A recent study conducted by scientists at Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, United Kingdom,indicated that an invasive keyhole surgery called video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery, or VATS, does nothing to extend mesothelioma patients’ survival rates but does make a considerable improvement in their quality of life.
The study was presented at the 15th World Conference on Lung Cancer.
According to Robert Rintoul, M.D., a randomized study of patients who underwent VATS surgery compared with those who had undergone a simpler talc pleurodesis found that although patients from both groups lived approximately twelve months following the surgery, those who had the VATS procedure suffered far less from a buildup of fluid in their lungs.
Patients suffering from pleural mesothelioma find that as the disease progresses and the tumor grows, their lungs fill up with fluid and they have a more and more difficult time breathing. Traditionally, they have been treated with talc pleurodesis, a procedure in which a tube is inserted into the lung, fluid is removed and the lungs are inflated again. The talc is then inserted in order to provide temporary relief of the symptoms.
When patients undergo the VATS treatment, the procedure is combined with the surgical removal of as much of the cancerous tumor as possible. The procedures are both considered palliative rather than curative. Patients who undergo VATS need to be in better physical condition because of the additional risks and side effects of the surgery.
Physicians and researchers reviewing this information have indicated that it is important to provide as much quality of life to mesothelioma patients as possible, but they must also take into account the additional risk, expense and recovery time that the VATS procedure involves.
Hospital stays for those who had the VATS procedure were on average two days longer than those of the patients who had the simple talc pleurodesis, and the costs were substantially higher for the patients who had surgery.
Yet, for most physicians, the lack of difference that the procedure made in the overall survival rates paled in comparison to the ability to provide their patients with an improved quality of life for their remaining time.