Mesothelioma can be a difficult cancer to treat no matter what stage the patient is in. Factors such as whether the treatment is a palliative or curative one, as well as the goal of the specific treatment are important to acknowledge before treatment begins. It is also important to determine the benefits and risks associated with various treatments in order to make a more informed decision about them. The TNM system divides the patient’s mesothelioma into several groups that will aid the doctor in determining a prognosis.
However, a more simple system is also in place that helps decide if the cancer is either resectable or unresectable. Resectable mesothelioma means that all of the visible tumors can be removed by various surgical procedures. On the contrary, unresectable means that surgery is not an option as a course of treatment.
Staging and Surgery
The stage with the most potential to be a resectable mesothelioma is Stage I. Stages II and III can also be resectable, however, there are exceptions. Several aspects are involved in the resectability of mesothelioma. The size of the tumor, metastases, the subtype of the tumor, the tumor’s location, and the overall health of the patient all need to be considered prior to surgery. Surgery is more likely to have long term benefits in those patients in Stage I cancers. This is mostly because there is a larger chance to remove all of the tumor or cancerous cells. Surgery can still be palliative for those in the later stages; however, the benefits are more likely to be short term. Specifically those with peritoneal mesothelioma in an early stage may benefit from surgery. Resectable mesothelioma can be handled through a variety of surgical procedures:
- Pleurectomy: is a procedure that removes part of the pleura, or lining of the lungs.
- Decortication: is the surgical removal of the surface layer, membrane, or fibrous cover of an organ.
- Extrapleural Pneumonectomy: is a surgery used to remove part of the lung’s lining, part of the lining of the heart, part of the diaphragm, and the diseased lung.
Only a licensed physician or specialist can diagnose mesothelioma and develop the best course of treatment for individual patient needs. Even when mesothelioma is labeled resectable it is a difficult cancer to treat. Oftentimes the course of action determined for mesothelioma patients are palliative ones aimed at symptom relief or extending prognosis. Mesothelioma has been largely linked to exposure to asbestos, a human carcinogen that through inhalation or ingestion becomes embedded in the lungs, heart, and abdomen. There is currently no known cure for mesothelioma.