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How important are the survival rates for mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that can strike decades after someone is exposed to asbestos fibers in the air. Historically, long-term survival rates for the disease have been poor -- but statistics aren't everything.

Here are the things you should know when you're reading about survival rates and mesothelioma:

1. Survival rates can't predict what will happen to you

It's important not to get too focused on the specific survival rates for your diagnosis. Survival rates give you an understanding of what others have experienced -- but they don't tell your story. They can't tell you how you will do after treatment because every case is unique.

In addition, survival rates include a broad variety of individuals -- each of whom had different factors that may have affected their health long before their cancer diagnosis. For example, the survival rates don't show you how many of the people who died were lifelong smokers and suffered from other medical illnesses compared to those who were nonsmokers and relatively healthy prior to diagnosis.

In other words, don't think of survival rates as your "odds." They aren't. Your chances are going to be determined by your entire lifetime of being, general habits, overall health, ability to obtain care and plenty of other factors along the way.

2. Survival rates talk about the past, not the future

All survival rates for a diagnosis are several years behind the times. They're figures that are compiled out of the most recent records available -- but those are already a few years old at the start of any study.

Medical care is always advancing -- sometimes rapidly. There are more treatments available these days for mesothelioma than ever before -- which means the people who are most recently diagnosed are not likely to have the same outcomes as those in the past.

For example, many cancer treatments now include a multifaceted approach that involves surgery, chemo, photodynamic therapy and more, instead of the traditional "chemo only" approach. That's going to change the statistics in the future -- especially for those who opt for these kinds of treatments.

Don't allow the statistics to convince you that you don't have a great shot at survival. Mesothelioma litigation was designed, in part, to give victims the opportunity to get the medical care that they need to continue living full, productive lives -- despite their diagnosis.

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