Mesothelioma Treatment Options
Mesothelioma diagnosis and treatment for cancers arising
from asbestos exposure in the workplace
There are a greater number of mesothelioma treatment options available today, offering palliative methods for managing the painful and debilitating effects of mesothelioma diseases. Physicians decide on how to treat the various asbestos induced diseases depending on factors such as the stage of the cancer, the extent to which it might have developed and spread to surrounding tissue, the age of the patient and the condition of malignant cells.
If mesothelioma diagnosis is carried out early and the cancer arrested in its early stage, statistics show experienced physicians can extend the survival rate of nearly half of patients to 5 years, well above the typical 12 months life expectancy.
Mesothelioma diagnosis begins with biopsies, x-rays, MRIs and CT scans. Once cancer is diagnosed, the three principal areas of treatment are Radiation Therapy, Chemotherapy and Surgery. Unless the cancer is diagnosed at a very early stage, there is no currently no treatment available that can totally cure mesothelioma cancer. Instead, the only realistic options presently available to doctors are palliative treatments. These are treatments intended to alleviate pain without actually curing malignant cancer cells.
In contrast to surgery and chemotherapy, radiation treatment provides fewer and less severe side effects. For this reason, doctors usually reserve radiation therapy for patients in a weakened condition who are less likely to survive treatment by surgery or chemotherapy. The most common type of radiation therapy is External Beam Therapy (EBT), where a beam of intense radiation is directed externally to a patient's tumor. This treatment is intended to reduce pain and discomfort but requires daily administering 5 times a week for up to 5 weeks to maximise the palliative benefits of this form of treatment. In contrast to EBT which directs radiation from an external source, physicians occasionally apply Brachytherapy. In this form of treatment, radioactive material are placed within the abdomen or lungs to bring about palliative relief from the painful symptoms of mesothelioma.
Surgery is a mesothelioma treatment option usually performed more to reduce the discomfort patients experience than to cure the disease. This is because mesothelioma cancers are usually diagnosed late. A common symptom of mesothelioma is build up of fluid within the lungs; and doctors often treat this condition by performing a thoracentesis on patients to drain the fluid. Another common surgical procedure is pleurodesis, where talc is introduced into the lungs to prevent build up of fluid and its associated discomfort.
As with the surgery and radiation treatment, chemotherapy is also administered as a palliative to lessen the painful conditions of full blown mesothelioma cancers. Chemotherapy on mesothelioma sufferers involves injection of drugs using two procedures. Intraperitoneal treatment involves injection of drugs into the abdominal cavity. The other approach involves intrapleural injections where drugs are injected directly into the chest cavity. The pace of development in this field is accelerating rapidly, bringing more effective mesothelioma treatment options for sufferers. Doctors commonly use combinations of drugs to enhance the palliative benefits of mesothelioma chemotherapy.