Mesothelioma Treatment Options: How Do They Affect Survival?
Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, heart, and abdomen. It is caused by exposure to asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral that was widely used in the construction and manufacturing industries until the 1980s. Mesothelioma is notoriously difficult to diagnose and treat, with a poor overall survival rate. However, recent advances in mesothelioma treatment options have given hope to patients and their families. In this article, we will explore the various mesothelioma treatment options available and how they affect survival.
Surgery is an option for some mesothelioma patients, particularly those with early-stage disease. The goal of surgery is to remove as much of the cancer as possible, with the hope of curing the disease or prolonging survival. The two most common types of surgery for mesothelioma are:
- Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP): This involves removing the affected lung, the lining of the lung, the diaphragm, and the lining of the heart.
- Pleurectomy/decortication (P/D): This involves removing the lining of the lung and chest wall, but not the lung itself.
While surgery can be an effective mesothelioma treatment option, it is a major procedure with a high risk of complications, including infection, bleeding, and respiratory failure. In addition, not all mesothelioma patients are candidates for surgery, depending on factors such as their overall health and the stage of their disease.
Chemotherapy is a systemic mesothelioma treatment option, meaning it is administered throughout the body via IV or pills. The goal of chemotherapy is to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Chemotherapy is often used in combination with surgery or radiation therapy to improve outcomes. Some of the most common chemotherapy drugs used to treat mesothelioma include:
- Alimta (pemetrexed)
While chemotherapy can be effective in treating mesothelioma, it can also cause side effects such as nausea, hair loss, and fatigue. In addition, not all mesothelioma patients are candidates for chemotherapy, depending on factors such as their overall health and the stage of their disease.
Radiation therapy is a local mesothelioma treatment option, meaning it targets a specific area of the body. The goal of radiation therapy is to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation therapy is often used in combination with surgery or chemotherapy to improve outcomes. There are two main types of radiation therapy used to treat mesothelioma:
- External-beam radiation therapy (EBRT): This involves directing high-energy rays from a machine outside the body to the affected area.
- Brachytherapy: This involves placing radioactive material directly into or near the tumor.
While radiation therapy can be effective in treating mesothelioma, it can also cause side effects such as skin irritation and fatigue. In addition, not all mesothelioma patients are candidates for radiation therapy, depending on factors such as their overall health and the stage of their disease.
Immunotherapy is a newer mesothelioma treatment option that harnesses the power of the immune system to fight cancer. The goal of immunotherapy is to stimulate the immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. There are several types of immunotherapy used to treat mesothelioma, including:
- Checkpoint inhibitors: These drugs block certain proteins on cancer cells that help them evade the immune system.
- Adoptive cell transfer: This involves removing immune cells from the patient, modifying them in a lab, and then infusing them back into the patient.
- Cancer vaccines: These are designed to stimulate the immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells.
While immunotherapy has shown promise in treating mesothelioma, it is still a relatively new mesothelioma treatment option and is not yet widely available. In addition, not all mesothelioma patients are candidates for immunotherapy, depending on factors such as their overall health and the stage of their disease.
Clinical trials are research studies that test new mesothelioma treatment options and techniques. They are an important way for mesothelioma patients to access cutting-edge treatments and potentially improve their outcomes. Clinical trials may investigate new drugs, combinations of drugs, or new surgical or radiation techniques. Mesothelioma patients can speak with their doctor to see if they qualify for any ongoing clinical trials.
Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer with a poor overall survival rate. However, recent advances in mesothelioma treatment options have given hope to patients and their families. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and clinical trials are all mesothelioma treatment options that can improve outcomes and prolong survival. Mesothelioma patients and their families should speak with their doctor to determine the best treatment plan for their individual situation.