Pleural Mesothelioma Treatment
Treatment options for pleural mesothelioma are used to increase life expectancy and/or to relieve symptoms.
The primary types of treatment for pleural mesothelioma are:
Patients with early-stage cancer (stages 1 and 2) are more likely to be eligible for curative surgeries. During the later stages of pleural mesothelioma (stages 3 and 4), curative options may be available, but treatments are often more focused on relieving pain and discomfort.
Mesothelioma surgery is the most effective way to manage malignant pleural mesothelioma and prevent it from spreading. During surgery, pleural mesothelioma doctors physically remove visible tumors from the chest cavity and, in some cases, the surrounding tissues or organs.
There are two main surgical procedures for pleural mesothelioma: extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) and pleurectomy with decortication (P/D).
Did You Know?
EPP involves removal of the diseased lung, while its counterpart pleurectomy with decortication is “lung-sparing,” meaning patients keep both lungs.
Surgery is typically only performed on patients who are strong enough to endure and recover from the operation. Patients with advanced cancer, older patients, and those in poor health may have different treatments available to them.
During this treatment, patients are given several rounds of chemotherapy drugs that circulate through the body and kill cancer cells. The most common chemotherapy medications for mesothelioma are a combination of cisplatin and pemetrexed.
Patients may undergo chemotherapy alone, but it is most effective when combined with surgery or radiation therapy in a multimodal treatment plan.
Radiation therapy treats cancer by using intense beams of energy to destroy mesothelioma cells.
Radiation has few side effects and is often used to reduce the symptoms of late-stage pleural mesothelioma. It may also be used alongside chemotherapy or surgery to kill remaining cancer cells and help extend a patient’s life.
Emerging Treatments for Pleural Mesothelioma
Medical professionals are developing many promising cancer treatment options for pleural mesothelioma. Clinical trials test these new treatments with the goal of increasing patient lifespans and quality of life — and, ultimately, curing the cancer.
Promising new treatments for pleural mesothelioma include gene therapy, immunotherapy, and photodynamic therapy. These and other emerging mesothelioma treatments offer hope to patients with no remaining standard treatment options and help expand available treatments for future patients.
Late-stage pleural mesothelioma patients who can no longer undergo curative surgeries still have options for reducing pain and discomfort.
Palliative treatment options include:
- Chemotherapy/Radiation: These options may help reduce the size of tumors, easing symptoms like chest pain
- Thoracentesis: This procedure involves removing extra fluid from the pleura, making it easier to breathe
- Video-Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery (VATS) Talc Pleurodesis: In this procedure, the pleural space is sealed to prevent repeated fluid buildup
- Partial Pleurectomy: This procedure helps prevent the buildup of fluid and relieves symptoms by removing part of the pleura
- PleurX™ Catheter: This device helps patients drain pleural effusions from home
Both palliative and curative treatments are best performed by a cancer care team with specialized experience treating mesothelioma.