Receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis is devastating. It’s normal to experience anger and fear, but many patients are quick to want to learn about their treatment options and how they can maintain a high quality of life. Fortunately, there are a number of mesothelioma treatment options to choose from. The treatments you undergo will depend on the stage of your cancer, your overall health, and what your goals are for the time you have left.
Types of Treatments Available for Mesothelioma
The type of treatment a patient undergoes for mesothelioma is based on their diagnosis. The doctor will take the patient’s cancer stage, cell type, and location of the tumor into consideration to determine what will work best.
Patients diagnosed with mesothelioma early on are often eligible for curative treatments—like surgery. With curative treatments, the mesothelioma is removed from the patient’s body. In some cases, a doctor might recommend multimodal therapy. This uses a combination of two or more treatments, which allows the doctors to attack the mesothelioma in different ways. For example, surgery could remove most of the tumors, while chemotherapy could destroy any remaining cancer cells.
In the event a patient is not eligible for standard treatments, doctors will ensure they receive palliative care. This is used to relieve pain or discomfort caused by the symptoms of mesothelioma. The palliative treatment options differ for each patient.
Standard Mesothelioma Treatments
If a patient is eligible for curative treatments or multimodal therapy, it’s likely they’ll undergo surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. It’s not uncommon for doctors to prescribe an aggressive treatment protocol to see how the cancer responds. Let’s take a look at some of the specifics for the three standard mesothelioma treatments. It’s important for patients to learn about the benefits and risks of each treatment option, so they are prepared for what’s in store.
Surgery is typically an option for patients when the cancer is caught early—with early being a relative term because the cancer can take decades to develop. While most surgeons are unable to remove all of the cancer, surgery has the potential to reduce the symptoms of mesothelioma from spreading in the body.
With pleural mesothelioma, it’s normal to have surgery to decrease fluid buildup in the chest. The surgeon will insert a tube or catheter into the chest and drain the fluid. There’s also medication that can be injected into the chest to prevent the fluid from returning.
In regard to reducing the symptoms patients experience with mesothelioma, surgery may be done to remove the tissue around the lungs or an entire lung. When affected tissue is removed, the patient may have less pain. Depending on how damaged the lung is, a surgeon may recommend removing it entirely. Patients who have an affected lung removed can then undergo higher doses of radiation therapy.
Depending on the complexity of the surgery, it’s not uncommon for patients to experience an extended or delayed recovery. It’s normal for patients to experience pain near the surgical site.
Chemotherapy uses chemicals to kill the mesothelioma cells. The drugs travel throughout the body and can help to shrink or slow the growth of tumors that cannot be removed with surgery. For some patients, chemotherapy can be used before surgery to make the procedure easier. If it’s used after surgery, it may reduce the chances of the cancer returning.
When chemotherapy is administered before or after surgery, it’s likely to be systemic. This means that it’s administered through an IV or in pill form. In some cases, a surgeon could administer chemotherapy during surgery. This would happen intraoperatively. This means that the chemo drugs are heated and applied directly into the lungs or abdominal cavity.
The side effects of chemotherapy vary for each patient, but it’s common to experience hair loss, loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea, and fatigue.
Radiation therapy uses high energy rays to kill cancer cells. There are two types of radiation commonly used for mesothelioma: three-dimensional radiation treatment (3D-CRT) and intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT).
With 3D-CRT, doctors use 3D scans of tumors to customize the amount and intensity of each radiation dose. This helps target the tumors more effectively and minimizes damage to healthy, non-cancerous cells. IMRT is an advanced form of 3D-CRT. Doctors use computers to adjust the amount and intensity of a radiation beam as it passes over the cancerous area.
In regard to side effects, radiation therapy can cause skin redness, fatigue, nausea, and hair loss; however, it’s important to remember that every patient’s experience is different.
Other Treatments and Alternative Medicines
There are situations where doctors will recommend immunotherapy or targeted therapy. Immunotherapy uses the body’s immune system to fight the mesothelioma cells. If other treatments aren’t working, a doctor can interfere with the process that allows the cancer cells to produce proteins that bind the immune system cells. Targeted therapy uses drugs to attack specific vulnerabilities in the cancer cells.
Because mesothelioma is most likely to impact a person’s lungs and their ability to breathe, doctors may also recommend acupuncture, breath training, and relaxation exercises. While those alternative medicine options will not work toward removing or reducing the presence of cancer, they can make it easier for mesothelioma patients to deal with the discomfort.
Understanding Palliative Care
Because there is no cure for mesothelioma, it’s important to doctors to make patients as comfortable as possible. Palliative care is used to relieve pain. While it may be used to complement curative treatments for patients with stage 1 or stage 2 mesothelioma, it’s typically only used to improve quality of life for those in stage 3 or stage 4.
Most palliative procedures for mesothelioma involve removing fluid buildup. Examples of palliative procedures include:
- Pleurodesis. This procedure stops fluid from building up around the lungs.
- Pleurocentesis or thoracentesis. Similarly, this procedure removes fluid buildup, but in the chest cavity.
- Paracentesis. This removes ascetic fluid from the abdominal cavity.
- Pericardiocentesis. With this procedure, fluid buildup is removed from the pericardial sac around the heart.
No matter what type of treatment plan a patient pursues, the focus should be to improve or reduce symptoms. This way, the patient can live as normal a life as possible.
Achieve Financial Security with Frost Law Firm, PC
Your doctor will help you determine what the best course of action is for your cancer. Unfortunately, treatment plans are expensive. Because mesothelioma is almost always caused by asbestos exposure, it’s possible you could be eligible for compensation to cover your cancer expenses and losses. To find out if you have grounds to take legal action in Hawaii, get in touch with the Hawaii mesothelioma lawyers from Frost Law Firm, PC.
We represent victims of asbestos exposure and hold negligent workplaces and employers responsible when people receive preventable cancer diagnoses. To learn more about the claims process and your chances of receiving compensation, contact our firm today.