Mesothelioma is a rare form of asbestos cancer that affects the membrane that covers and protects various internal organs of the body (mesothelium). The mesothelium is composed of two layers of specialized cells known as mesothelial cells. One layer directly surrounds an organ; the other forms a protective sac around the organ. The most common type of mesothelioma affects the membrane or sac that lines the lungs (pleura). Other, less common sites include the membrane lining the stomach (peritoneum) and the membrane lining the heart (pericardium).
Different types of treatments are available for patients with malignant mesothelioma. Some treatments are standard or current treatments while others are being tested in clinical trials. For this article we’ll discuss treating mesothelioma with pneumonectomy surgery.
If localized malignant mesothelioma is found in more than one place in the chest, then pneumonectomy surgery will be performed to remove the part of the lung that is diseased, as well as part of the lining of the chest, the diaphragm, and the lining of the sac around the heart.
While under general anesthesia, your surgeon will remove only the part of the lung that is diseased. The surgery is started by your surgeon cutting a large opening on the same side of the chest as the diseased lung, which is called a posterolateral thoracotomy incision. This incision will reach from a predetermined point just below the shoulder blade around the side of your body along the curvature of the ribs at the front of the chest. It may be necessary for your surgeon to remove part of your fifth rib so that he or she has a more accurate view of the lung, making it easier to remove the diseased part of the lung.
Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping the cells from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly into the spinal column, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy). Combination chemotherapy is the use of more than one anticancer drug. The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.