With the intent of removing the cancer, surgery is only possible in the earliest stages of mesothelioma. Surgery to remove the lining of the lungs or chest wall where cancer is apparent is called a pleurectomy. Sometimes, an entire lung will be removed during the surgery, which is called an extrapleural pneumonectomy.
Pleural mesothelioma treatment may also include chemotherapy, which may be administered intravenously, in pill form, or directly into the chest cavity. When coupled with surgery, the latter form is particularly common. However, chemotherapy may be used even if surgery cannot be performed.
Chemotherapy treats a patient with chemicals that destroy cancer cells. In cases of pleural mesothelioma, chemotherapy aims to stop the spread of the cancer and shrink tumors, but it doesn’t cure the cancer. Currently, the chemotherapy drug Alimta is approved by the FDA for use in mesothelioma patients. It is often given in combination with other drugs.
Radiation therapy is sometimes used along with surgery in Pleural Mesothelioma Treatment. The procedure uses a type of high energy x-ray, called ionizing radiation, to shrink cancerous tumors and kill cancer cells. Along with cancer cells, radiation also kills normal cells, but most healthy people can recover from the damage.
Several experimental options are available for Pleural Mesothelioma Treatment as well. Although gene therapies have proven promising in animals, this type of therapy is still under study. In early stages of pleural mesothelioma, immunotherapy, which stimulates the patient’s own immune system, works in conjunction with chemotherapy and shrinks tumors. Another experimental treatment is called photodynamic therapy, and it uses a chemical agent to make cancerous cells susceptible to a light, which then kills the cells.
The aim of palliative therapy is to provide comfort and enhance the quality of life. Palliative therapy may alleviate pain, weakness, shortness of breath, dry mouth, gastrointestinal issues, anxiety, and depression. This can be done through medication, chemotherapy, radiation, chest tube drainage, exercise, oxygen, humidifying the air, nutrition, and stress management.
Several surgical treatments may provide relief from excess pleural fluid, which is one of the most common symptoms of pleural mesothelioma. Thoracentesis removes the fluid with a fine needle, whereas pleurodesis works to fuse together the two pleural layers so that fluid cannot build up.
Improvements in Pleural Mesothelioma Treatment and new treatments are being studied every day for pleural mesothelioma. You, with your oncologist, will determine a treatment plan that will best serve your needs.