Mesothelioma is a type of cancer typically caused by exposure to asbestos. The cancer can take many years to become evident and once it is present, it can be difficult to detect. Patients who receive treatment for mesothelioma in the early stages have a better prognosis, but survival rates are low. The health and age of the patient also affect the prognosis.
Mesothelioma treatment fall into two primary categories, curative and palliative. Curative treatment is aimed at curing a patient’s mesothelioma by removing or killing the cancer cells in the affected area. Palliative treatments are done merely to reduce a patient’s pain and discomfort and improve their quality of life.
There are several different mesothelioma treatment methods. Surgery can be performed. The most common type for patients with pleural mesothelioma is a pleurectomy/ decortication procedure. This surgery involves removal of the lining of the chest where the cancer is contained.
A less common type of surgery performed in pericardial mesothelioma is an extrapleural pneumonectomy. The procedure involves the removal of the lung, the lining of the inside chest wall, the pericardium, and the hemi-diaphragm. The goal of the surgeries is to reduce the size of the cancerous tumors. This helps extending the patient’s life.
For patients in the earlier stages of mesothelioma, radiation treatments can be performed. Radiation is often performed following surgery to kill additional cancer cells. The entire hemi thorax is treated with radiation. Radiation therapy is also commonly performed to the sites of the chest drain insertion. This prevents the growth of the tumor along the patient’s chest wall. Radiation therapy can also serve the palliative purpose of relieving the symptoms from tumor growth.
Chemotherapy has been an effective form of treatment for patients with mesothelioma. It is often performed in addition to radiation therapy. On a statistical basis, studies have shown that patients receiving chemotherapy extend their lives by several months in comparison to those who do not receive the treatment.