For literally decades, mesothelioma—a disease which stems from exposure to asbestos—has been causing injury and death, even though scientists have known for more than 70 years that asbestos has potentially deadly effects on the human body.
In 1973, the EPA banned the use of spray-on asbestos for insulation and fireproofing. Later, the agency banned the use of asbestos for more products, including hot water tanks and wall-patching compounds.
Unfortunately, even though asbestos has not been mined in the U.S. since 2002, our country still imports asbestos from other countries, and some industries are still allowed to manufacture products which contain asbestos—cement pipe, cement flat and corrugated sheets, vinyl floor tiles, disc brake pads, gaskets, components of automatic transmissions, roof felt and roof coatings, to name a few.
How Asbestos Causes Mesothelioma
When asbestos fibers enter the lungs, they imbed into the delicate tissues, locking themselves in, and causing the cells which come into contact with the fibers to change over time, eventually becoming cancerous. Those who have mesothelioma may struggle for every breath, and it can seem as though there are no new treatments.
Mesothelioma is a cancer, therefore is treated with many of the same techniques used on other cancers throughout the body. These techniques have been found to be effective to one degree or another, however some of the cancer treatments—like chemotherapy—can damage healthy cells as well as cancerous cells.
Generally speaking, there are three primary types of treatment offered to malignant mesothelioma patients—radiation, chemotherapy and surgery.
The type of treatment your doctor may suggest will depend on your overall level of health, your specific diagnosis, and the stage and type of your mesothelioma.
If your cancer has not spread, your doctor may recommend a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation—called multimodal therapy. If, on the other hand, your cancer has spread significantly, palliative treatments to alleviate your pain and problems breathing may be all that is available.
There are some relatively new treatments for mesothelioma patients which could offer positive results, such as:
Photodynamic therapy injects a light-sensitive drug into the cancerous areas of the body; as the light moves through your system, it attracts cancerous cells. The drug is activated, and kills the cancerous cells when a rod with a red light is inserted into the body. While photodynamic therapy can only focus on small areas of the body, it is less likely to damage healthy cells.
Virus therapy is also a new technique sometimes used for those with mesothelioma and other types of cancer. A designer virus is injected into targeted areas of the body, with a goal of killing cancerous cells. While the body tends to attack this designer virus—like it would any virus—there has been some level of success with virus therapy.
Many of the current anti-cancer drugs focus heavily on lung cancer, and medical researchers are attempting to make these drugs more “targeted.” So far, the results of targeted anti-cancer drugs on mesothelioma are not definitive.
Gene therapy is another new treatment which has shown promise; The researchers insert a gene into cancer-ridden cells, then a constructed virus is injected into body where it multiplies, and feeds off the cancer. When the virus injects the cancer, it weakens the cancer to the point where it weakens or dies. While gene therapy has not been found to be 100 percent successful for mesothelioma patients, it has had good results.
Immunotherapy has also had good results. When immunotherapy is used, the patient’s immune blood cells are taken from the patient, then used to make an infusion which helps the body respond better to cancerous cells, and activate its natural defense system.
Among the more traditional therapies, radiation can correct breathing issues by shrinking tumors which could be pressing on airways, veins and/or nerves. Chemotherapy can also help shrink tumors, helping with breathing and chest pain.
Experimental treatments primarily exist in clinical trials, and your doctor can help you be a part of one of these clinical trials if you are interested. Many mesothelioma patients also pursue alternative treatments, such as acupuncture, massage therapy and nutritional supplements.
If your mesothelioma is relatively contained, aggressive surgery could offer a potential cure, although your doctor will likely suggest radiation and chemotherapy after the surgery in order to kill any cancerous cells left behind.
However, before deciding on a plan of medical care, be sure to discuss all of your treatment options with your physician.
There are many big decisions to be made after a mesothelioma diagnosis, but you must make sure to defend your legal interests. Rely on experienced mesothelioma attorneys like the lawyers of Landry & Swarr in New Orleans to ensure you are taken care of.