Traditionally available treatments for mesothelioma today consist of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. In current clinical trials, many new drugs are being combined with these methods to find the perfect treatment for mesothelioma.
Once diagnosed with mesothelioma, the surgeon will go through the entire medical history of the patient and decide on the type of treatment and medication. This will depend entirely on the stage at which the mesothelioma is diagnosed, and the age/physical health of the patient.
Treatments for mesothelioma could include one or more of the following.
— Radiation therapy
Once diagnosed for mesothelioma, the surgeon could opt for surgery. Surgery is not a cure for mesothelioma, but helps alleviate the pain and reduce the spread of the cancer, prolonging life.
The options for mesothelioma surgery could include one or more of the following.
— Extrapleural Pneumonectomy
Pleurectomy, also known as ‘Decortication’ is a process in which the surgeon will remove a part of the infected lung and chest lining. This procedure helps in reducing the size of the cancerous tumor and also reduce the associated pain within the chest. The main purpose of pleurectomy is to relieve the throbbing pain, with life expectancy remaining the same or improving marginally.
During a pneumonectomy, the surgeon will remove an entire affected lung and the surrounding tissue. As in a pleurectomy, this procedure too is done to relieve the associated pain, and is performed only when the cancer has spread to a great extent.
Thoracentesis is a procedure where the surgeon will drain excess fluid from and around the lungs with the help of a needle. This is done to get the fluid levels to normal, helping reduce pressure on the lungs and making breathing easier.
Extrapleural pneumonectomy is a very complex procedure and will be performed by the surgeon only in extreme cases. Added to this is the fact that mesothelioma must be diagnosed early for performing this surgery. This process involves removing the entire lining surrounding the lungs, heart, and diaphragm to prevent any further spread of the cancer. This process is usually followed by radiation therapy and chemotherapy to kill any remaining unseen cancer cells. Even this process is not a cure for mesothelioma that is diagnosed early, but it will add many more years to the patients life.
When radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy) is chosen as the mode of treatment for mesothelioma, the surgeon will kill the cancer cells and shrink the cancerous tumors using high-energy x-rays.
Radiation therapy is in most cases supplementary to some other type of treatment. The problem with radiation therapy is that it cannot focus on and kill only the cancer cells; it also targets and kills perfectly normal human cells. In most cases the damage and side-effects caused by radiation therapy will outweigh the benefits.
In chemotherapy, chemicals are injected into the cancerous parts of the body. These chemicals have the capability to stop multiplication or destroy the cancer cells.
In most cases, the chemical is injected into a vein or muscle, traveling through the entire body. Specialists treating mesothelioma could administer the chemical directly into the patients pleural or peritoneal cavity for better results.
Chemotherapy is usually followed by undesirable side-effects. The surgeon will prescribe medication and give advise on reducing these side-effects.
Depending on the situation, the surgeon may decide on combining two or more therapies for obtaining the best results. The benefits of combination therapy will be better than that of a single therapy, but it could also be very harsh on the body, making it unsuitable for everyone. It can be used on patients who are young, healthy, and can withstand the undesirable side-effects of this treatment.
Mesothelioma is affecting many today, making it one of the most researched diseases with a multitude of clinical trials in progress. Surgeons are using the normal methods of treatment in combination with new therapies and drugs that look very promising. It is estimated that these new treatments that are currently undergoing trials will prolong life after diagnosis from a mere 12 to 18 months to approximately 5 to 10 years.
With the pace and advancement of clinical trials at present, surgeons hope that a total cure will soon be available for the treatment of mesothelioma.