Conventional treatment approaches for mesothelioma include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Current research aims to improve treatment for mesothelioma by combining new drugs with old treatment options.
Mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelium. The mesothelium is the thin layer of cells lining the lungs, heart and stomach. Asbestos exposure is recognized as the major cause of this type of cancer. This can be due to inhalation or ingestion of asbestos particles which produce abnormal changes in healthy body cells.
People who work with asbestos have increased risk of mesothelioma. This refers to asbestos mine workers, shipyard workers, construction industry workers, boilermakers and others who are exposed to asbestos at work. Family members of asbestos workers are also at risk of developing the disease. This is because they may get exposed to microscopic asbestos fibers which remain on clothes and hair of asbestos workers.
Symptoms of mesothelioma usually appear many years after initial exposure to asbestos. That is why mesothelioma is commonly diagnosed in an advanced stage, when is has spread to distant organs making the treatment difficult and cure impossible.
Types of Mesothelioma
There are three types of mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of this cancer, which affects the outer lining of the lungs known as the pleura.
When this cancer occurs in the lining of the abdominal cavity, it is called peritoneal mesothelioma. The third type is pericardial mesothelioma, which develops in the pericardium, or the lining of the heart. It is the rarest type of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma Treatment
Depending on the stage of the cancer and the age and health status of the patient, a doctor will decide on the appropriate treatment option. This can be surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or combination of two or more treatment methods. Surgery
In treatment of mesothelioma, surgery helps to relieve the pain and reduce the spread of the cancer. It cannot cure the cancer but may prolong a patient’s life. There are different surgical options for mesothelioma such as pleurectomy, pneumonectomy, thoracentesis and extrapleural pneumonectomy.
Pleurectomy involves removal of a section of the affected lung and chest lining. Pnenectomy is a surgery to remove the entire affected lung and surrounding tissue. Thoracentesis is the procedure in which excess fluid from and around the lungs is drained using a needle. Extrapleural pneumonectomy is rarely performed. It involves removal of the entire mesothelium to prevent spread of the cancer. Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy is used to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. It is done using high-energy x-rays. This treatment approach is most commonly used in addition to other treatment methods.
Chemotherapy involves use of anti-cancer drugs, most commonly given by injection into a vein or muscle. The drugs may also be administered directly into the mesothelium.