Australian Asbestos-Related Illness Treatment Options
Asbestos related lung cancers including mesothelioma are increasing at an alarming rate in Australia as in other parts of the world. Because of its long latency period from the time of exposure to diagnosis – from twenty to fifty years – asbestos disease has not yet reached its peak. No matter what country in which a patient lives, mesothelioma and asbestosis are hard to treat. In some countries there are more federally approved treatments and drugs than are found in Australia, although new legislation is paving the way for innovative and better treatments.
A patient in Australia may be offered one of several surgical procedures to relieve symptoms and prevent the spread of the cancer to other organs in the body. Unfortunately, a mesothelioma diagnosis is often made too late to realize any success from surgery. When surgery is recommended, available surgical options may include pleurectomy, the removal of the lung lining – the pleura – leaving the lung intact. An alternate surgery may involve removing the entire affected lung – an extrapleural pneumonectomy – including the pericardium, the diaphragm, and the pleura.
Chemotherapy and Radiation
Australia’s federal government began subsidizing Alimta in April 2008, the only chemotherapy drug specifically made to treat mesothelioma. This act has greatly reduced the burden on patients’ finances, since the price of an eighteen-week treatment cost the equivalent of $17,000 in Australian dollars. The drug has been shown to increase the life span of those suffering from mesothelioma when used in combination with cisplatin or another chemotherapy drug, as well as improving the quality of life. Before Alimta was used, most patients did not survive more than one year after the disease was diagnosed.
At times after surgery or during the use of chemotherapy, doctors may recommend radiation therapy in mesothelioma treatment to stop the disease from spreading or to relieve its symptoms. One option among the various forms of available radiation treatments involves directly implanting the radioactive material into the area affected by the disease.
Among the palliative treatments besides chemotherapy and radiation that are used to provide relief from the suffering and pain of mesothelioma is pleurodesis, the surgical introduction of a talc substance directly into the lungs to prevent fluid build-up. Another option is draining the fluid from around the lungs, a procedure called a thoracentesis, to allow the patient to breathe easier and reduce pain. Alternative palliative treatments may also be offered and include massage, hypnosis, meditation and acupuncture. Many patients report positive results with these treatments even though their benefits have not been proven.