The type of mesothelioma cancer treatment used for a patient depends on many different factors including the location of the tumor, the stage of the disease, whether the cancer has spread or not, and the health and age of the patient.
Mesothelioma patients are rarely given a good prognosis. Most are given a life expectancy of eight to twelve months. A few mesothelioma patients have achieved a five-year survival rate. An early diagnosis leads to the best outcome.
Mesothelioma cancer treatment most often falls into one of the following categories:
– Radiation Therapy
The most effective treatment of mesothelioma is often a combination of these methods.
Surgical Mesothelioma Treatments may be used just to alleviate symptoms or to attempt a cure of the tumor. Methods used to treat symptoms include draining fluid from the chest and creating an adhesion between the pleural layers to prevent recurrence of the fluid accumulation.
Another method of draining chest fluid involves placing a catheter that runs under the skin from the chest cavity to the abdomen. Concerns include the possibility of the catheter becoming obstructed and also the chance that tumor cells will be transferred from the chest to the abdomen. Therefore, this procedure is not as common as some others.
Pleurectomy is a surgical method that removes the tumor-ridden pleural lining in an attempt at a cure or just to alleviate symptoms from fluid accumulation. Procedures that are performed with the hope of curing the patient of their tumor attempt to remove all the visible tumor and follow-up with another therapy, such as chemotherapy, to eliminate microscopic disease left behind. The most common of these procedures is Pleurectomy. Usually, only patients in an early stage of disease receive this procedure. If it is discovered, during the procedure, that all the tumor cannot be removed unless the entire lung is also removed, a pneumonectomy (removal of the lung) can be performed during the pleurectomy procedure.
A much more extensive surgical procedure called Extrapleural Pneumonectomy involves removing part of the lining of the heart, part of the diaphragm, part of the lung lining, and the diseased lung. This is generally followed with chemotherapy and/or radiation since surgery alone has rarely been very successful.
There are also surgical procedures for Malignant Peritoneal Mesothelioma. Cytoreductive Surgery is the name given to the surgical method that attempts to remove the tumor in the abdominal cavity that is visible to the naked eye. It is generally followed by a procedure called IPHC (chemotherapy that is given directly into the abdominal cavity) to treat any microscopic tumor cells left behind.
Chemotherapy involves using special medications, chemical substances, to treat cancer. Chemotherapy works by attacking cancer cells to prevent them from replicating. The most common way to administer chemotherapy is intravenously, or through a vein. Chemotherapy placed directly into the abdominal cavity is also an option for some cases of peritoneal mesothelioma. The medication is infused through a catheter that is inserted through the wall of the abdomen.
The role of chemotherapy in treatment for mesothelioma is not to provide a cure. Instead, it can help slow the growth of the cancer, reduce the size of tumors prior to surgery, destroy microscopic cancer cells after surgery has removed the visible tumor, or help with symptoms.
Chemotherapy can have side effects that are mild or side effects that are more severe and even debilitating. The dose may need to be adjusted or the medication even discontinued. Blood tests will be required from time to time to monitor the effects of the chemotherapy drugs, particularly the effect on your white cell count. A decrease in your white cell count is one of the possible side effects of chemotherapy. If this occurs, you can be more susceptible to infection. It is a good idea to stay away from others who have a cold or other contagious infection while you are on chemotherapy.
It is very important that you eat a healthy diet while you are receiving chemotherapy and that you stay well hydrated. Also, be sure and report any side effects to your doctor immediately. Be sure and ask your doctor before taking any other medications, even over the counter drugs such as Tylenol, Advil, or aspirin.
Mesothelioma Cancer Treatment: Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy utilizes beams of radiation to treat cancer. Radiation is often part of a combination of therapies used to treat mesothelioma. It may be used with chemotherapy or surgery or both. It may also be used alone to help alleviate symptoms. Used in this manner, radiation can help with pain or difficulty breathing. It also can be beneficial in controlling the spread of tumor cells when used following surgery.