Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that is found typically in the chest and abdominal area. The cancer is mainly caused by excessive exposure to asbestos, though it may take up to 30 or 40 years for the cancer to appear. Once it does appear, it is important for it to be treated quickly or else it could prove fatal. This cancer can be treated by surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
Type of Mesothelioma Treatments
Before considering mesothelioma surgery for the treatment of malignant cancer, the health of the patient needs to be evaluated. The tests are performed to check whether the cancer has spread to the other parts of the body (mestatic disease) and evaluate the patient’s lung and heart functions. In case of the former, a mesothelioma surgery cannot be performed. The lung functions of the patients may have been decreased because of several reasons, not all of them related to the cancer. Both the heart and lungs need to be properly functioning for the surgery.
Surgery for Mesothelioma
Surgery is of two types: aggressive surgery (long-term control) and palliative procedures (relief of symptoms).
Aggressive surgery for Mesothelioma
Aggressive surgery involves removal of the pleura, the lung, the diaphragm and the pericardium through a procedure known as extra pleural pneumonectomy. This surgery is so named because its intent is to physically remove as much of the tumor as possible. This surgery is highly complicated and carries a high risk of fatality within a month. Extra pleural pneumonectomy is therefore performed only on younger patients who are in good health and can tolerate the surgery.
Palliative Procedures for Mesothelioma
Palliative procedures are performed when the cancer is in its advanced form. These procedures are performed to allay and/or control the symptoms of mesothelioma rather than cure them. Pleurectomy (also decortications) is the surgical removal of the pleura. This reduces the pain caused by the tumor mass and may also prevent the recurrence of pleural effusion (fluid collection that causes breathlessness). For peritoneal mesothelioma, surgery aims to palliate the symptoms, such as ascites, because complete surgical removal of the entire tumor is not entirely possible.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to treat mesothelioma. The results of the drugs have been mixed and some patients show only partial success to their use. To improve their efficacy, a combination of these drugs may be used at the same time. Some of these combinations have proved successful and new drugs are being developed for the treatment of this cancer.
Radiation therapy uses radiation doses to kill the tumor. This procedure, however, is extremely difficult owing to the location of the malignant cancer. It is surrounded by the heart, lungs and other organs, and they are at the risk of being damaged by the radiation dosage. Lower doses of radiation can be used, though its efficacy is questionable despite its ability to reduce the disease to some extent.
Both chemotherapy and radiation are used in conjunction with the surgery after it is performed. They both help in killing any remaining tumor cells that were not removed by surgery and may also help in relieving symptoms of the disease like chest pain.