In order to battle any form of cancer, it takes an expansive arsenal of weapons and precise methods of attack to be successful. Treating mesothelioma is no exception. In fact, treating mesothelioma has proven to be even more challenging than many other forms of cancer. Fortunately, advancements in treating mesothelioma have resulted in the creation of a number of different treatment options and techniques that are available to all mesothelioma patients today. The types of treatment options and techniques for treating mesothelioma will, however, depend greatly on a variety of factors. These include the overall health and age of the patient and the heart and lung health, as well as the type of mesothelioma cancer cells, the stage of the mesothelioma, the size of the tumor, the amount of fluid in the abdomen or chest, and whether or not the mesothelioma has been diagnosed recently or if it has recurred.
Diagnostic methods and procedures for diagnosing mesothelioma include: physical examination, chest x-ray, complete blood count or CBC, sedimentation rate, bronchoscopy, or a cytologic exam. A biopsy can also be performed. The different types of biopsy methods used include fine needle aspiration biopsy or FNA, thoracoscopy, laparotomy, and thoracotomy.
Once the type of mesothelioma, the stage, and the overall health of the patient have been determined, the doctor will explore the various treatment methods. The treatments and methods used for treating mesothelioma can be divided into two types: traditional mesothelioma treatments and new mesothelioma treatments. New mesothelioma treatments include immunotherapy, gene therapy, photodynamic therapy (PDT), intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), and the development of new chemotherapy agents. Traditional mesothelioma treatments include: surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy or radiotherapy. In many cases a trimodality approach is employed, which means several treatments are combined for the best outcomes, for a better chance at long-term survival, and/or a better quality of life.
Immunotherapy is also called biological therapy and immune augmentative therapy. This type of approach to treating mesothelioma involves the body’s immune system. Immunotherapy works with the body’s immune system to help fight cancer and to help control how the patient’s body reacts to certain cancer drugs. While doctors are not entirely sure how immunotherapy helps the immune system fight cancer, they are confident that it does keep cancer from spreading to other parts of the body, that is stops or slows the growth of deadly cancer cells, and that it makes it easier for the immune system to destroy cancer cells. Immunotherapy may be used depending on the type of cancer and the stage of the cancer. It may also be based on any treatments that may have already been used. In some cases, immunotherapy is the very best option for treating mesothelioma or other types of cancer.
Immunotherapy may be used alone or in combination with chemotherapy and radiation. Treatment may come in the form of pills or shots that the patient can self-administer at home. In some cases, patients may have to stay at the hospital or clinic to receive immunotherapy via IV. Depending on the delivery method, treating mesothelioma with immunotherapy may take place once a day, several times a day, weekly or once a month. Immunotherapy side effects may include loss of appetite, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, fever, muscle aches, chills, low blood pressure, bone pain, and swelling or rashes at the injection site.
In addition to immunotherapy, there are several other new malignant mesothelioma treatments available, including angiogenesis therapies; antineoplaston therapy; mesothelioma clinical trial; interferon and interleukin therapy; and radiofrequency ablation. A wide variety of complementary and alternative mesothelioma treatments also exist such as herbal products, special diets, homeopathic medicine, acupuncture, therapeutic massage, high dose vitamin C, laetrile (amygdalin, extracted from fruit pits), and Eastern medicines.
New mesothelioma treatments such as immunotherapy offer new hope for doctors and mesothelioma patients. Doctors, scientists, and researchers are attempting to further develop these new treatment modalities, with the hope that they will be successful where traditional treatments have failed. To date, these new treatments for mesothelioma have not quite measured up to traditional methods, but they are currently being used in conjunction with traditional methods and they are, of course, constantly being monitored and assessed.