Functional Age An Essential Consideration in Mesothelioma Treatment

When an individual has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, they are suddenly confronted with a grim set of questions and options. Should they pursue aggressive treatment or simply look for symptom relief? Is their goal to maintain a high quality of life or do they want to have the longest survival time possible? These questions are particularly challenging for elderly patients, whose overall health may play a significant part in decision making. They are best answered with the guidance of a care team with extensive experience in the treatment of the rare and fatal form of cancer. 

Options for Mesothelioma Treatment

Though multi-modality treatments are what has proven most effective for malignant mesothelioma patients, they are not the best option for all patients. A significant number of those diagnosed with mesothelioma are elderly, and may be in such fragile overall health that they may not be good candidates for surgery, chemotherapy, or a combination of the two. 

Though surgery is not considered a treatment for malignant mesothelioma, it is frequently offered, whether in the form of extrapleural pneumonectomy and pleurectomy decortication or simply debulking tumors for the purpose of providing pain relief.  Studies have shown that surgery is most successful when followed by chemotherapy, but many elderly patients are not strong enough to withstand both procedures. This shortens the survival benefit of surgery.

Study Reveals Patterns of Treatment in Geriatric Mesothelioma Patient

According to a study published in the Annals of Surgical Oncology, of 4,526 mesothelioma patients who were 80 years old or older, 63% did not receive any treatment at all, 22% received chemotherapy alone, 13% received surgery alone, and only 2% had both surgery and chemotherapy. 

Though the study revealed that the surgery/chemotherapy combination provided a survival benefit of 13.4 months compared to 6.5 months for chemotherapy alone, the study’s authors stressed the need to evaluate patients’ “functional age” before suggesting aggressive treatment. Factors such as nutritional status and general health should guide decision making.

If you or a loved one is considering mesothelioma treatment options, access to sound information is your best tool. For helpful resources, contact the Patient Advocates at at 1-800-692-8608.

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is the head writer of our news blog. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Terri believes that knowledge is power and she is committed to sharing news about the impact of mesothelioma, the latest research and medical breakthroughs, and victims’ stories.

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