The amount of success a mesothelioma patient experiences in their treatment depends on the type of treatment they receive and when they receive it. Learn about the different types of mesothelioma treatment and each one’s relative success.
Can Mesothelioma Be Cured?
When considering mesothelioma treatment, it’s important to keep in mind that the goal of many treatment options is to manage symptoms and prolong a patient’s life, rather than cure the cancer. This is because most cases of mesothelioma are not diagnosed until the cancer has already metastasized to distant parts of the body, making the condition much more difficult to cure.
However, the following three treatments may help improve quality of life for many mesothelioma patients for a significant amount of time:
3 Main Treatments for Mesothelioma
There are three main treatments for mesothelioma, including:
Surgery is a treatment that may be able to cure mesothelioma. Often, this is only possible if mesothelioma is caught and diagnosed in an early stage, when the tumor remains in a localized area that can be removed surgically. This type of cancer is referred to as “resectable.”
According to the American Cancer Society, most Stage 1 and Stage 2 pleural mesotheliomas are potentially resectable. However, there are exceptions, including the following:
- The tumor is located in a sensitive or difficult-to-reach area of the body.
- The tumor has grown deeply into nearby tissues.
- The patient is not healthy enough to undergo surgery.
If a patient does not have any of these restrictions, they may undergo a surgical procedure, which may make it possible for their cancer to be cured. However, cancer is rarely considered “cured” forever. Recurrent mesothelioma occurs when cancer comes back after treatment. Recurrence can be local or distant. In fact, it’s common for mesothelioma to be recurrent. If this happens, patients will have to undergo additional treatments, such as chemotherapy and/or radiation.
Chemotherapy is rarely used as the sole treatment for any type of cancer. Often, chemotherapy will be used in combination with surgery, even if surgery completely removed the tumor(s). This is seen as an additional safety measure to shrink the cancer before surgery to make it easier to remove, or to kill or halt the multiplication of cancer cells that may have been left in the body after the surgical procedure. These techniques are known as neoadjuvant therapy and adjuvant therapy, respectively.
Chemotherapy can be an aggressive treatment that is not suitable for every mesothelioma patient. Some of the common side effects of chemotherapy include:
- Hair loss
- Mouth sores
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Increased chance of infections
- Easy bruising or bleeding
Chemotherapy, however, can prove effective for those who can tolerate it. In fact, a 2016 Wayne State University study found patients given a chemotherapy drug combination lived three times longer than patients without it.
Radiation uses targeted high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells. Since mesothelioma often does not grow as single, distinct tumors, it is difficult to treat mesothelioma with targeted radiation beams on their own. However, radiation is useful in combination with surgery and chemotherapy, as it can increase the effectiveness of surgery and chemotherapy.
There are two main types of radiation therapy, including:
- External beam radiation therapy (EBRT): This technique uses x-rays from a machine outside the body to kill cancer cells.
- Brachytherapy: This technique places a radiation source inside the body, near the cancer. This form of radiation is rarely used in chemotherapy treatment unless it’s part of a clinical trial.
Experimental Treatments for Mesothelioma
Some patients may decide to undergo experimental treatments for the chance of a better recovery. Three types of experimental treatments for mesothelioma include:
Gene therapy encompasses a variety of methods of altering the structure or function of genes by inserting DNA or RNA. This process is meant to help restore a cell’s function that has been lost, or to change a cell’s existing function. Examples of such processes include:
- Replacing defective p52 genes that suppress tumor growth
- Stopping cancerous genes from diving and metastasizing
- Making cancer cells more unstable
- Changing cancer cells so they are more responsive to treatment
- Stopping genes that create angiogenes which form new blood vessels that carry nutrients to cancer cells
The American Cancer Society has expressed confidence in gene therapy. However, this treatment is only available through clinical trials.
Photodynamic therapy uses red laser light to kill cancer cells. Like radiation, photodynamic therapy is a localized treatment that targets the tumor directly. This can be beneficial to the patient because it allows the doctor to administer more of this treatment and repeat it without harming other body systems.
Another characteristic that photodynamic therapy has in common with radiation is that it is often best used in combination with other therapies. This is because the body’s tissues cannot absorb laser light to a great depth. So, to achieve maximum efficiency, it’s best used after a surgical procedure to remove as much of the tumor as possible.
Immunotherapy uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. This process inserts agents into the body that stimulate the immune system.
This treatment seems to be effective, with a 1993 study indicating that it improves the average survival rate in mesothelioma patients that have large amounts of white blood cells that have infiltrated the tumor.
Similar to the other experimental treatments, immunotherapy is not available in traditional medical settings, but rather through clinical trials.
Can Mesothelioma Be Prevented?
Mesothelioma results from exposure to the toxic substance asbestos. This material is still found in older buildings. It’s the responsibility of employers and building managers to screen their properties for signs of asbestos and hire a professional asbestos removal company to remove the substance as soon as possible.
The failure to do so may result in the development of mesothelioma in workers and tenants. Since the development of mesothelioma is entirely preventable, the presence of asbestos in a building may make the negligent party liable for the mesothelioma patient’s medical bills, lost wages, and more.
Suffering From Mesothelioma? Contact Us Today
A mesothelioma diagnosis can be tough to accept, particularly when mesothelioma is completely preventable by avoiding contact with asbestos. If you or someone you love developed mesothelioma after asbestos exposure in a home, workplace, or somewhere else, Shrader & Associates L.L.P. is here to help. We have helped countless mesothelioma patients recover the compensation they need for medical bills, lost wages, and more. Learn how we may help you, too.
Call Shrader & Associates L.L.P. at (713) 787-3733 to schedule a free case review.