Many patients undergoing a mesothelioma treatment opt to go under more than one treatment to combat the disease and to ease the physical symptoms of mesothelioma cancer. Not all treatments listed on this page are appropriate for every mesothelioma patient.
The best way to determine the course of your own treatment is to consult with your own doctors.
Mesothelioma Treatment – Surgery
There are a number of surgical procedures that may offer hope or have a palliative effect for mesothelioma cancer. Thoracentesis is a minimally invasive procedure during which a needle is inserted into the chest cavity to drain excess fluid and provide relief to the patient suffering from pleural mesothelioma. In some cases, antibiotics or talcum powder may also be injected into the chest at this time. In patients with peritoneal mesothelioma, a similar procedure may be performed to drain the abdomen. Similarly, a needle may be inserted into the area around the heart to drain fluid that is a result of pericardial mesothelioma.
In rare cases, when the patient’s mesothelioma is at an early stage, curative surgery known as pleurectomy may be performed to remove pleura (the lining of the lungs), thus removing the cancerous tumor, as well. Unfortunately, in many cases microscopic cancer cells have already spread, so this procedure is not an effective cure to mesothelioma.
In cases of localized (early stage) mesothelioma of the pleura, extrapleural pneumonectomy is a very extensive surgery that may be offered. This operation is only performed by a select few doctors, as it involves the removal of portions of the lung, pericardium, and diaphragm on the affected side of the body in order to remove a tumor without dissecting it.
A surgical option for patients with peritoneal mesothelioma is known as aperitonectomy. This procedure can only be performed at very early stages of the cancer, and involves the removal of a portion or all of the peritoneum to rid the body of cancerous tissues. As with most cancer surgeries, patients who undergo mesothelioma surgery may also be treated with chemotherapy and radiation.
Mesothelioma Treatment – Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy usually involves the intravenous administration of drugs designed to interfere with the processes that occur during cell division, thereby killing rapidly-dividing cancer cells. Depending on the stage of a patient’s mesothelioma, chemotherapy may be given as the primary treatment or in conjunction with other treatments such as surgery or radiation therapy.
While chemotherapy drugs kill cancer cells, they also kill or damage some normal cells. Thus, careful attention must be paid to maximize the effectiveness of the treatment while minimizing the side effects.
Mesothelioma – Treatment Radiation
Radiation therapy is a form of mesothelioma treatment that is usually given in conjunction with other treatments such as chemotherapy and surgery. Radiation works by using X-rays to kill cancer cells. There are 2 types of radiation therapy that have proven effective with mesothelioma cancer patients: external beam radiation and brachytherapy.
External beam radiation entails bombarding cancer tumors with X-rays to kill cancer cells. Brachytherapy is a newer radiation treatment that involves the implantation of radioactive material directly into tumors to provide a stronger dose of radiation while doing very little damage to surrounding healthy tissue.
In some cases, radiation therapy is the main form of mesothelioma treatment. This is more common in patients whose overall health has declined to a state where they are too weak to endure chemotherapy or invasive surgery. In other cases, such as a follow-up to mesothelioma surgery, radiation therapy is used as a complementary treatment. Radiation is also used as a palliative therapy to relieve mesothelioma symptoms such as pain, difficulty swallowing, shortness of breath, and bleeding.
As with chemotherapy, radiation therapy damages healthy, normal cells as well as cancerous cells. For this reason, careful planning is needed to ensure the proper dosage to maximize the benefits of radiation therapy while minimizing the damage to healthy cells.
Mesothelioma Treatment – Gene Therapy
Mesothelioma gene therapy is a newer treatment used in conjunction with chemotherapy. The type of gene therapy used for mesothelioma patients is often referred to as “suicide gene therapy” because it forces cancer cells to cause their own death. In essence, genes are introduced into the body that render cancer genes’ defense mechanisms useless and thus make them more susceptible to cancer medications issued through chemotherapy.
Mesothelioma Treatment – Photodynamic Therapy
Photodynamic therapy is commonly used to treat skin cancers, some types of lung cancers, and pleural mesothelioma. This therapy involves the use of light energy to eliminate cancer cells. The patient is given an I.V. solution of medication designed to make cancer cells highly particular to a specific kind of light. A few days after administration of this medicine, the patient is exposed to this specific kind of light, killing the medicated cancer cells. Photodynamic therapy is only effective in localized mesothelioma, and is unsuitable for patients with other types of mesothelioma.
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