Treating mesothelioma usually requires a multi-prong approach that includes surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.
A person’s exact treatment regimen, however, will depend on a few different factors, including age and general health, how early the illness was diagnosed, and the type of mesothelioma in question.
Unfortunately, even patients who are diagnosed early and receive aggressive treatment often end up losing their battle with this cancer. All forms of mesothelioma are notorious for being particularly deadly.
For these reasons, a diagnosis of mesothelioma is usually especially devastating for patients and their families. This is particularly true for people who became ill as a result of exposure to asbestos at work or at home. This exposure often could have been prevented through the use of precautionary safety measures.
Although no amount of money can ever make things right for a person who receives this type of cancer diagnosis, compensation from the negligent manufacturer, distributor, or employer responsible for asbestos exposure is one of the best ways to ensure that a patient is able to pay for the most advanced medical treatment.
To learn more about what is required to file this type of claim, please contact an experienced mesothelioma lawyer at The Law Offices of Michael P. Joyce, P.C., who can advise you about your options. The consultations is free and confidential.
Surgery for Mesothelioma
Whether a patient who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma should undergo surgery depends on the specific type of mesothelioma and how far the illness has advanced. Most medical professionals agree, however, that successful surgical removal of a cancerous tumor is one of the most successful ways to address the disease.
Someone suffering from pleural mesothelioma, which primarily affects the lungs, could qualify for either curative or palliative surgery. Curative surgery usually involves the complete removal of the cancerous tumor in an attempt to cure a patient of cancer completely. Palliative surgery is used in cases where the cancer has become too widespread to be removed, but surgery could help ease symptoms and prolong life, according to the American Cancer Society.
Extrapleural pneumonectomy is one form of curative surgery used in pleural mesothelioma cases. It involves the complete removal of the diseased lung, the diaphragm, and the pericardium. This is a complex operation only certain patients qualify for, namely those who are in good overall health, have no other serious illnesses, and still have good lung function.
Pleurectomy decortication is a less extensive operation that is available to some patients who are suffering from pleural mesothelioma. It involves the removal of all of the pleura that line the chest wall and lung on the side with cancer. This surgery can be used as an attempt at curing early cancers. It can also be used as a palliative procedure to relieve symptoms by controlling the buildup of fluid, lessening pain, and improving breathing when it isn’t possible to remove the entire tumor.
Surgery for peritoneal mesothelioma, which primarily affects the abdomen, can be used to ease symptoms or to remove cancerous growths from the digestive organs and wall of the abdomen. This is known as debulking. It involves removing as much of the cancer as possible, including any growths on the peritoneum, which is a membrane that drapes over the organs. It often requires the removal of parts of the intestines.
Surgery can be used to remove tumors from the pericardium, the sac surrounding the heart. In a pericardectomy, the entire pericardium is removed, which eases the pressure on the heart. Alternatively, a surgeon could choose to make a hole in the pericardium, in which chemotherapy drugs can be placed directly.
It is important to note that although surgery can play a crucial role in ending or easing the symptoms of mesothelioma, it also comes with the risk of serious complications, including internal bleeding, blood clots, infection, fluid build-up in the chest or abdomen, loss of lung function, pneumonia, and changes in heart rhythm.
Chemotherapy for Mesothelioma
Chemotherapy is a mesothelioma treatment that involves the use of anti-cancer drugs. Although chemotherapy can be used in a number of different ways, the American Cancer Society reports that specialists have seen the greatest success in treating mesothelioma when chemotherapy is used along with surgery.
This could involve giving a dose of chemotherapy before surgery in an attempt to shrink the tumor and lower the risk of its spread, which is known as neoadjuvant therapy. Administration after surgery, which is intended to kill any cancer cells that were inadvertently left behind, is a process known as adjuvant therapy.
There are two main ways that chemotherapy is administered to mesothelioma patients:
- Systemic chemotherapy, in which the anti-cancer drugs are injected directly into the bloodstream through the vein; and
- Intrapleural or intraperitoneal chemotherapy, which involves the placement of the drugs directly into the chest or abdomen and allows the highest possible concentration of the drugs to attack cancer cells.
Like surgery, mesothelioma treatment chemotherapy does come with possible side effects, such as:
- Hair loss
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Increased chance of infections or illness
- Excessive bleeding or bruising
Generally, these side effects are less common amongst those who undergo intrapleural or intraperitoneal chemotherapy treatment.
Radiation for Mesothelioma
Radiation therapy is another treatment option for treating mesothelioma. It involves the use of high energy x-rays that can kill cancer cells.
Many types of mesothelioma have proven resistant to radiation therapy because this kind of cancer doesn’t usually grow as a single tumor, according to medical journals, including Cancer Radiotherapie. This can make it difficult to target certain parts of the body while avoiding healthy tissue.
Radiation can be used in a few different ways, including:
- After surgery, to destroy any small areas of cancer that were not removed surgically
- As a palliative procedure that eases certain symptoms, such as pain, bleeding, shortness of breath, and difficulty swallowing
Common side effects of radiation therapy include:
- Hair loss
- Skin problems
- Lung damage
- Loss of appetite
Typically, these side effects tend to be worse for those who are being treated with chemotherapy and radiation simultaneously.
Palliative Care for Mesothelioma
Often combined with curative surgery, palliative care is intended to relieve pain and discomfort in patients who are suffering from mesothelioma. According to the Seminars in Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery Journal, the most common forms of palliative care used by mesothelioma patients include:
- Pleurodesis, which is utilized primarily by patients who have tumors in the protective linings of their lungs and involves surgically draining excess fluid between the inner and outer membranes and then closing the space with a chemical adhesive
- Thoracentesis, which involves a surgeon inserting a needle into the lungs to drain fluid and release pressure
- Parecentesis, which is primarily used for patients suffering from peritoneal mesothelioma and involves inserting a needle into the abdominal cavity and draining fluid buildup
- Pericardiocetesis, in which fluid is drained from the lining of the heart
These procedures can play a critical role in helping alleviate chest pain, coughing, and fluid build-up, but will not cure the disease itself.
Clinical Trials for Mesothelioma
Clinical trials are research studies, in which patients who are suffering from certain diseases are directly involved. There are a number of clinical trials currently being run for mesothelioma patients.
The National Cancer Institute, for instance, reports that one clinical trial is using immunotherapy with antibodies to help the body attack cancer cells and interfere with the ability of tumor cells to spread. Another clinical trial is assessing the side effects of intensity modulated radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery when treating mesothelioma patients. A third study involves an analysis of different kinds of medications and how they could help chemotherapy treatments become more effective by making tumor cells more sensitive to the drugs.
Whether a patient qualifies for these types of trials depends on a number of factors, including his or her general health, the kind of cancer in question, and the cancer’s rate of growth.
Unfortunately, there is no known cure for mesothelioma. This cancer is terminal, with many patients living no longer than one year after diagnosis. Although a mesothelioma prognosis is never ideal, it can help determine the mesothelioma treatment guidelines and options for patients, including whether they could qualify for clinical trials.
Financial Help for Mesothelioma Treatment
Treating mesothelioma can be very expensive. Patients who have been diagnosed with this illness could have access to financial assistance to help pay for medical costs and provide financial security for loved ones.
This assistance takes many forms, including grants, trust funds, settlements, and jury verdicts. Ultimately, the type of financial assistance for which you could qualify depends on your specific situation, including whether you were exposed to asbestos through the negligence of an employer or another party.
To learn more about which of these forms of financial assistance could be available to you, please contact the experienced and compassionate Boston mesothelioma attorneys at The Law Offices of Michael P. Joyce, P.C., by calling our office or contacting us online. A member of our legal team is standing by to address your questions and concerns during a free and confidential consultation.