Mesothelioma diagnosis is always difficult. Because mesothelioma is so rare and aggressive, patients and their families might find it difficult to address the issue of treatment. The options for mesothelioma treatment are steadily increasing and giving patients more of a hope. Since treatment is so readily available, it is extremely important that patients and their loved ones seek advice from their primary oncologists.
Each case of mesothelioma is different and considered individual. Because there are several different types, there is no set roadmap for the management and treatment of mesothelioma. What is best for each patient depends of many diagnostic procedures such as, x-rays, MRIs, CT scans and biopsies. These tests will help your primary physician or oncologist decide what the best treatment option for the individual case is.
Mesothelioma Treatment Options
Cancer treatment often varies by patient. However, all cancer treatments focus on destroying malignant cells and preserving healthy ones. Once patients are diagnosed, doctors usually recommend three primary treatment options. One being surgery, another being chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of all three.
These three recommended treatments are considered the most effective for the treatment of malignant mesothelioma. The course of treatment is usually decided based on the following issues:
- Type of mesothelioma and location of the tumor
- The size of the tumors
- The degree to which the cancer has spread
- The staging of the cancer (Stage I,II, III, etc.)
- The age of the patient
- The overall health of the patient
In order to ensure the patient receives the treatment that is best, it is important to see a variety of doctors such as, an oncologist (cancer specialist), pulmonologist (lung specialist), or radiologist. Without a doubt, patience is something each patient needs to have. It may take some time to determine the exact malignancy variety and location of the tumor. Once that is determined, doctors can then prescribe the best possible method of mesothelioma treatment.
Surgery for Mesothelioma Treatment
One option for the treatment of mesothelioma is surgery. In some cases surgery can be a cure to the rare cancer. Since mesothelioma is not usually diagnosed until the later stages, curative surgery is not usually an option. However, surgery can be used for palliative reasons. Once a tumor has metastasized in the pleural cavity, palliative surgery just provides the patient with more comfort and better quality of life. Curative surgery may become more of an option as tests are developed to detect mesothelioma in its early stages.
In mesothelioma cases in the more severe stages, a removal of the pleura (the lining of the lung that controls fluid buildup) may be
recommended. This procedure is known as a pleurectomy, which can help lessen the pain the difficulty of breathing.
Most surgeries in regards to mesothelioma are palliative meaning; they remove a section of the tumor or perform a procedure to relieve discomfort. One surgery doctors may opt for is called a pleurodesis, which injects talc into the lungs to prevent fluid from building up. Another surgery called a thoracentesis, which removes fluid from the lungs using a thin needle, may be recommended.
Radiation Therapy for Mesothelioma Treatment
For patients whose health is too fragile for surgery, radiation therapy is often recommended. Although radiation is an aggressive treatment, it is associated with the least side effects. It is typically more tolerable than chemotherapy for mesothelioma treatment. Radiation therapy is not typically used by itself. It is often used in conjunction with a different form of treatment such as surgery or chemotherapy. Your primary oncologist will decide depending on your individual case.
External Beam Radiation
Coming from a machine outside of the body, this form of radiation is the most preferred type to treat mesothelioma. The machine targets affected areas and is administered up to 5 days a week for up to 5 weeks. This method of radiation is not very efficient as a curative mesothelioma treatment, but is often used as a palliative treatment to lessen breathing difficulties, pain, bleeding, or difficulty swallowing. External beam radiation is in most mesothelioma cases paired in conjunction with surgery.
This form of radiation is more aggressive than some. Brachytherapy places radioactive materials directly inside the lung or area of the mesothelioma to treat it.
Chemotherapy for Mesothelioma Treatment
Chemotherapy is another effective form of treatment for mesothelioma. Although it does not provide a cure, it is extremely effective in providing relief from debilitating symptoms of mesothelioma. Researchers are continually studying the different combinations of chemotherapy drugs and procedures. Patients will continuously benefit from researchers findings. In the future, doctors hope that chemotherapy drugs may go as far as to be a cure for mesothelioma, but for now the drugs simply improve quality of the life patients have.
As an overview, chemotherapy drugs are either ingested orally or injected into the patient. Mesothelioma patients typically are
administered the drugs intravenously, meaning through an IV. In most cases, doctors will combine two different drugs for better results. One drug will serve as the primary cytotoxic and the other will serve as a stabilizing agent to surround healthy cells. Currently there is only one combination of drugs approved by the FDA. Those two are Alimta and Cisplatin. Other drugs are used in combination only if deemed patient specific for those patients participating in a clinical trial. Most patients using chemotherapy treatments are too weak to withstand two drugs and can typically tolerate one.
Heated chemotherapeutic treatment is a novel technique being integrated with surgical resections of mesothelioma tumors. It has been shown that heating the effected cells decreased cancer cell size and in some cases eliminated them. However, using this kind of treatment can destroy healthy cells as well as cancer cells.
There are several side effects patients may experience while going through chemo. Medication such as anti-nausea or vitamins might be prescribed to help patients combat side effects.
Clinical Trials for Mesothelioma Treatment
Clinical trials are the study of new treatments by skilled specialists of mesothelioma. Clinical trials are in constant need of patient willing to undergo experimental treatments not yet approved by the FDA. Patients should speak to their primary oncologists about current clinical trials, benefits, and risks of participating in the available trials. Those patients opting to participate should heavily consider the advantages versus the disadvantages, along with the total goals of the trial.
The response the number of asbestos related illness has been overwhelming in recent years. Researchers and specialists have been working each day towards a cure for malignant mesothelioma. Right now, there is no absolute cure for the disease, but there are several successful mesothelioma treatment programs.
Malignant mesothelioma treatments fall in line with the treatment of other lung cancers since they affect the same relative areas. Currently there are no curative treatments for mesothelioma, but there are a number of treatments that have been partially curative by completely removing the cancer from the body. However, although the cancer is gone, it does not mean the cancer will not reappear.
Curative treatments may not prevent the cancer from reappearing, but it is important to remember all the steps that are being taken towards the future of mesothelioma treatments. In 1997, Paul Krauss was first diagnosed with mesothelioma. His physician had only given him a few months to live, but today he stands before thousands spreading awareness about mesothelioma. He currently works with others in developing treatment programs that have been as successful as his treatment has been.
Medical researchers believe that once the right combination of treatments is found the road to curing mesothelioma will shorten. The growing technology such as the CT (Computer Topography) scans has been able to map several dimensional images of the body’s internal organs for targeted therapies. This type of advancement has offered researchers the ability to see inside of the body without invasion of the body cavity.
It is through technological advancements that cancer specialists are laying the down preliminary treatments for a cure.