Palliative Surgery

For mesothelioma patients who are suffering from a tumor that has greatly spread, palliative surgery may be an appropriate treatment choice. This is especially true for patients who underwent surgery but did not receive complete tumor removal due to its location. Palliative surgery can also be an appropriate course of action for those who are too sick to undergo a major operation. However, it is essential to understand that this surgery does not bring about a cure. It is only used to relieve symptoms and provide greater comfort to the patient.

Additional Relief Measures

In many cases, nonsurgical procedures are used to alleviate symptoms. Chest cavity fluid can be removed through the insertion of a needle, which is used to withdraw the excess fluid. Additionally, in certain cases, talc or medications are placed within the patient's chest cavity after the fluid has been withdrawn. This creates a seal between the lung and chest wall lining, thus preventing a further build-up of fluid. Fluid around the heart or in the lining of the abdomen can also be removed by inserting a hollow needle into the abdominal cavity. The needle is typically inserted through the skin, while local anesthesia is used to prevent unnecessary patient pain. This procedure can be done in a hospital or physician's office. However, along with the aforementioned procedures, this treatment is not a cure for the cancer, but used to alleviate symptoms and provide greater comfort for the patient.

Other Options

  If the above methods are not successful, the surgeon may choose to place a shunt in the patient's chest wall. This is a device which allows the fluid to migrate from one body part to another. A shunt is a hollow tube which is long and thin, and features a small pump. During the operation, the surgeon places one end of the shunt into the patient's abdomen and the other in his or her chest cavity. Once the shunt is properly placed, the individual can manually operate the pump in order to transport the fluid from the chest to the abdomen. Fluid is much more likely to be absorbed from this area of the body than from the chest cavity. Another method aimed at controlling fluid build-up is the use of a catheter: a flexible, thin tube. One end of the device is placed in the chest cavity, and the other is left outside the patient's body. Once properly placed, the catheter is connected to a special device in which the excess fluid is collected.
American Cancer Society