Mesothelioma Treatment Options

What are the treatment options for Mesothelioma?
Each patient's treatment plan will vary depending on a number of key factors. Your doctor and/or oncologist will most likely run a series of diagnostic tests to determine the treatment that is best for you.  These tests could include the following:
  1. X-Rays
  2. CT scans
  3. MRIs
  4. Biopsies
Mesothelioma is treated like many other cancers, with the primary focus on killing malignant cancer cells while preserving the healthy ones. Treatment typically invovles one of these three main categories: Chemotherapy, Radiotherapy and Surgery.  The exact course of treatment will depend on the following key factors:
  1. TheType of Mesothelioma
  2. Patient Age
  3. How far the cancer has metastasized or spread
  4. The Location of the tumor
  5. The size of the tumor(s)
  6. The stage of the cancer ( I, II, III, etc.)
  7. General  health condition of the patient

How is surgery used to treat Mesothelioma?
Surgery is typically used with one of the following two goals in mind:
  1. Attempt to cure the disease by removing the cancer.
  2. Relieve the symptoms and make the patient more comfortable.
Unfortunately, Mesothelioma is usually discovered in a later stage which makes it difficult to cure with surgery.  However, even in the late stages, there are several surgical procedures that are often performed to help stabilize the disease.  Researchers are hoping to develop future test that will allow doctors to diagnose Mesothelioma in its early stages.  
Newer more aggressive surgeries have been developed in recent years, which can extend the survival rates of Mesothelioma patients.  One example of these surgeries is a procedure called the Extrapleural Pneumonectomy.  This surgery is performed by a specialized surgeon who removes the affected lung, the lining around the lungs, the membrane surrounding the heart and the diaphragm.  During the surgery, chemotherapy is applied ot he areas affected, with the goal of killing any remaining cancer cells.  After the chemotherapy is applied, the surgeon reconstructs the pericardium (membrane surrounding the heart) and the diaphragm.

How is Radiation used to treat Mesothelioma?
Radiation is frequently used when a patient is not healthy enough to receive chemotherapy.  This is primarily because radiation has fewer side effects and tends to be more tolerated than chemotherapy.  Radiation can be administered in different ways and is often used in conjunction with chemotherapy.
How is Chemotherapy used to treat Mesothelioma?
Chemotherapy is used with the goal of eradicating cancer cells, while leaving behind the healthy ones.  Unfortunately, chemotherapy typically does not cure Mesothelioma, but it can be effective in relieving symptoms, extending survival and slowing disease progression.
Researchers are constantly experimenting with various combinations of chemotherapy agents, with the goal of finding the right combination to make the disease more manageable and perhaps offer a cure.
In general, chemotherapy is usually administered in the form of a pill or it is injected into the patient.  Mesothelioma patients usually recieve chemotherapy intravenously, through an IV.   It is not uncommon for doctors to combine two chemotherapy agents to achieve the best results.  However, some patients cannot tolerate more than one drug during their treatment.
There is also a variety of other drugs that can be given to ease the side effects of chemotherapy.  Examples would be drugs to relieve vomiting and nausea as well as vitamin supplements to compensate for the body's natural vitamins and minerals that are often lost during the chemotherapy treatment.

Where can I find more information?
For more information about treatment and clinical trials, I highly recommend that your visit the Mesothelioma & Asbestos Aware center.  They have put together an excellent site with a ton of useful Mesothelioma Information.  The link follows: