If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, a specialist cancer doctor known as an oncologist will tailor the treatment to ensure the best prognosis.
Unfortunately, the prognosis is rarely positive as Mesothelioma is often not diagnosed until the later stages of the cancer, when it has already spread from the mesothelium to other areas of the body.
There is no known cure for mesothelioma at the present time, but patients do have access to various treatments that can help manage the disease and contribute to a longer life.
Pleural Mesothelioma arises from the surface of the lining covering the lungs. It may remain localised at the original site but more often than not spreads diffusely and incorporates a substantial amount of the pleura and may encroach onto the pericardium via the inner surface of the visceral pleura.
Treatment of pleural mesothelioma has been unsatisfactory due in part to the amount of pleura involved and the potential problems arising from the proximity of underlying organs e.g. lungs, heart.
Traditionally, advanced pleural mesothelioma has been treated by surgery e.g. extrapleural pneumonectomy. While a small number of sufferers are treated with aggressive surgery, chemotherapy and radiation and may enjoy long-term survival, the vast majority have incurable disease.
The treatment options up until now have proved only modestly effective at alleviating symptoms and improving life expectancy. There are a number of clinical trials which are on going and are evaluating new treatments or new approaches to treatment including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and vaccine therapy.
New radiation treatments are becoming available and there have been some promising results from studies using TomoTherapy and Cyberknife.
Mesothelioma Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy can be used to relieve the symptoms of the disease, including chest pain. However, because of the location of malignant mesothelioma, it is extremely difficult to deliver high enough doses of radiation to kill the tumour without damaging the surrounding organs.
A procedure called extrapleural pneumonectomy involves removal of the pleura, the lung, the diaphragm and the pericardium. The intent of this very aggressive, complicated surgery is to remove as much of the malignant mesothelioma tumour as possible.
If surgery is possible for Peritoneal Mesothelioma, there is an operation called a Peritonectomy. This involves the removal of the peritoneum where the cancer is evident. More recently there is a technique called cytoreductive surgery for peritoneum mesothelioma. During this procedure the surgeon will carry out up to six different peritonectomy procedures. At the same time or shortly afterwards, chemotherapy may be given straight into the peritoneal cavity.
Chemotherapy is the use of medications to treat cancer, it cannot cure malignant mesothelioma, but it may be administered after surgery in an attempt to kill cancer cells that could not be removed during the procedure.