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Researchers Warn Against Surgery For Some Mesothelioma Patients

A diagnosis of mesothelioma is a frightening thing, and many patients who get the news that they have pleural mesotheliioma want to act immediately and aggressively in order to ensure that they are doing everything that they can to prolong their lives and hold the disease at bay. But a new report out of the University of Chicago suggests that immediate surgery may not be in the best interests of those who have minimal symptoms.

According to lead author David Burkholder, B.S. of the Division of Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery, he and his colleagues followed the progress of three dozen mesothelioma patients who had been diagnosed and identified with a varying degree of illness severity, and who all underwent the common mesothelioma surgery known as extended pleurectomy with decortication, or EPD. The surgery is aggressive, and removes the affected membrane of the pleural lining, but also removes any other tissue that is viewed as at risk, as well as all tumors that are detected.

The results of the study were notable, and should be enlightening for patients trying to make decisions about what is the appropriate course of action for their individual case. Of the 36 patients who were followed, nearly half had the surgery at a point in their illness when they were displaying only minimal symptoms and their overall health was good. The other 19 patients were classified as being somewhat impacted by their disease, and their health was not as good. For the second group, the surgery made a positive impact, improving several different factors that measure lung function and making them feel better; for the group that had originally shown almost no symptoms, they expressed a decline in their overall vitality and sense of well being.

The factors that were measured included forced vital capacity, forced expiratory volume in one second, total lung capacity and diffusing capacity of the lung for carbon monoxide. For the patients who had shown no symptoms prior to surgery, all of these measures were worse, and the patients expressed a disappointing reduction in the quality of their life, but for the patients who started out with lower scores in these measures, there were significant improvements.

According to Burkholder, writing in the Annals of Thoracic Surgery, “Extended pleurectomy and decortication did not improve overall health-related quality of life and had a negative impact on pulmonary function in minimally symptomatic patients.”

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an independent writer, editor and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Her dreams of a writing career were diverted by a need to pay her bills. She spent a few years providing copy for a major retailer, then landed a lucrative career in advertising sales. With college bills for all three of her kids paid, she left corporate America for a return to her original goal of writing. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of interest include health and fitness, medical research, and the law.

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