Treatment options for mesothelioma include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. These three standard procedures are often combined, increasing the effectiveness of treatment. A doctor will decide the course of action based on the patient’s condition and stage of the cancer. Nevertheless, it is important for the patient to understand the different procedures so they can anticipate the various side effects and challenges of each treatment.
Surgery can help treat mesothelioma, depending on how extensively the cancer has spread. During treatment, a surgeon can remove the tumor itself or surrounding cancerous tissue. In addition, surgery can help reduce the pain caused by tumors, providing palliative benefits. However, mesothelioma surgery is usually intended to cure the cancer by removing the tumor.
Sometimes, a minimally invasive procedure is offered as a provisional substitute for surgery. For example, thoracentesis involves inserting a needle and draining fluid from the chest cavity. Antibiotics or talc can be injected back into the chest cavity to help prevent the return of the fluid. Fluid buildup causes compression of the lungs and leads to breathing difficulty. This temporary procedure can help improve the patient’s quality of life. However, draining fluid will only assist patient comfort in the short term and does not affect the cancer itself.
The second treatment option for mesothelioma consists of using radiation to destroy the cancerous growth. In radiation therapy, x-rays target and destroy the cancerous cells. Radiation is a completely non-invasive process, involving no surgical opening of the patient’s body. Instead, a beam concentrates on the cells to reverse the presence of cancer. Radiation therapy is similar to having a traditional x-ray taken, but involves longer and more frequent visits.
A specific form of radiation treatment is brachytherapy, which can be used when the patient may not be physically able to undergo surgery. This procedure involves focusing radiation at the chest cavity or abdomen to destroy the cancer cells.
Chemotherapy involves using oral or injected medication to eradicate the cancer cells. This is the most well-known cancer treatment option. For mesothelioma, chemo drugs can be injected into the chest cavity or abdominal region, depending on where the cancer is located. Like all forms of treatment, the use of chemotherapy depends on the stage and progress of the mesothelioma cancer.
All treatment for mesothelioma includes physical therapy or rehab. The patient’s body is weakened by the procedures and recovery is required. Although the prognosis for individuals with mesothelioma cancer is generally poor, these treatment options can effectively prolong a patient’s life, decrease symptoms of the disease or even put the cancer into remission. Individuals suspecting they were exposed to asbestos should undergo a thorough medical exam because detecting the cancer in its early stages presents the best chance of survival. This particular cancer has a long latency period, often manifesting in advanced stages, which makes it very difficult to treat.