Treatment to Improve Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
One of the best ways patients can improve their life expectancy is by making sure they are treated by a mesothelioma specialist at a top mesothelioma cancer treatment cancer.
The medical professionals at these centers are highly experienced and able to perform specialized treatments for mesothelioma that may not be available at other cancer centers.
Mesothelioma can be difficult to treat, but successful treatment may extend a patient’s life by months or even years.
When mesothelioma is diagnosed at an early enough stage and a patient is otherwise fit, doctors usually recommend mesothelioma surgery to physically remove as much of a patient’s mesothelioma as possible. Surgeons generally pair surgery with chemotherapy and/or radiation to wipe out as much of the cancer as possible.
In some cases, this may send the mesothelioma into remission, meaning that tests cannot find any signs of the cancer.
Surgeries aimed at improving life expectancy include:
Extrapleural Pneumonectomy (EPP)
The affected lung may be removed. This surgery also allows doctors to use higher doses of radiation on patients who receive radiation therapy.
The tissue around the inside of the chest and lining the lungs may be removed.
Cytoreduction with HIPEC
As much of the cancer as possible is removed from the abdomen. Heated chemotherapy drugs are then inserted into the abdomen right after.
While a patient’s mesothelioma may remain dormant for months or even years, greatly extending their life expectancy, it is usually not possible to remove every cancer cell in a patient’s body. The patient’s mesothelioma nearly always returns.
Most mesothelioma patients are diagnosed too late to undergo the most invasive life-extending surgeries, so mesothelioma chemotherapy is the main treatment for most patients.
According to the ACS, “more studies are needed to find the best drugs and the best way to use chemo[therapy].”
However, chemotherapy’s effectiveness for mesothelioma patients is uncertain.
Multimodal Treatment Plans
Most mesothelioma specialists seem to agree that combining more than one treatment (known as a multimodal approach) is the most effective way to increase a patient’s life expectancy.
The ACS notes that the best chemotherapy results are currently achieved when paired with surgery. However, mesothelioma’s rarity makes it difficult for doctors to compare the effectiveness of different treatments.
Ultimately, doctors are still studying the most effective ways to use chemotherapy and radiation with surgery.
Clinical trials are controlled research studies done to develop promising new treatments.
Medical advancements and new research being conducted through these trials provide mesothelioma patients — especially late-stage patients — with opportunities to extend their life expectancy.
One study suggested that some mesothelioma patients who participated in clinical trials have a longer survival time than similar patients who did not.
Other Treatment Options
As clinical trials help develop new ways to fight mesothelioma, patients have more treatment options than ever. However, not all treatments are available to or helpful for all patients.
Other mesothelioma treatment options that may extend life expectancy include:
- Radiation Therapy: Treating mesothelioma with radiation therapy can be difficult because mesothelioma tends to spread across the organs instead of forming one large tumor. Doctors may find it difficult to aim radiation at one spot without damaging nearby healthy tissue. However, according to the ACS, recent advancements that allow for more control of radiation may improve the treatment’s effectiveness against mesothelioma.
- Targeted Therapy: Researchers have learned enough about the characteristics of mesothelioma cancer cells to develop new drugs that may be able to target and destroy the cancer while ignoring healthy cells. The FDA has already approved one targeted therapy drug for certain mesothelioma patients, and several targeted therapy clinical trials are currently available to other mesothelioma patients.
Alternative Therapies and Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
Some mesothelioma patients are also interested in the life-extending possibilities of alternative therapy such as acupuncture and herbal remedies.
There is little to no scientific evidence that these treatments will improve the life expectancy of mesothelioma patients. Furthermore, some alternative therapies may negatively interact with a patient’s prescribed medications or have other harmful effects, lowering survival.
Alternative therapy may help some individuals cope with their symptoms and the emotional challenges of a mesothelioma diagnosis, but patients should speak with their doctor before trying any alternative therapies.
Mesothelioma Life Expectancy Without Treatment
The average life expectancy of mesothelioma patients who do not receive treatment is roughly 12 months.
Some mesothelioma patients only receive palliative care — treatment aimed at reducing suffering instead of extending life expectancy. However, certain patients may choose to forego treatment altogether.
Mesothelioma patients may refuse treatment for many reasons:
- Health problems that make getting cancer treatment especially risky
- Not wanting to live with the side effects of the suggested treatments
- Religious beliefs
- Not wanting to medically extend one’s life
Whatever the reason, anyone with the right to make their own decisions also has the right to refuse mesothelioma treatment. However, mesothelioma patients are encouraged to talk with their doctor about all treatment options available.