Mesothelioma is a rare cancer caused by asbestos exposure that affects the lining of internal organs. The majority of cases involve the lining of the lung called the pleura, but tumors can also form in the lining of the abdomen (peritoneum) and the heart (pericardium).
This aggressive cancer is often difficult to treat because by the time symptoms surface, the disease is already in advanced stages and there are few treatment options. Treatment options for patients with mesothelioma are usually determined by the stage of the cancer and the patient’s overall health.
Current Standard Treatments
Most types of mesothelioma are treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or a combination of these treatments called multimodal therapy. These treatments help patients to prolong their life expectancy much more than conventional treatments used 10 years ago.
Surgery is the most common treatment for mesothelioma. Here are some of the common surgeries:
In general, patients in earlier stages of the disease are better candidates for some of the more radical surgeries. There are also surgeries that concentrate on reducing the symptoms of mesothelioma such as the buildup of fluid in the lungs (pleural effusion), abdominal cavity and lining of the heart.
Chemotherapy is one of the most effective treatments and does not involve an invasive procedure like surgery. Cancer killing drugs are injected into the body, though healthy cells are also affected. Cisplatin and premextred are the most common drugs used. Two or more drugs are often used to achieve the maximum effect.
Radiation therapy is used to apply radiation directly to areas in the body affected by cancer. Because it is targeted, radiation can spare the entire body the toxic side effects of chemotherapy. However, radiation therapy also has its side effects. It is also most effective when used in conjunction with other therapies.
Most of these therapies have shown promise in a variety of clinical trials. Though most emerging therapies are still experimental, they can still be options for mesothelioma patients.
Suicide Gene Therapy Many cells in our bodies go through a natural life and death process. However, mutated cancer cells – like those found in mesothelioma – resist this natural cell death called apoptosis. In gene therapy, doctors use a lab-created virus to attach to cancer cells. The virus re-codes cancer cells and over time, causes them to die.
Cytokine Gene Therapy This type of gene therapy is used to stimulate the immune system to recognize tumors and fight them. With this type of therapy, doctors can administer higher doses of medication directly to tumors without as many toxic side effects.
Photodynamic Therapy Photodynamic therapy involves the use of targeted beams of light to kill specific cells. It has been approved for use in many cancers, though still experimental in the treatment of mesothelioma. An advantage to photodynamic therapy is it does not involve harmful side effects like chemotherapy or radiation.
In addition to these therapies, there are many experimental therapies being tested in clinical trials and mesothelioma patients can take advantage of these trials to try many of the newer drugs and therapies.
Many mesothelioma patients also opt to try different therapies such as massage therapy, acupuncture and mediation. Some patients also choose to control their disease through a vitamin supplement regimen and eating a raw, whole-food diet. There have been a number of asbestos cancer and other types of cancer survivors that credit their recovery to a strict nutrition and supplement plan.
Because mesothelioma is a rare disease, many new treatment options remain experimental, but patients may take advantage of clinical trials to gain access to these treatments. The preliminary results are encouraging and provide hope that these treatments may soon provide more options to mesothelioma patients.
Bio: Michelle Y. Llamas is a writer for the Mesothelioma Center. She is committed to generating awareness about the dangers of asbestos exposure and providing information regarding breakthroughs in mesothelioma treatment.
and a final word from a GP :