Mesothelioma is a rare but remarkably dangerous form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, a mineral fiber, commonly used in construction throughout much of the 20th century. While use of all but the smallest possible amounts of asbestos was prohibited in the 1970s, many buildings constructed before this time may still place individuals at risk of developing this disease.
An individual diagnosed with mesothelioma has a difficult road ahead of them, but a number of different treatment options exist that may help them through this difficult time. Depending on the stage of development of the mesothelioma, treatment may focus more on either curative attempts or palliative care. The following are some of the most common of these treatment methods:
Physicians turn to surgical treatment most frequently during early stages of the disease. Procedures such as pleurectomy/decortication (p/e) and extrapleural pneumonectomy may actually remove all of the cancerous tissue, potentially providing a full cure for the patient. However, these procedures come with significant risks, and in order to qualify for the procedure, a patient must present in relatively good health.
In some cases, doctors may also perform surgery for palliative purposes. Pleurodesis and paracentesis can help to reduce some of the worst symptoms of mesothelioma and relieve patient discomfort.
Chemotherapy uses antineoplastic drugs, which kill cells that divide rapidly, in order to treat cancer. While chemotherapy cannot cure mesothelioma, it may help reduce symptoms and significantly prolong survival by slowing the development of the disease.
Chemotherapy treatment for mesothelioma may be either systemic, in which case the drugs circulate throughout the entire body, or intrapleural/intraperitoneal (depending on the type of mesothelioma), in which case the drug is administered directly to the affected site and remains in highest concentrations in that area.
Radiation therapy involves the application of ionizing radiation to cancerous growths or tumors in order to kill or slow the growth of cancerous cells. Radiation therapy, on its own, is primarily used to improve a patient’s symptoms, rather than their prognosis. However, when combined with other treatment options, particularly surgery and chemotherapy, radiation therapy may improve a patient’s likelihood of recovery by reducing some of the physical distress the body experiences as a result of the condition.
In some cases, patients diagnosed with mesothelioma may receive a range of different medications which, when combined with other treatment options, can significantly improve the likelihood of recovery. The health care team may use immunotherapy drugs to help improve the response of a patient’s immune system to cancerous cells, helping the body to fight the disease on its own.
Sometimes physicians will use anti-angiogenesis drugs to help starve cancerous cells, though experts still consider these medications experimental in treating mesothelioma. Finally, researchers from The City College of New York have recently developed a form of aspirin which may prove effective at reducing cancer cell growth.
About the author: Guest contributor, Matthew Norman, is an avid blogger with interests in the medical field. Typically, he writes on topics relating to asbestos, mesothelioma, and cancer treatments.
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