Though mesothelioma has no cure at this time, there are many ways to manage the disease. Mesothelioma treatments keep patients healthy for longer periods of time. If the cancer has spread, treatments can help reduce painful symptoms. Chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery are most commons. Emerging treatments are also on the horizon.
What Are My Mesothelioma Treatment Options?
A mesothelioma diagnosis is very scary for patients and their families. Even worse, there is currently no cure for mesothelioma. Because most people never expect to develop mesothelioma, this can be extremely troubling.
However, there are treatment options available for mesothelioma patients. Though these options cannot cure the disease, they can extend a patient’s life and help them stay more comfortable. Without treatment, most people with mesothelioma will only live for a few months.
There are 3 main treatment options for those diagnosed with mesothelioma: surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. There are also new treatments currently being tested by scientists. Some patients can access these treatments by participating in clinical trials.
The effectiveness of treatments will vary depending on the stage and location of your cancer. Mesothelioma takes 10 to 50 years to develop, but once it has set in, it can spread rapidly throughout the body. Catching the cancer before it spreads can greatly increase your lifespan.
To be treated for mesothelioma, you will need the help of medical experts found at a specialized cancer facility. However, mesothelioma treatments can be very expensive — even with health insurance.
The American Cancer Society reported that cancer patients paid over $4 Billion for out-of-pocket expenses in 2014.
However, a mesothelioma law firm can help you cover these costs by filing a legal claim. Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma. Because of this, you can earn compensation from companies that negligently exposed you to asbestos.
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Types of Mesothelioma Treatment Options
Mesothelioma specialists will use surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation to remove or shrink cancerous tumors. Depending on your case, these treatments may be used in combination with one another.
There are two goals to all mesothelioma treatments. The first is to increase the patient’s lifespan. If the cancer is caught in its early stages, the treatments will be much more effective.
The other goal is to keep patients comfortable. If the cancer has spread, treatments may not help extend a patient’s life. However, smaller-scale treatments can reduce painful cancer symptoms.
Your mesothelioma medical team will determine which treatment options will work best in your case. It is ultimately up to you, though, to choose which treatments you want to pursue.
Chemotherapy treats cancer using powerful drugs that break down and destroy mesothelioma tumors. They can be administered by pill, by injection, or with a catheter leading right to the tumors.
Chemotherapy can be used to treat mesothelioma on its own. However, it is often used alongside other forms of treatment. Different chemotherapy drugs are often used together as well. The most common combination of chemotherapy drugs is cisplatin and pemetrexed.
Chemotherapy also comes with a risk of side effects. What side effects you may experience depends on what chemotherapy drug(s) you are given and for how long.
Common side effects include:
- Bruising or bleeding easily
- Hair loss
- Loss of appetite
- Mouth sores
- Nerve damage (neuropathy)
With radiation therapy, doctors use X-rays to shrink tumors and kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy interrupts the DNA of mesothelioma cells, preventing them from multiplying. It is almost always used alongside other forms of treatment, like surgery.
Though radiation is useful, it can cause serious side effects. Radiation therapy also damages healthy cells, causing different symptoms depending on the affected area.
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Hair loss or thinning
- Nausea and vomiting
- Shortness of breath
Though most symptoms do not last long, some patients may develop long-term side effects. As a result, radiation is only used to treat mesothelioma in certain cases. Patients should consult their doctor about the pros and cons of radiation therapy.
Surgery allows doctors to remove cancerous tumors from your body. The most extreme surgeries are performed in early-stage patients to give them the best odds for survival.
Surgery depends on the stage and location of the cancer.
These surgeries include:
Extrapleural Pneumonectomy (EPP)
This surgery removes the lung closest to the mesothelioma tumor, along with the lining of the chest wall and heart. Part of the diaphragm is also removed.
Patients must be in good health to qualify for this surgery. Patients with late-stage mesothelioma can still receive this surgery in rare cases, but it is very risky and may do more harm than good. Only surgeons who specialize in treating mesothelioma will perform an EPP.
This surgery removes the pleura (the lining of the lungs) and nearby mesothelioma tumors. P/D allows patients to breathe better and have a higher quality of life. This surgery also controls excess fluid buildup and reduces pain.
P/D does not remove a lung, which makes it a safer alternative to an extrapleural pneumonectomy. It is normally performed on patients before the cancer has spread, although it may be used for some late-stage patients to manage their symptoms.
Cytoreduction with HIPEC
Cytoreduction with HIPEC combines surgery and chemotherapy drugs into a powerful treatment. This surgery is specifically for patients with peritoneal mesothelioma. In this procedure, parts of the peritoneum (lining of the chest) and mesothelioma tumors are removed.
After this, doctors will apply heated chemotherapy drugs directly on the surgical areas to kill any unseen cancer cells. Only specialized mesothelioma surgeons will perform this surgery because it is very complicated. It takes 10-12 hours to complete.
Other surgeries may be performed on late-stage patients to shrink their tumors and reduce fluid buildup. Because these patients may be weaker, the more complicated surgeries will not be recommended.
Other Types of Treatment
Outside of these standard mesothelioma treatments, there are other options available. These treatments are generally not available to everybody. However, some may be able to access them through clinical trials or other research studies.
In clinical trials, researchers study newer treatments with the hope of finding a cure. They also test different combinations of existing treatments. Clinical trials may be another option if standard treatments are not effective.
Clinical trials come with a few strings attached, though. First of all, not everyone will be able to participate in a clinical trial. Most are looking for patients who meet a certain set of qualifications, vary in each trial.
In addition, some people in the study will receive a placebo. This means that instead of receiving the treatment being tested, they will receive standard mesothelioma treatments. A placebo allows scientists to compare the new treatment to those that do not get it.
Experimental treatments may hold the key to a cure. Scientists use these explorative treatments to try and figure out better ways of treating mesothelioma.
Experimental treatments include:
- Gene Therapy: This type of therapy seeks to alter the genes inside your body’s cells that are affected by cancer. Since cancer is caused by DNA changes to the cells, scientists are studying if these changes can be reversed.
- Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy looks to harness the body’s immune response to target cancer cells. This form of therapy is very promising. Researchers are studying how different drugs can be used to change cells that regulate the body’s immune response so they target cancer cells.
- Photodynamic Therapy (PDT): PDT uses light-sensitive drugs to kill cancer cells. The drug is injected through a vein and sits inside the body. Several days later, a tube with a red light is inserted at the injection site. This causes a chemical reaction that kills cancerous cells.
- Virus Therapy: Scientists are studying how viruses can be repurposed to attack cancer cells. For example, in 2018 researchers noted that a weakened form of the measles vaccine could potentially be used to attack cancer cells without harming healthy ones.
Receiving Mesothelioma Treatments
Effective treatments can only be given by mesothelioma specialists. Though the cancer is very rare, there are cancer treatment facilities across the country equipped to treat it. Without proper treatment for mesothelioma, it can be lethal in months.
However, mesothelioma treatments can be very expensive — even if you have health insurance. This can either prevent you from getting the care you need or drive your family into debt.
The good news is that you do not need to suffer financially if you developed mesothelioma. It was not your fault. For decades, companies that made and sold asbestos-based goods knew their products could cause serious health issues like cancer. However, they continued to sell their goods to make a profit.
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Sokolove Law holds these companies accountable. By filing a mesothelioma claim with us, you can access funds set aside for the victims of asbestos exposure. Contact us today to learn more.