Any treatment of mesothelioma has to be just as aggressive as the disease, which is one of the reasons why there are so many different treatment options and techniques available today. Treating mesothelioma also depends greatly on a variety of factors such as the overall health and age of the patient as well as the heart and lung health, the type of malignant 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.
These and other factors can be tested using a wide range of procedures that will bring the physician a step closer to creating the most effective treatment combination to help manage the disease. Diagnostic methods and procedures for detecting 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 are: fine needle aspiration biopsy or FNA, thoracoscopy, laparotomy, or thoracotomy.
Once the type of mesothelioma, stage, and overall health of the patient have been determined, the doctor will explore various mesothelioma treatment methods. The treatments and methods used for treating mesothelioma are divided into two types: traditional mesothelioma treatments and new mesothelioma treatments. New mesothelioma treatments include photodynamic therapy or PDT, gene therapy, immunotherapy, intensity modulated radiation therapy or 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.
Photodynamic therapy or PDT destroys cancerous cells by using fixed frequency light to activate certain photosensitive drugs, which have accumulated in the body tissues. These photosensitizing drugs are administered to patients intravenously and they take only a few days to absorb into the diseased cells – which are referred to as “treated cancer cells” at this point. The treated cancer cells are exposed to the laser light, which is delivered to the cancer site by a physician using a fiberoptic device. Once the agent in the treated cancer cells absorbs the laser light, surrounding cancer cells are destroyed by a kinetic form of oxygen. Side effects of photodynamic therapy are not unlike symptoms of chemotherapy. They can include nausea and vomiting as well as a metallic taste on the palate. The main side effects of photodynamic therapy are skin sensitivity as well as sensitivity to light.
Also referred to as radical forms of treating mesothelioma, there are several other new mesothelioma treatments including angiogenesis therapies, antineoplaston therapy, mesothelioma clinical trials, interferon and interleukin therapy, and radiofrequency ablation. A wide variety of complementary and alternative mesothelioma treatments are also currently being explored. These include herbal products, special diets, homeopathic medicine, acupuncture, therapeutic massage, high doses of vitamin C, laetrile (amygdalin, extracted from fruit pits), and Eastern medicines.
New mesothelioma treatments such as photodynamic therapy (PDT), gene therapy, and 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.