Mesothelioma Treatment

Treatments Are Available for All Mesothelioma Patients

Personalized treatments which combine therapies and advanced technologies are helping patients with mesothelioma live longer. Patients can work with mesothelioma specialists to determine what treatment will be best for them.

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Treatments for Mesothelioma and Asbestos-Related Diseases

While there is no known cure for mesothelioma, patients who undergo a specialized treatment plan after a diagnosis are given a much higher chance at living longer. Aggressive treatments can extend life by months or years.

Mesothelioma treatments are administered by top mesothelioma doctors at cancer centers across the nation. There are treatment options available for every patient.

The primary treatment options for mesothelioma are surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Doctors often use several of these treatments to increase for best results. New treatment options are also tested in clinical trials, and may be available depending on your case.

Treatments can make the difference between living a few months and achieving long-term survival. On average, aggressive surgeries improve a patient’s life expectancy by one year, and in many cases have extended life by 5 years or more.

Three Types of Mesothelioma Treatments

There are three primary treatment types available to mesothelioma patients.

Surgery

Surgery is the most effective way to control mesothelioma and prevent it from spreading. During surgery, doctors cut open the chest or abdomen and physically remove all visible tumor masses and, in some cases, surrounding tissues or organs.

Doctors have developed surgical procedures for different types of mesothelioma. Which surgery (if any) will be used depends on what type you have and how far it has spread. In most cases, it is only used if the patient is strong enough to fully recover.

Chemotherapy

To stop cancer cells from multiplying and spreading to distant sites, doctors administer Chemotherapy.

During chemotherapy, cancer-killing drugs circulate through the body and kill cancer cells. Patients undergo multiple rounds of chemotherapy to improve the treatment’s effectiveness. Depending on the treatment approach, chemotherapy may be given before, during or after surgery to increase the chances of long-term remission.

Radiation Therapy

When radiation is used, powerful particles and waves scramble the DNA of the mesothelioma cells. This prevents them from dividing and ultimately kills them. When the cells die off, the tumor shrinks in size, allowing doctors to control the spread of the disease.

Doctors administer these three standard treatments to patients based on their unique situation. For example, radiation and chemotherapy may be used to supplement a major surgery. All three treatments can also be used to manage pain in late-stage patients. This is known as palliative care.

Treatment Depends on Disease Location

Pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma are treated as different diseases because they have separate prognoses and treatment requirements.

Deciding Which Treatments to Use and When

Doctors administer these three standard treatments to patients in different stages. When each treatment type is administered depends on the unique case. Doctors develop treatment approaches primarily based on the mesothelioma location.

Specialists may recommend all three depending on the specific case. Combining these options gives patients more ways to control and treat the disease.

Pleural Mesothelioma Treatments

Patients with pleural mesothelioma have multiple treatment options that can improve their prognosis. While there are many possible approaches doctors may take, in general, there are 2 main procedures. Each is a multimodal approach, meaning it uses more than one treatment type.

Each procedure is different though both produce similar survival results. It’s up to the patient to decide which approach will work best for them after receiving consultation from a specialized mesothelioma doctor.

Extrapleural Pneumonectomy

The first pleural mesothelioma treatment procedure is the extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) surgery.

Considered a more aggressive surgery, the EPP involves removing the diseased lung and the entire pleura, as well as a portion of the diaphragm and pericardium (lung lining).

Preventing Mesothelioma Metastasis

By removing the surrounding tissue, doctors get rid of areas that may have already been infiltrated by mesothelioma cells to prevent the risk of metastasis(spreading to other parts of the body).

Before surgery, patients may undergo chemotherapy to kill mesothelioma cells and improve the effectiveness of the surgery. This is called neoadjuvant treatment. Doctors may prescribe a combination of chemotherapy drugs, with cisplatin and pemetrexed being the most common formula.

During surgery, patients may also receive an injection of chemotherapy directly into the chest through a catheter. Administering chemotherapy during surgery helps kill any remaining cancer cells the surgeon couldn’t remove.

After surgery, all patients receive further rounds of chemotherapy. This is known as adjuvant treatment. Doctors may also give intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), which is computerized radiation that sends pre-measured doses directly to the tumor site to kill off remaining mesothelioma cells.

EPP Treatment Results

Aggressive surgeries like the EPP procedure are only given to patients who are healthy enough to withstand the surgery and recovery. Multimodal treatment with EPP is an approach that can significantly improve a patient’s life expectancy.

Most studies show that patients can survive up to 2 years with this procedure, while some studies have shown a survival of nearly 4 years.

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Pleurectomy with Decortication

The second pleural mesothelioma treatment approach includes the pleurectomy with decortication (P/D) surgery. P/D is a lung-sparing surgery, in which doctors only remove the diseased pleura (lung lining) and leave the lung.

Lung-Sparing Surgery May Be Less Risky

Some experts consider this procedure to be less risky than the EPP and it may give the patient a better quality of life by allowing them to keep their lung.

Patients receive chemotherapy treatment before undergoing the P/D surgery to kill mesothelioma cells and help shrink the tumors.

Reducing the tumor’s size makes it easier for surgeons to remove the pleura and as much of the mesothelioma as possible during surgery.

After the surgery, patients remain on chemotherapy for several more weeks to further ensure surgical success and prevent recurrence (when the mesothelioma comes back). Patients may also receive radiation therapy to support the surgery.

P/D is a lung-sparing surgery where doctors only remove the diseased pleura (lung lining) and leave the lung.

P/D Treatment Results

The median life expectancy of patients who receive the P/D procedure is around 29 months.

Some studies have shown a high 5-year survival rate in stage 1 pleural mesothelioma patients. P/D has also shown to have a lower short-term post-surgery mortality rate. Fewer patients develop fatal complications during or within 30 days after surgery compared to patients who undergo EPP.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Treatments

Specialists consider peritoneal mesothelioma the easiest location to treat. During treatment, doctors will debulk tumors and drain fluid buildup from the abdomen to help control the spread of disease.

Treatment for peritoneal mesothelioma focuses on:

  • Debulking tumors
  • Stopping and controlling mesothelioma cells from spreading
  • Draining fluid buildup from the abdomen

The primary surgical procedure for treating peritoneal mesothelioma is called cytoreduction with HIPEC. It was developed by Dr. Paul Sugarbaker with the goal of removing all visible signs of the cancer.

For the right candidate, cytoreduction with HIPEC is a critical and lifesaving procedure that can lead to partial or full remission. For others, it helps to improve prognosis and life expectancy by several months or years.

Cytoreduction Survival Rates

Several studies, including one by the National Cancer Institute, have shown that the median life expectancy of patients after receiving cytoreduction with HIPEC is up to 7 years, though many patients have survived much longer.

Surgeons perform cytoreduction with HIPEC in two parts:

  1. Cytoreductive Surgery: Surgeons remove the entire diseased peritoneum (abdominal lining) and any tumors or diseased tissue surrounding the abdominal cavity. By removing as much malignant tissue as possible, doctors control and potentially stop the spread of the tumors from the abdominal cavity to the rest of the body.
  2. Heated Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC): While the patient is undergoing cytoreductive surgery, the doctor administers chemotherapy directly into the abdominal cavity. The chemotherapy drugs are first heated and then allowed to circulate throughout the abdomen for up to 90 minutes to kill off any remaining, invisible mesothelioma cells.

All peritoneal mesothelioma patients receive chemotherapy before surgery and then radiation after it. A combination of chemotherapy drugs administered after cytoreductive surgery helps to inhibit mesothelioma cell regrowth and stop the growth of certain proteins that promote tumor development.

New and Novel Treatments

Patients considered good candidates can also undergo treatments in clinical trial settings. The goal in these cases is to administer new and novel therapies to patients, and possibly give them a new chance at extending their life.

Many patients who stopped responding to chemotherapy and radiation have undergone treatments in clinical trials and extended their life by several months. Other patients who are experiencing recurrence (when the mesothelioma comes back) can also benefit from advanced treatments in clinical trials.

Testing new treatments in clinical trials is essential for the research community and its goal of finding a cure for mesothelioma. Clinical trials take place in a safe and controlled environment that allows researchers to test the safety and effectiveness of treatments and treatment combinations while offering patients renewed hope at improving their quality of life.

Mesothelioma Treatment Goals

Before doctors recommend treatments, they consider multiple factors in each patient case, including:

  1. The rate at which the mesothelioma is spreading
  2. How far the mesothelioma has already spread

The treatment goals for stage 2 mesothelioma are different than those for stage 4 mesothelioma. While all treatments have a goal of improving quality of life and giving the patient the best chance at survival, localized cancer is much easier to control than advanced cancer.

Here are some of the possible mesothelioma treatment goals, depending on the diagnosis and unique patient case:

  • Remove as much of the tumor as possible (surgery)
  • Shrink tumors in size
  • Kill mesothelioma cells
  • Stop the mesothelioma from spreading to distant sites
  • Alleviate fluid buildup in the mesothelium linings
  • Manage pain and symptoms
  • Increase comfort and quality of life

How to Get Mesothelioma Treatment

Patients diagnosed with mesothelioma can receive treatment from mesothelioma specialists. By working with doctors who have experience treating mesothelioma, you can improve your odds of survival.

It’s important to seek treatment from a specialist who specializes in treating your exact location, stage and cell type.

Some of the nation’s top mesothelioma doctors providing personalized treatment plans include:

  • Dr. Avi Lebenthal: Pleural mesothelioma specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston
  • Dr. Paul Sugarbaker: Peritoneal mesothelioma specialist at Washington Cancer Institute, Washington D.C.

Mesothelioma doctors work at some of the top cancer centers across the country. You can begin receiving treatment at these cancer centers by contacting one near you and booking a consultation.

Or call our Justice Support Team today to learn how you can be matched with a top mesothelioma doctor.

Free Mesothelioma Justice Guide

Mesothelioma is a complex disease. If you’ve been diagnosed, the Mesothelioma Justice Guide will help you understand your treatment options and how to improve your prognosis.

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Compensation for Mesothelioma Treatment

The costs of medical treatment can be burdensome on families. If you’re a mesothelioma patient undergoing treatment, you may be eligible for compensation.

Anyone who has developed mesothelioma as a result of their exposure in the workplace or their time in the military is a victim of negligence on the part of the asbestos manufacturers. Companies knowingly sold and distributed dangerous asbestos products and concealed any knowledge they had regarding health risks. As a result, many former industrial workers and veterans have developed mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

Today, special court-ordered trusts have been set up to provide money for asbestos victims and their families. These funds may help pay for medical bills and provide financial security. In addition, veterans are eligible for medical benefits through the VA, whether you are an active duty member or a retired member.

To learn more about compensation to cover your mesothelioma treatment costs, contact our Justice Support Team today. Call us at (888) 360-4215 or contact us today to better understand your legal compensation options.

Author:Stephanie Kidd
Stephanie Kidd

Stephanie Kidd is the Editor-in-Chief of the Mesothelioma Justice Network and works tirelessly as a dedicated advocate for the vulnerable and underrepresented. Stephanie worked as a copywriter for an agency whose focus was communicating safety procedures on construction work sites. With her extensive background in victim advocacy and a dedication to seeing justice done, Stephanie works hard to ensure that all online content is reliable, truthful and helpful.

Last modified: June 11, 2019

View 6 Sources
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  3. US National Library of Medicine, “A nuanced view of extrapleural pneumonectomy for malignant pleural mesothelioma.” Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5497104/. Accessed on December 1, 2017.
  4. The Annals of Thoracic Surgery, “Meta-Analysis of Survival After Pleurectomy Decortication Versus Extrapleural Pneumonectomy in Mesothelioma.” Retrieved from: http://www.annalsthoracicsurgery.org/article/S0003-4975(14)01926-2/fulltext. Accessed on December 1, 2017.
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  6. Cancer Research UK, “Treatment decisions for peritoneal mesothelioma.” Retrieved from: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/mesothelioma/treatment/decisions-peritoneal. Accessed on December 1, 2017.