Malignant pleural mesothelioma is a particularly cruel disease. The rare, asbestos-related form of cancer is always considered fatal, and once diagnosed most patients have less than two years in which they can put their affairs in order and spend time with those they love. Making matters worse is the significant pain that accompanies the disease as it progresses and its tumors grow. But researchers from the United Kingdom have identified a minimally invasive surgical technique called PCC that can provide patients with substantial relief.
PCC Offers Mesothelioma Patients Effective Pain Management
Mesothelioma patients’ pain is caused by the growth of tumors within the mesothelium, an organ that surrounds the lungs and other organs. At the beginning of mesothelioma’s long latency period these tumors are too small to put pressure on nerves, but over the course of decades they grow to the point where the nerves are compressed and the body registers pain. This pain is one of the earliest symptoms of the disease, and only grows worse as the patient’s disease advances further.
According to researcher Marlise Poolman of the Bangor Institute for Health and Medical Research at Bangor University in Wales, a minimally invasive surgical technique called percutaneous cervical cordotomy, or PCC, can be highly effective in reducing mesothelioma patients’ pain and improving their quality of life. By targeting radiofrequency waves into the nerves being compressed by the tumors, surgeons are able to stop pain messages from being transmitted from the chest to the brain.
Use of PCC Procedure Can Minimize Pain and Reduce Opioid Use
Pain management is one of the most challenging aspects of mesothelioma treatment. Facing a terminal disease, patients prefer to be as comfortable as possible but do not want to take opioids. Dr. Poolman’s study found that the procedure significantly reduces both pain and opioid use, but that its use is often withheld until the disease is in its latest stages. She urges physicians to use the technique earlier in the course of the patient’s journey in order to provide the greatest benefit.
Though PCC destroys nerve tissue, it is considered safe. It is both more effective than opioid medications for managing the pain of malignant pleural mesothelioma and avoids the well-known disadvantages of those medications. Patients involved in the study experienced reductions in their cancer pain score from a six-out-of-ten to just two-out-of-ten in less than two weeks’ time. At the same time, there was a 50-percent median reduction in opioid use at follow-up.
If you or someone you love is suffering with mesothelioma, there are many ways you can improve your quality of life. For more information, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net at 1-800-692-8608.