Treating Malignant Mesothelioma

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Malignant Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that requires highly specialized management. Like most cancers, three treatment options coexist – surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. This article outlines everything a person needs to know concerning mesothelioma treatment.

Choice of treatment

The choice of treatment depends on the:

  • Age of the patient
  • Stage of the disease
  • Type of symptoms observed
  • General condition of the patient
  • Patient’s family and medical background
  • Choices of the patient

Surgery

Surgery is used only at a very early stage of the disease, and this is rare. Two surgical approaches are possible: a pleurectomy-decortication and an extra-pleural pleuro-pneumonectomy. In both cases, the goal is to eliminate as much of the tumor as possible.

A pleurectomy-decortication is the least radical of the two interventions. It only involves the removal of the pleura without removing the lung. The advantage of this procedure is that it offers a generally faster recovery time. The disadvantage is that it presents a greater risk of re-occurrence of the disease (since it is not possible to remove 100% of the tumor).

Chemotherapy

Apart from the rare cases where surgery can be implemented, chemotherapy remains the standard treatment. It is based on the prescription of drugs that prevent cancer cells from multiplying. Chemotherapy is used either, in addition to surgery (to overcome the disease), or for palliative purposes. Either way, the goal is to relieve certain symptoms, including pain.

Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy involves the use of X-rays to kill cancer cells, reduce the size of tumors, and prevent recurrence. After a thoracoscopy, preventive irradiation may be proposed to prevent further problems. Radiation therapy can also be used, in addition to surgery, to prevent relapse of the disease. It can also play an effective role in the pain caused by tumors that compress nerve endings.

Palliative treatments

For some patients, aggressive treatment is not possible (either because the disease is too advanced or because the patient does not want it). In this type of situation, palliative care can improve the patient’s quality of life by controlling pain and reducing other physical symptoms (such as shortness of breath, fatigue, dryness of the mouth, intestinal problems, etc.). Finally, clinical trials are currently underway concerning new therapeutic approaches.

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