Because mesothelioma often goes undiagnosed until it reaches its most advanced stages, the disease can be difficult to treat. Patients diagnosed with mesothelioma should see a specialist immediately for help determining the most effective treatment options.
The American Cancer Society has helpful information about questions you should ask when choosing a doctor and hospital to help with your mesothelioma treatments.
Depending on a patient’s physical condition and stage of mesothelioma, the treatment prescribed may be either curative or palliative. Curative treatments are designed to completely eradicate the disease, and are usually given to patients with Stage I or Stage II mesothelioma. Palliative treatments, on the other hand, are designed to relieve symptoms of the disease and are usually administered when mesothelioma tumors are too large to remove or have already spread throughout the body.
The goal of mesothelioma surgery is usually curative. For patients in relatively good health whose mesothelioma is contained to one specific area, surgery is many times the most effective treatment option.
Surgeries designed to treat pleural mesothelioma include pleurectomy and extrapleural pneumonectomy. Pleurectomy, which is usually used to treat patients with localized mesothelioma, removes the pleura where the tumor is located. Extrapleural pneumonectomy is much more extensive and removes the pleura, the diaphragm, pericardium and one whole lung.
Chemotherapy treatments attack mesothelioma cells with anti-cancer drugs. While chemotherapy is not considered a completely curative treatment, it can be effective at holding mesothelioma in check and shrinking tumors. If a patient undergoes surgery for mesothelioma, chemotherapy is often used as a supplemental treatment. For those physically unable to handle surgery, however, chemotherapy can be used as an alternative treatment.
No two people react the same to chemotherapy treatments, which is why doctors often experiment with a number of different drugs. Two of the most common drugs prescribed for mesothelioma are pemetrexed (Alimta) and cisplatin.
Radiation works best on single, large tumors, because it can bombard these tumors with a strong concentration of high-energy x-rays or particles. Since most mesothelioma cases consist of smaller tumors spread across a large area, radiation is often relatively ineffective.
Radiation is many times used as a palliative treatment, relieving mesothelioma symptoms like shortness of breath, pain and bleeding. It can also be used as a supplement to surgery or an alternative for those too weak to handle surgery and chemotherapy.
Many mesothelioma patients are disappointed with the results of traditional treatments and are willing to participate in clinical trials. These trials are the final step to getting a new drug or procedure to market, and can sometimes provide remarkable results. Learn more about the latest mesothelioma clinical trials by conducting a search through the National Cancer Institute’s online database.
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