The approach to mesothelioma treatment depends heavily on the age and general health of the patient.
Aggressive mesothelioma treatments are unquestionably more effective, but not all patients can withstand the rigors of harsh chemotherapy, radiation and surgeries.
While diagnostic surgery is used to diagnose most patients, curative mesothelioma surgery is not an option for the majority. Older patients and those in poor overall health cannot reasonably be expected to survive the necessary procedure.
Minimally invasive surgery is used as a diagnostic tool to determine the type and the spread of the cancer and the origin point of the disease. These surgeries, called biopsies, may involve the used of long needles injected into the affected area, or a tiny surgical incision. Either way, a sample of the diseased tissue is collected for study and used to identify the type of mesothelioma and draft a prognosis.
Curative surgery is far more invasive. The surgeon opens a large area and carefully cuts away the tumorous growths. In some cases, a man-made material is used to replace the excised tissue. This option is only available if enough healthy tissue remains for the organ to function. After this type of surgery is performed, the internal cavity is filled with warm chemotherapy chemicals to kill any remaining cancer cells. The liquid chemotherapy is drained from the body cavity before the incision is closed. This is a highly effective procedure, but it is not an option for many patients.
Palliative surgery is performed to relieve the pain and discomfort caused by the buildup of fluid inside the body. The doctor uses a long needle to drain the fluid into a collection bag. The patient is then better able to move and breathe, and then pain and pressure are relieved. The fluid continues to build, however, and the patient needs another procedure before long.
There are hundreds of different medications that fall into the category of chemotherapy. These chemicals, specifically designed to kill cells, are used to battle all kinds of cancer and other diseases and conditions.
Side effects of chemotherapy can be difficult to endure. Patients may experience nausea, vomiting, severe loss of appetite and accompanying weight loss, constipation, fatigue, fever, night sweats and chills, low platelet and white blood cell counts, aches, pains, tingling in the extremities, rash, and depression.
The term radiation refers to a number of procedures designed to place radioactive material in the area affected by mesothelioma. Tiny radioactive particles kill or slow the growth rate of cancer tumors, and radiation may be used for either palliative or curative care.
Cutting Edge Research
Immunotherapy is a new treatment in testing that stimulates the body’s natural immune system to help fight cancer or introduces man-made proteins designed to mimic the function of the immune system. The man-made proteins are for use on patients who have compromised or damaged immune systems.
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is the introduction of a type of drug that responds to light. The encouraging news about this treatment is the low incidence of side effects compared to other mesothelioma treatments. Photosensitizing chemicals in the drug respond to a specific type of light by producing oxygen. The oxygen kills the cancerous cells, but does not harm the surrounding healthy tissue.