If you or someone you love is a veteran who has recently been diagnosed with mesothelioma, there are an incredible number of decisions that need to be made. In the face of the shock of the disease and relentless fear about the future, the question of whether or not to have a potentially expensive genetic test done may seem like nothing but an additional and unnecessary needle stick. The truth is that the test can have real value, and can help your physician guide you to the most effective treatment option specifically tailored to your condition and disease.
We all carry a genetic code when we are born, but people who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma have a far higher risk of having a specific genetic mutation known as BAP1. It is not entirely clear whether veterans and others with mesothelioma are born with this mutation or whether the mutation occurs as a result of some biochemical activity introduced once the cancer cells begin to grow. What is known, however, is that mesothelioma patients who have tested positive for the mutation tend to be younger and healthier at the time of their diagnosis, and when provided with treatment protocols that are tailored to the presence of the mutation, they tend to have survival times that far exceed the standard one to two year overall survival that is typical of mesothelioma.
One of the biggest proponents of genetic testing for malignant mesothelioma is Dr. Michele Carbone, director of thoracic oncology at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center and one of the first researchers to identify BAP1 in patients diagnosed with the asbestos-related cancer. Carbone has indicated that only one in three mesothelioma patients are currently undergoing testing, and he fears that as a result they may be cheating themselves of the highly customized treatment approaches that could make the difference between a one-to-two-year survival after diagnosis and a five-to-ten-year survival. It could also make the difference in whether a patient is accepted into a clinical trial that could expose them to some of the most innovative drugs being tested around the country.
Veterans who have mesothelioma are entitled to special benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, but they are also able to access state-of-the-art medical care. For information about your rights and how to access them, contact us today at 1-800-726-7245.