Pleural Mesothelioma Treatment
Patients typically have multiple pleural mesothelioma treatment options at every stage — either to increase life expectancy or to relieve symptoms.
The primary treatment options for mesothelioma are:
During earlier stages, patients may undergo surgeries and therapies to extend their lives. During later stages, the goal of pleural mesothelioma treatments is to control the disease and reduce pain and discomfort.
Performing mesothelioma surgery is the most effective way to control malignant pleural mesothelioma and prevent it from spreading. During surgery, pleural mesothelioma specialists attempt to physically remove all visible tumors and, in some cases, the surrounding tissues or organs.
Two of the most common types of pleural mesothelioma surgeries are the extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) and the pleurectomy with decortication (P/D).
During an extrapleural pneumonectomy, a surgeon removes the affected lung, the lining of the heart and lungs, part of the diaphragm, and lymph nodes close to the affected area.
With chemotherapy or radiation, EPP may give a patient several more months to live.
Pleurectomy with Decortication
A pleurectomy with decortication involves the removal of the pleura, any tumors, and, in some cases, some affected lung tissue. The patient keeps both lungs.
While surgery is often effective at extending pleural mesothelioma patients’ lives, it can only be performed on patients who are strong enough to endure and recover from the operation. Surgery may also not be possible if the cancer has spread too much.
Most stage 3 and 4 pleural mesothelioma patients, older patients, and those in poor health may have other treatment options.
During chemotherapy, doctors administer multiple rounds of cancer-killing drugs intravenously through a patient’s body.
Patients may undergo chemotherapy alone, but it is most effective when combined with surgery or radiation therapy.
Radiation therapy treats cancer by using intense beams of energy to destroy the genetic material of cancer cells. Without this genetic material, mesothelioma cells cannot divide as quickly and often die.
Radiation therapy has few side effects and is often used to reduce the symptoms of late-stage pleural mesothelioma patients. However, it may also be used with chemotherapy or surgery to help extend a patient’s life.
Clinical trials test new treatments with the goal of increasing patient lifespans and quality of life — and ultimately curing mesothelioma.
In addition, they offer hope to patients with no remaining standard treatment options. Many pleural mesothelioma patients have responded well to clinical trial treatments while helping improve treatment options for future patients.
Emerging Treatment Options
Medical professionals are developing many promising new treatment options for pleural mesothelioma.
Some promising emerging treatment options include:
- Gene therapy: During gene therapy, a patient’s cancer cells receive new genes, which are injected into the cells through modified viruses. Doctors hope to slow or stop cancerous growth by changing the genetic makeup of the corrupted cells.
- Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy trains a patient’s immune system to find and kill cancer cells more effectively. This is done using substances produced by the patient’s own body or in a lab.
- Photodynamic therapy: Photodynamic therapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses light to kill cancer cells. It may allow for less drastic cancer surgeries, increasing survival rates and quality of life.
These new treatments may be less aggressive than current pleural mesothelioma treatment options, extend patient lifespans, and, perhaps one day, may even lead to a cure.
Late-stage pleural mesothelioma patients may no longer be able to undergo life-extending treatments. However, they still have options for reducing pain and discomfort.
Palliative treatment options include:
- Chemotherapy: Doctors may perform chemotherapy on a patient to shrink tumors and relieve the symptoms of late-stage pleural mesothelioma. Although chemotherapy often causes negative side effects, supportive care interventions may reduce these effects.
- Radiation: Like chemotherapy, radiation may help reduce the size of tumors, easing symptoms like chest pain. Radiation generally has fewer side effects than chemotherapy.
- Low-risk surgeries: Surgeries may be performed to drain extra fluid in the lungs. These procedures reduce pain, ease coughing, and make breathing easier.
Palliative treatments play an essential role in helping mesothelioma patients enjoy the precious time they have left.