Mesothelioma is a rare cancer of the lining of the lung or abdomen, caused by asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma typically develops decades after exposure, and usually goes undiscovered until late stage disease has developed. The overall prognosis for mesothelioma victims is poor: only 8% will survive for five years following diagnosis.
Standard treatments for malignant mesothelioma consist of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. None of these treatments have proven terribly successful in improving the long-term outlook for mesothelioma patients, therefore patients are often encouraged to seek out experimental treatments and clinical trials.
Mesothelioma Treatment: Surgical Options
Doctors may opt to operate on mesothelioma patients for one of two reasons: to attempt to remove the cancer, and to improve the patient’s quality of life.
An extensive surgery intended to remove all of a patient’s diseased tissue, through removal of the lining of the chest wall, the pericardium surrounding the heart, a portion of the diaphragm, nearby lymph nodes, and the entire diseased lung. EPP is a drastic surgery, requiring that the patient be otherwise in good health. Serious complications are extremely common.
A similar but less extreme procedure, involving the removal of the lining of the lung and diaphragm. While a P/D may be performed in an attempt to cure a patient, it also may improve quality of life by controlling fluid buildup.
A more minor procedure, in which physicians attempt to remove as much of the cancer as possible, without removing the entire pleural lining or lung. Debulking is also used to treat abdominal (peritoneal) mesothelioma.
A surgery for abdominal (peritoneal) mesothelioma, in which a layer of fatty tissue that lies over the abdominal cavity is removed, in an attempt to stop the spread of the cancer.
In addition to these procedures, doctors may perform a variety of more minor surgeries to relieve symptoms, reduce pain, and improve quality of life.
Mesothelioma Treatment: Radiation Therapy
Like surgery, radiation therapy may be used to relieve symptoms as well as to treat the underlying cancer. Radiation therapy is often used in addition to surgery and chemotherapy, in an attempt to kill any cancer cells not targeted through other treatments. Radiation therapy may consist of External Beam Radiation Therapy, a process which resembles getting an x-ray, or brachytherapy, in which radioactive material is placed inside the chest wall at the site of the mesothelioma. Radiation therapy may have serious side effects, including hair loss, fatigue, lung damage, nausea and other digestive symptoms.
Mesothelioma Treatment: Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy may be given alone, or before or after surgery as a way to target additional cancer cells which may have escaped removal. Chemotherapy may either be injected into the blood stream, or administered directly to the diseased area. Common side effects of chemotherapy include nausea, hair loss, loss of appetite, mouth sores, fatigue and increased vulnerability to common infections.
Mesothelioma Treatment: Experimental Treatments and Clinical Trials
Because common cancer treatments have proven largely unsuccessful in improving the long term outlook for mesothelioma patients, patients are often encouraged to sign up for clinical trials and other experimental treatments. A searchable database of open clinical trials can be found online, at clinicaltrials.gov.
Next Steps for Mesothelioma Victims
If you or a loved one has received a devastating diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma, you may feel overwhelmed. Many victims of asbestos exposure are eligible for legal compensation. Contact an experienced asbestos litigation firm today, to discuss your situation. With decades of successful service to mesothelioma victims, Bergman Draper Oslund is here for you. Call today for a no-cost, no obligation consultation.