Patients diagnosed with mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure may have a variety of treatment options available to them. Choosing the right treatment regimen involves the consideration of many different factors including the tumor’s size and location, the extent to which the cancer has spread throughout the body, and the patient’s own personal treatment preferences.
The three major options for treatment of mesothelioma are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Each of these treatments comes with its own benefits and side effects, and your doctors may choose to use them in conjunction with each other. In addition to these standard treatments, some mesothelioma patients may also have the opportunity to participate in clinical trials. These trials can involve untested methods, which may provide new, more advanced treatment options if they work.
Surgical options for treating mesothelioma come in three distinct varieties. First, the doctor may attempt to completely remove the cancer via surgery. This option is somewhat rare because it can be physically strenuous for the person undergoing it and many older patients cannot take the stress. Additionally, mesothelioma often spreads quickly, which makes it difficult to remove. The second surgical option doctors have is to remove part of the cancer. While this will not completely cure the patient, it can make other options like chemotherapy and radiation more successful. The final surgical option doctors have is the palliative surgery. These operations do not try to cure the disease, but instead focus on relieving its symptoms. One of the most common palliative surgeries for mesothelioma is the draining of excess fluid from the lining of the lungs.
Cancer patients have had the option of undergoing chemotherapy since its introduction in the 1940s, and it remains one of the most common methods of treatment to this day. Chemotherapy treatments involve the use of medicine designed to kill cancer cells. While this line of treatment can be beneficial, it also comes with a variety of side effects including hair loss, mouth sores, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and increased vulnerability to infections. Consequently, patients considering this treatment should think about how it will affect their quality of life.
The final common treatment for mesothelioma is radiation therapy. The most prevalent type of radiation therapy is known as “external beam radiation.” In this type of treatment patients lie down on a table and a carefully calibrated machine irradiates their tumors. This treatment also does have some side effects like fatigue and skin problems. Doctors have recently begun experimenting with a new form of radiation therapy known as “brachytherapy”, which involves implanting a radiation source in the person. This could relieve some of the side effects associated with radiation therapy since this form of treatment could reduce the amount of radiation that the patient’s healthy cells receive.
Some mesothelioma patients may also have the opportunity to participate in clinical trials, which test new forms of treatment. These trials involve late-stage testing of therapies that researchers believe may hold some treatment potential. If a patient qualifies for such a trial, then their doctor will go over the potential risks and benefits of the treatment, but the final decision about partaking in the trial will rest with the patient.