Getting diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma is a frightening experience that can leave you feeling powerless. Mesothelioma is aserious disease requiring medical intervention and monitoring throughout its course for the best possible outcome. This mesothelioma treatment guide may help to clarify the available options you have following your diagnosis.
Understanding your options is empowering
Currently, mesothelioma patients have three different kinds of treatment pathways available to them:
When used alone, the first option, surgery, is most effective during the first stage of localized malignant mesothelioma when the disease is confined to a portion of the lining of the chest. Surgeons can excise the malignancy, as well as the surrounding tissue. When the diagnosis is made early on in the disease progression, this may be the best option for you.
If the disease has progressed and more than one malignancy is detected in the chest area, surgeons might have to get more aggressive in their approach. An extrapleural pneumonectomy could be required. This type of surgery is most commonly used to remove the diseased lung and sections of the pleural membrane that line the chest, along with portions of the diaphragm and pericardium.
When the malignancy affects the peritoneal lining, the cancerous tissue can sometimes be excised from that area, including the tissue margins that extend out from the malignant spot.
In addition to surgery, oncologists often recommend that mesothelioma patients undergo radiation therapy as an adjuvant therapy to make sure that all the malignant cells are dead and can’t replicate. In some circumstances, radiation therapy is used as a palliative treatment to alleviate symptoms and enhance a patient’s quality of life.
Your oncologist makes decisions about radiation therapy based on the stage and type of mesotheliomawith which you are diagnosed. There are both external and internal radiation therapies that might be used.
External radiation beams high energy rays from outside of your body to cause the cancer cells to die off and stop reproducing. Internal radiation may involve the use of catherters, wires, seeds or needles to deliver radioactive material right to the source of the malignancy deep within the body.
Chemotherapy is commonly used as an adjuvant therapy to surgery, and may or may not be used with radiation therapies. Sometimes chemotherapy is used as a sole treatment when surgery is not an option. Chemotherapy is usually the treatment of choice when the cancer has advanced beyond the first stage.
Some chemotherapies are systemic, meaning that oral medications or intravenous or intramuscular injections are given at regular intervals to inhibit the spread of the malignant cells. Once these powerful drugs enter a mesothelioma patient’s bloodstream, they target malignant cells all over the body.
Regional chemotherapy is sometimes used to inject the drugs right into the body cavity (peritoneum or chest), cerebrospinal fluid or affected organ(s). It is possible that your oncologist may order both systemic and regional chemotherapies to combat your mesothelioma. This is often referred to as combination chemotherapy.
A third type of chemotherapy is hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy. This treatment can be used to fight mesothelioma once it spreads to the peritoneal tissue lining the abdominal area and the organs within it. To be at its most effective, surgeons first excise all visible evidence of cancer and the tissue margins surrounding the malignancies. Then, they pump a heated cocktail of strong anticancer drugs in and out of the abdominal cavity to wipe out any remaining cancerous cells.
Clinical trials can open up doors to new treatments
Your oncologist might suggest enrolling you in some promising new clinical trials for mesotheliomapatients. While all have different protocols for the patients they select, different clinical trials may accept patients who have never had treatment, those currently in treatment and those who have already tried other treatments. Below are two types of therapies offered in many clinical trials.
This treatment may also be referred to as immunotherapy or biotherapy and involves using a patient’s own immune system to battle the cancer. Substances produced by the body or synthesized in a lab can enhance, direct and restore a mesothelioma patient’s natural defenses to fight cancer.
Currently both kinase inhibitors and monoclonal antibodies are two targeted therapies being researched as treatment options for malignant mesothelioma. As both radiation and traditional chemotherapy are very hard on a cancer patient’s body, destroying healthy cells along with the malignant ones, these therapies show promise for the future.
Basically, kinase inhibitors block those signals that tumors need to send in order to expand and spread, whereas monoclonal antibody therapy uses lab-created antibodies to identify substances that can promote the growth of malignant cells. Antibodies attach to these materials and stifle the growth and spread of the malignant cells. These antibodies infuse the body and might also become transports for toxic substances, radioactive material or chemo drugs intended to wipe out the malignant cells.
Reducing stress can help you battle mesothelioma
Stressing over your mesothelioma condition can exacerbate some of the symptoms you are experiencing and significantly lower the quality of life for you. Your oncologist may be able to suggest alternative therapies such as hypnosis, meditation or acupuncture to alleviate some of the symptoms of stress.
Taking legal action against those companies responsible for the workplace environmental exposures to asbestos that caused your diagnosis of mesothelioma is one way to empower yourself and offload stress. Retaining an experienced mesothelioma attorney to represent your interests, as well as those of your spouse, children and other family members, can provide you with peace of mind that those you love will be taken care of financially after you are gone.