The range of mesothelioma treatment options has gotten broader in the past decade, but an individual who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma must learn about the treatment options most appropriate for his or her unique case from the physician(s) providing medical care. The description here is merely a primer providing very basic information about asbestos exposure treatment and mesothelioma treatment options.
Traditional Mesothelioma Treatment Options
Five major approaches to mesothelioma treatments are surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, palliative therapy, and biological therapy. Each method may be used alone, but often they are coordinated in combined programs to improve the overall treatment result. The extent of any treatment is always dependent upon a patient’s physical health condition, their age, the location and stages of mesothelioma (degree of disease) of the disease, and the extent of asbestos exposure.
Mesothelioma is a disease that attacks the lungs, the heart, and/or the chest lining (the mesothelium). A variety of mesothelioma treatment options are available, including:
- Surgery – A pneumonectomy or pleurectomy may be performed to remove diseased tissues.
- Radiation – Radiation therapy may be provided in lieu of or alongside surgery to kill off cancerous or abnormal cells in a specific target area.
- Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is a more aggressive form of treatment used to kill cancerous cells throughout the body.
- Palliative treatments – Palliative treatments may be used to alleviate pain by draining excess fluid from the affected areas or by various other methods.
- Thoracentesis – Thoracentesis is the removal of fluid and/or air from the pleural space for treatment or diagnosis.
- A combination of two or more of the above therapies
Mesothelioma surgery occurs when patients are diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma and can be considered possible candidates for a surgical procedure known as pneumonectomy. This is the surgical excision (removal) of the diseased lung and, if need be, any affected parts of the surrounding diaphragm. In reality, pneumonectomy is considered a high-risk procedure, and eligibility is dependent upon the patient’s present state of health and extent of asbestos exposure.
Radiation Treatment of Mesothelioma
Radiation treatment, or radiation therapy, is the mesothelioma treatment of disease using either an external source of high-energy rays (x-rays or gamma rays) or internally implanted radioactive substances. These rays and substances are effective in destroying tissue and stopping the growth of malignant cells. In contrast to chemotherapy, radiation therapy is targeted towards a specific area and can treat the affected area without exposing the surrounding healthy tissue. Radiation can be used as a combination treatment along with surgery, or can be used alone to combat mesothelioma cancer. As with most treatments, a high dose of radiation can cause health complications.
Chemotherapy Treatments for Mesothelioma
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs in the cancer treatment. Standard chemotherapy treatments are either administered in the form of pills or injected medication, and may be used alone or in combination with surgery and irradiation. In chemotherapy, drugs are given according to a written protocol, or plan, that details exactly how the drugs will be given. Once these drugs are distributed in the body, however, both tumor cells and normal tissue cells are susceptible to their lethal effects, often making the patient very ill. Usually drug therapy is continued until the patient achieves a remission, which is the absence of all signs of disease. Common side effects of chemotherapy include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bleeding, weight loss, hair loss, and overall physical fatigue.
Palliative Therapy Treatment
Palliative therapy is a relieving, but not a curative method for treating and controlling the symptoms of mesothelioma cancer. During palliative therapy treatment, mesothelioma patients experience some relief when a needle is used to drain and suction excess fluid from the affected tissue. Generally, post-palliative drugs are administered to the patient in order to prevent further accumulation of fluids.
Biological Treatment for Mesothelioma, Lung Cancer
Biological treatment is a more recent approach to all cancer treatments, including treatment of mesothelioma cancer. It is the use of the body’s own defense mechanisms to fight tumor cells. Medical experts are exploring how elements of the immune system can be restored, enhanced, mimicked, and manipulated to destroy cancerous cells. Substances produced by normal cells that either directly block tumor growth or stimulate the immune system and other body defenses are called biological response modifiers. Examples of these substances are interferon (made by lymphocytes, which are important in immune response), monoclonal antibodies (derived from mouse cells and capable of binding to human tumors in an immune response), colony-stimulating factors (CSFs) that stimulate blood-forming cells, and interleukins that stimulate the immune system.
New and Alternative Mesothelioma Treatments
The best way to learn about alternative treatments is to consult with your doctor and perform your own additional research. Most doctors will recommend that treatments considered to be alternative be used to complement, but not replace, traditional treatments that are already proven effective. For those diagnosed with mesothelioma, new treatment options may make treatment more effective.
Some examples of alternative treatments include:
- Immunotherapy or biological therapy, a type of treatment in which the patient’s own immune system is ‘tricked’ into killing cancer cells;
- Photodynamic therapy, a treatment involving the use of light energy to kill cancer cells;
- Intensity-modulated radiation therapy, an advanced mode of high-precision radiotherapy that utilizes computer-controlled x-ray accelerators to deliver precise radiation doses to a malignant tumor or specific areas within the tumor;
- Gene therapy, which involves using genetic material to specifically target cancer cells and make them more vulnerable to chemotherapy treatment;
- Alimta, an FDA-approved drug for treating malignant pleural mesothelioma; and
- New chemotherapy agents (new forms and variants of traditional chemotherapy have been developed, and your doctor should be able to explain the different types of chemotherapy that are available).
- See our Ultimate Guide to the best natural remedies and alternative treatments updated for 2016
Whatever treatments you choose, be sure to seek the council of a physician who specializes in mesothelioma cancer treatment before making any decisions. You may hear of things that promise a mesothelioma cure, but only your doctor will know the best course of action for your situation. These mesothelioma treatment options are often helpful and effective, but the prognosis for most mesothelioma patients is poor, and the life expectancy is not long. A diagnosis of mesothelioma is understandably devastating, but a patient and his or her family are not without options.
Become Informed on Mesothelioma Guidelines
Because mesothelioma is a serious, potentially fatal asbestos disease, determining what treatment to participate in can often be an overwhelming process. It can help to review a mesothelioma guide that explains treatment options. It is important to become as informed as you possibly can by:
- Seeking multiple medical opinions about treatments and their effectiveness.
- Asking doctors to recommend informational resources such as websites or books.
- Doing your own research, reading, and studying all you can about mesothelioma treatments.
- Staying informed to help you understand the reality of your situation and help prevent the tendency to feel overwhelmed.
Decisions about Mesothelioma Treatment
The choice of treatment for a mesothelioma patient is best arrived at as a result of discussion with the patient’s doctor(s). Some patients are “hardier” than others and more able to withstand and benefit from a given treatment. A good mesothelioma treatment guide will also mention the unfortunate reality that for some patients, there is no viable treatment, and he or she will benefit most from palliative care, designed to make the patient comfortable in his or her final days.
When deciding on treatments with your doctor, the following factors should be considered:
- Stage and location of the cancer
- Age of the patient
- Patient’s overall health
- Potential risks and benefits of the mesothelioma treatment
Mesothelioma Treatment Guide
A mesothelioma treatment guide may be available from a patient’s physician or the healthcare facility where the patient is being treated. Research into the causes and treatments of mesothelioma continues, and it’s helpful to have a written publication such as a current, accurate mesothelioma treatment guide and a summary of what’s available. Although there is no mesothelioma cure, some patients may greatly benefit from a combination of therapies.
If you’re looking for a mesothelioma treatment guide, it is likely that an asbestos law firm near you can provide the information you need, including an explanation of your legal rights. Mesothelioma and other asbestos diseases have reached epidemic proportions, and there is much to learn about. We can help you review the asbestos exposure treatment options. Once you have a diagnosis, you may want to contact an experienced mesothelioma attorney to learn about any recourse you may have. A lawyer can help you find the money you need to pay for your treatment and other losses associated with the asbestos-caused disease
Concerns about the cause of the mesothelioma (which is nearly always exposure to asbestos) can be taken up with a law firm. Contact Mesothelioma Treatment Centers today to schedule a free consultation with an asbestos/mesothelioma attorney in your area. An experienced attorney for mesothelioma patients will help you determine the cause of the mesothelioma and will fight to recover compensation for your losses.
If you or a loved one has been fighting mesothelioma, contact a lawyer today. A qualified attorney will walk you through your health options and discuss any money that you are entitled to throughout your battle.