Regardless of the variety, mesothelioma is a difficult disease to diagnose. This is due to the long latency period of the disease. Mesothelioma usually develops 15 to 30 years after asbestos exposure. The victim of mesothelioma is usually diagnosed with the disease well into the development of the disease. Mesothelioma is an extremely aggressive disease and therefore, the patient and their doctors will need to pursue mesothelioma treatment aggressively. While progress is slow, there have been advances in mesothelioma treatment so, it is important that the patient and his family discuss the options available with his primary oncologist. While these mesothelioma treatment options are not cures, they can extend survival times, reduce pain, and greatly increase the quality of life of the patient.
Because there are many variations of the disease we call mesothelioma, there cannot be a single set of mesothelioma treament options for all patients. Each individual case is unique, and must be analyzed independently of the others. Which treatment option may be best for a particular patient will depend on a variety of contributing factors. Your oncologist will use a number of diagnostic procedures to determine the best treatment for the individual and their particular circumstances.
What are the Mesothelioma Treatment Options
The primary focus of mesothelioma treatment is, of course, destroying malignant cells while preserving the healthy cells. There are a number of techniques used to accomplish this. Typically, there are three primary methods of mesothelioma treatment. Surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, or a combination of the three are considered the most effective means of treating mesothelioma. The stage of the cancer, the size of the tumor(s), and the overall health of the patient are among the factors considered when determining the most effective form of mesothelioma treatment.
Of course, anyone diagnosed with mesothelioma will need to consult with a variety of doctors to determine the extent of the disease as well as the best mesothelioma treatment options for the patient. It takes time to determing the exact variety of the malignancy, as well as the extent of it’s progression.
Surgery as a Mesothelioma Treatment
Surgery is a common form of mesothelioma treatment and is usually performed for a couple reasons. The primary purpose of surgery is an attempt to “cure” the disease by removing the tumor(s). or, secondarily, to relieve pain and aleviate the suffering of the patient, keeping the patient comfortable and improve the quality of life asd long as possible. Unfortunately, surgery is usually not performed on mesothelioma patients because of the nature of malignant mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is usually diagnosed after the disease has metastasized beyond the pleural cavity. Because of this, palliation (the alieving of pain) is usually the primary reason surgery is performed. Perhaps in those cases where mesothelioma is diagnosed early enough can curative surgery be employed. If mesothelioma can be diagnosed early enough, surgeons may be able to remove the tumor early enough to stabilize the disease.
Unfortunately, at this time surgery used as a mesothelioma treatment is performed, more often than not, simply to aleviate the pain of the patient. In one form of mesothelioma treatment, doctors perform a surgery known as pleurodesis, in which talc is injected into the lungs which prevents fluid from accumulating. Another common proceedure, called thoracentesis, is used to remove fluid from the lungs using a thin needle to relieve the pressure and greatly reduce the pain experienced by the patient.
In those cases in which the malignancy has become severe, a pleurectomy may be needed to relieve pain. In this proceedure the pleura – the lining of the lung – is removed and results in less fluid build-up, thus lessening pain and breathing trouble.
Advancements in Surgery as a Mesothelioma Treatment
In recent years, using a combination of surgery and chemotherapy, doctors have made serious progress prolonging the survival rate of those diagnosed with early stages of mesothelioma. Researchers followed their progress and found some of them living up to 53 months (4.5 years) Typically, patients receiving treatment seldom live more than 18 months.
Radiation Therapy as a Mesothelioma Treatment
Unfortunately, many patients become too frail for either surgery, or chemotherapy. Radiation therapy is often the recommended choice. Radiation therapy usually has the least number of side effects and is usually more easily endured than chemotherapy as a mesothelioma treatment. Radiation treatment is usually used along with other forms of treatment such as chemotherapy.
Directed beam radiation is the most common form of mesothelioma treatment. With this form of treatment, radiation is directed at the affected region and is usually administered 5-days a week for as much as 5 weeks. This type method of treatment is most commonly used for palliative purposes, that is, to lessen pain, breathing difficulties and trouble swallowing — symptoms often associated with mesothelioma. Unfortunately, this form of mesothelioma treatment is rarely effective as a curative mesothelioma treatment. This type of therapy is most effective when used in addition to surgery.
Another form of radiation therapy seldom prescribed as a mesothelioma treatment, called brachytherapy utilize radioactive material placed directly within the affected area of the lung or abdomen.
Chemotherapy for Mesothelioma Treatment
Chemotherapy, like radiation therapy, does not provide an actual cure for mesothelioma, but it does provide effective relief from many of the symptoms of this terrible disease. There has been progress as doctors try various combinations of chemo and radiation therapy. As new chemotherapy drugs are developed, progress will continue to be made in prolonging the a patient’s life and the ability to live a comfortable and pain free life until a meaningful cure can be developed as a standard mesothelioma treatment.
Chemotherapy drugs are generally taken in the form of a pill or injected into the system, usually intravenously. Generally, doctors will use a combination of at least 2 drugs for maximum effectiveness. One of the drugs works as a cytotoxin while the other drug generally works to protect the surrounding healthy cells. There are opportunities to participate in clinical trials in which other experimental drugs and drug combinations are used as we develop new drugs and drug combinations.
There are serious complications and side effects to chemotherapy. Nausea, vomiting and migraines are among the effects of chemo. Because of this, other medications are often given to reduce these effects. Vitamins are also generally prescribed to replace those lost in chemotherapy. For some patients the side effects are just too severe. They eventually give up and opt out of chemotherapy, knowing their decision will likely shave months, or even years from their life. For them, the side effects are just to severe.
Clinical Trials for Mesothelioma Treatment
There is a constant need for patients willing to participate in clinical trials. Clinical trials are those experimental new mesothelioma treatments. These trials are not approved by the FDA so patients will need to consult with their doctor about the clinical trials available to them and whether or not they qualify to be a part of a particular study. Those who have decided to participate in a clinical trial will need to weigh the potential advantages and disadvantages, in addition to the goals of the trial before deciding to participate.
While there is currently no way to actually cure mesothelioma, scientists continue to work toward a real cure, or at least, greatly extend the lives of those afflicted with the disease. And while there is no actual cure for mesothelioma, there are mesothelioma treatment programs as well as clinical trials that are working towards developing a way to eliminate this unfortunate form of cancer.
Mesothelioma treatment for patients suffering with this disease generally employ the same treatments as other lung-related cancers. Those treatments that remove the cancer completely are called “curative” treatments. While there is currently no complete cure for mesothelioma, any mesothelioma treatment could potentially be curative as long as the treatment completely removes the cancer from the body. While the treatment may be curative, it should be remembered that the posibility of the recurrence of the disease always exists.
The best hope at this time seems to lie in a combination approach. Mesothelioma treatment that relies on a combination of therapies seems to have the greatest success in stalling the progression of the disease. Mesothelioma treatment, employing surgery paired with radiation, or surgery and radiation and chemotherapy, has been successful in greatly extending expectancies. Researchers believe the right combination of therapies for each specific form of mesothelioma will greatly extend the lifespan, as well as the quality of life of the patient.
There are other therapies being developed including a method using nanoparticle which are absorbed by cancer cells and then heated by radio waves which effectively cooks the tumor without affecting the healthy nearby cells. This experimental procedure has been used on animals with a 100% success rate ( read more here). Clinical trials are expected before 2015. This is just one of several techniques being persued and may lead to great strides in cancer treatment.