a treatment that could prolong their lives for years instead of months—has been elusive.

That makes the story of a Massachusetts woman—a mesothelioma survivor—all the more stunning. Diagnosed with what doctors called terminal cancer five years ago, she is beating the odds after an aggressive and risky treatment by a Boston surgeon.

“It’s just incredible,” said Karen Grant, who had been diagnosed with the asbestos-related disease when she was just 29 and told that she, like most mesothelioma victims, had only months to live. “I never thought I’d look this good and be living the life.”

But Grant, of Haverhill, Mass., is doing well, thanks to a pioneering treatment by Dr. David Sugarbaker of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Over the course of two surgeries, he cut out the mesothelioma tumor that had lined both of Grant’s lungs, using a laser to remove cancer cells too small to be seen and bathing her lungs with hot chemotherapy. Those operations were then followed by months of chemo and rehabilitation.

The procedure was traumatic, unprecedented, and laden with risk. But for Grant, all of that had to be weighed against the grim diagnosis of mesothelioma, which typically develops years, even decades, after asbestos exposure.

“We offered her a very aggressive approach, to which a lot of patients could have said no, thank you. But not Karen,” said Sugarbaker.

In the five years since the surgeries and chemo, Grant’s lung scans have continued to come back normal—something that has amazed her oncologists, who are all too familiar with mesothelioma’s track record.

“Five years is a huge benchmark,” said Dr. Pasi Janne of the Boston-based Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. “If another occurrence is going to happen, it is going to be more common in the first couple of years.”

Grant says she hopes her story will give hope to other mesothelioma victims.

At the same time, no matter how far medical science comes in treating the asbestos-related cancer, proper handling and removal of asbestos could prevent mesothelioma in the first place. It is still present in countless buildings, offices, schools, and homes across the country.

Even though we have long known that asbestos contamination causes cancer, safety regulations are often skirted or ignored outright, particularly in renovation and demolition work. The risk of inhaling asbestos fibers, released into the air when dislodged, is greatest during such work. So why are rules meant to save lives broken? Because following them can be costly.

But as mesothelioma victims like Karen Grant know, the costs of not following them can be far greater.

This news story was brought to you by the mesothelioma lawyers at Cooney & Conway. For more than half a century, we have been champions of those injured due to the negligence or wrongful actions of others. We have litigated, settled, and resolved some of the nation’s most significant asbestos lawsuits, bringing answers—and compensation—to victims of asbestos-related diseases like lung cancer and mesothelioma.

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