Doctors have not agreed on a standard mesothelioma treatment program, nor has the Food and Drug Administration come up with one.
People suffering from mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos should ask their doctor questions about the type of mesothelioma they have, how advanced the disease is, what the treatment options are, the risks and side effects of the treatments being suggested and how to prepare for these treatments.
There are currently few treatment options for patients who have received a mesothelioma diagnosis. Doctors choose a treatment based on the extent of the disease, type and location of the mesothelioma, and the patient’s specific background. In most cases, doctors will suggest surgery, radiation treatment or chemotherapy to counter the mesothelioma symptoms.
During the surgical procedure known as pneumonectomy, doctors remove the affected tissue. This form of treatment can be used in pleural mesothelioma cases, where part of the lung is removed. There is another surgical procedure (pleurectomy) to remove part of the internal abdominal region in cases where the mesothelioma has spread outside the lungs.
Radiation treatment seeks to destroy cancerous cells while preserving cancer-free tissues. Radioactive sources are placed in a patient to emit the radiation necessary to kill the affected cells for roughly one year. When a mesothelioma patient is too sick for surgery, radiation treatment is more commonly used.
This treatment is less effective than the others but is sometimes still the best option for a particular individual. Chemotherapy uses drugs to attack the cancerous cells, but these drugs cannot distinguish between damaged and healthy cells, which can lead to additional side effects. Not only might the drugs attack healthy cells, but they also have high levels of toxicity and can make the patient more ill.
These treatments can be used in combination with others to help the patient as much as possible. No treatment is completely effective, so patients may also have their mesothelioma treated with clinical trials, as new and adapted forms of treatment emerge frequently.
Learn more about clinical trials being conducted for new mesothelioma treatments.