Mesothelioma is a rare but serious cancer that is linked directly to asbestos exposure. This deadly cancer affects the lining of the lungs and abdomen, and while there is currently no cure, there are a few treatments that have shown promising results. This guide will walk you through the current options available for mesothelioma.
Understanding Treatment Options
Mesothelioma, or meso as it is commonly referred to, is diagnosed in only around 3,000 people each year in the United States. This is a low number when compared to other types of cancers, such as breast cancer, which reported 235,030 diagnoses in 2014. The disparity of the numbers of cases of mesothelioma diagnosed each year has a significant effect on determining which treatment options might have the greatest effect on the different stages.
As a result, the amount of evidence-based science is low when it comes to not only finding a cure for the disease, but also finding effective treatment options. Based on this, many of the treatments are geared towards extending the patient’s life, and managing pain and suffering to provide the best quality of life possible after diagnosis.
Treatment Centers Are Key
When it comes to treating mesothelioma, the best options for most patients are cancer treatment centers that specialize in mesothelioma. These cancer specialists have considerably more knowledge of the disease and its behavior, which is why most doctors refer patients to them after diagnosis to ensure they receive the best treatment possible.
Factors Affecting Treatment Options
Mesothelioma treatment options also depend on the cells that are affected by the disease, the location of the cancer, and the stage of the cancer. Whether the cancer is localized to the chest, or has spread to other areas is also a major factor in treatment options, as is the general health and age of the individual.
Conventional Mesothelioma Treatments
Three conventional treatments are used for treating mesothelioma. Each one comes with its own risks and benefits, and current health and other coexisting conditions play a role in not only which treatment is best for a given individual, but also how well it may be tolerated.
Chemotherapy does not cure mesothelioma, but it has been proven to prolong survival. This systemic therapy uses infusion and oral types of medications that attack and kill cancer cells in the body. It may be used in conjunction with other mesothelioma treatments, or as part of palliative care to help reduce pain. Some of the most common chemotherapy drugs used for this disease include:
These drugs may be used in combination, but if the patient can’t handle the combinations, single drugs may be used as well.
Radiation is also an effective treatment option of mesothelioma, but it does require greater care due to the proximity to the heart and lungs. This treatment shrinks tumors, but requires intensive therapy to be most effective. Intensity-modulated radiotherapy is a more recent addition to meso treatment options, and some studies indicate that it may be more effective as it helps to avoid healthy tissue.
Surgery may also be used in treating metastatic pleural mesothelioma. For around one in five patients, surgery to remove the as much of the tumor as possible, or even complete removal of the lung may be used. In many cases, surgery is used in addition to radiation or chemotherapy.
There are many clinical trials and studies under way to find the most effective treatment options for mesothelioma patients. You should always discuss the benefits and risks of each form of treatment before agreeing to it. As soon as possible after your diagnosis, you should seek the counsel of an experienced law firm like Landry & Swarr to discuss your options for yourself and your loved ones.