Mesothelioma Treatment Guide
Patients who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma will have a number of important decisions to make about their future, including what treatment option is most appropriate for their condition and for their individual goals. The process of making this decision should begin with a solid understanding of all of the various protocols available, as well as of the patient’s condition and prognosis. In some cases, patients choose to approach their disease aggressively and with an eye to battling for the longest survival time possible. In other cases, it may be more appropriate to focus on quality of life and pain relief. To make sure that you are making the best choice for you, it is a good idea to involve trusted family members and friends in your discussions, as well as to work collaboratively with your mesothelioma physician and care team.
The team of professionals that exist to help those diagnosed with asbestosis, asbestos-related lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma extend far beyond your medical team. Attorneys who specialize in asbestos cases are able to help you file claims against the asbestos trust funds, which are currently valued at over $30 billion set aside to provide for those diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases. Contact us today to receive a free Financial Compensation Packet which explains all of the resources available to you, or to speak with one of our professionals about filing a mesothelioma lawsuit against the asbestos companies.
Every decision about the most appropriate mesothelioma treatment begins with the individual patient’s condition. Your physician will be able to help you understand the stage of your disease, as well as what mesothelioma cell type you have been diagnosed with and how each of these factors into your prognosis. Other factors will also be used to help determine what your best treatment course is. These include your gender, your age, your overall medical condition including your weight and the presence of any other illnesses, and more. If you are in good condition beyond the existence of your cancer and the tumors have not spread, then you may be a candidate for a curative approach that would include surgery and chemotherapy to halt or slow the disease. If your outlook or health are not as robust, then protocols designed to minimize discomfort and allow you to enjoy time with friends and family are more likely to be recommended.
Surgery can be offered to patients who are candidates for an aggressive curative approach as well as for those who are looking for relief from discomfort and pain. For those trying to slow or stop the spread of their cancer, removal of existing tumors is the first line of defense, with chemotherapy to follow in order to kill any cancer cells left behind. By contrast, patients who are looking for pain relief can have surgery focused on relieving the pressure caused by the existence of tumors. These palliative surgeries can ease suffering. In instances where a patient is so weakened by their disease that physicians suspect that they would not survive or recover from surgery, this treatment options is ruled out.
Chemotherapy is one of the most effective methods of killing cancer cells. It can be administered intravenously or taken orally, but it can also be delivered directly into an open surgical site as part of a state-of-the-art multimodality therapy. In all cases, the goal of chemotherapy is to shrink the size of cancer tumors and to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy does this by targeting cells that multiply rapidly. Though this is an effective approach, it also carries a number of uncomfortable side effects. Patients who undergo chemotherapy often experience the loss of all of their body hair as well as the hair on top of their heads. They experience nausea, body aches, mouth ulcers, anemia, rashes, and more. There are several different chemotherapy medications that are used to treat mesothelioma, with the most popular being a combination of drugs known as Alimta. Other options include Navelbine, Onconase, Carboplatin, Cisplatin and Gemcitabine. Each has different benefits and differing side effects. All can make a significant difference in a patient’s survival, making them worth the unpleasant side effects.
Radiation therapy is the use of radiation targeted at cancer cells. It can reduce the size of tumors and kill them. Though radiation therapy can be effective, it has not been shown to have a significant impact on malignant mesothelioma when used on its own. For that reason, it is generally incorporated into a treatment protocol as part of a multimodality approach. There are a number of specialized ways that radiation therapy technology has been used to aid patients diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, beyond the more traditional approach. These include:
- Three-Dimensional Radiation Treatment (3D-CRT) – This state-of-the-art technology allows radiation therapy professionals and physicians to have a three dimensional view of the tumor that they are targeting. This enables greater accuracy and limits damage to any surrounding healthy tissue.
- Intensely Modulated Radiation Therapy – This approach allows physicians to modify the degree of radiation intensity to suit the severity of the cancer that is being targeted. It is also a more finely focused radiation beam, which minimizes the impact on healthy tissue in the body.
- Brachytherapy – This form of radiation therapy involves implanting radioactive seeds into the area where the cancer is located. It is only infrequently used in the treatment of malignant mesothelioma, though as more is learned about it and its effectiveness, it may be used more in the future.
Being treated with radiation therapy often leaves patients with lingering aftereffects, including nausea, fatigue, redness or burning of the skin, and other unpleasant side effects.
Multimodality Treatment Protocols
Each of the treatments described above has its own benefit, but in the mid 1980s scientists determined that their benefits could be optimized if they were used in combination with one another. This is known as multimodal therapy, and it is particularly helpful when treating a challenging condition such as malignant mesothelioma. Still, despite its effectiveness multimodality protocols may not be appropriate for every patient. Different patients may be more at risk for the side effects of a specific treatment then another, or the location of the mesothelioma tumors may preclude its use. Generally speaking, mesothelioma physicians attempt to identify what protocols are best for each patient based upon their individual factors, including their medical history and the severity of their illness, the type of mesothelioma that they have and the cell type, the patient’s overall health and age, and more.
Mesothelioma Treatments Under Investigation
Clinical trials are frequently being done to identify new options for patients diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma. Some of these technologies include immunotherapy and photodynamic therapy, both of which specifically target mesothelioma cancer cells. Photodynamic therapy makes them more vulnerable to specific drugs, while immunotherapy modifies the body’s immune system so that it will specifically seek out the mesothelioma cells.
Other innovative forms of treatment that are being investigated and researched include mesotherapy, which uses homeopathic substances and injects them into the patient’s fat cells and the creation of a vaccine that targets mesothelioma.
In addition to the approaches offered by traditional medicine, many mesothelioma patients find relief by taking advantage of alternative therapies such as acupuncture, hypnosis, massage therapy and aromatherapy. There are numerous studies that indicate that these methodologies, though not curative, can provide patients with improved quality of life and stress relief. These treatments may also be of great benefit to mesothelioma caregivers.
The Costs of Treating Mesothelioma
All cancer treatments are expensive, but the cost of treating malignant mesothelioma is extremely high. This is in part due to the fact that the condition is so rare and the medications for its treatment are so expensive. Other factors include the cost of traveling to specialized mesothelioma cancer treatment centers, the loss of wages as a result of the illness or for family members who need to give up their work in order to provide care, the cost of equipment and home healthcare, and more. Several agencies are available to help those struggling with the costs of treating malignant mesothelioma, and there are also options available through the American justice system.
Legal Help for Mesothelioma Patients
Because malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis and other asbestos-related diseases have been directly linked to exposure to asbestos, those who have been diagnosed with these diseases have the option of filing mesothelioma lawsuits or claims against the asbestos trust funds that have been established specifically for that purpose. Remember to request our free Financial Compensation Packet to learn more about the options available to you, or call us at 1-800-706-5606 to learn more about how we can help you find a qualified and experienced mesothelioma law firm to advise you of your rights.