If you are a patient who has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, or someone in that patient’s circle of friends and loved ones, you likely assume that they are receiving the best treatment possible, with the goal of both extending their life and making them as comfortable as possible. But a new study published in the journal Supportive Care in Cancer reveals a different reality: according to surveys completed by health professionals, patients diagnosed with mesothelioma and caregivers, a large percentage of patients are likely not even receiving chemotherapy, which is the most basic and widely accepted treatment protocol for the rare and fatal form of cancer.
Multiple Reasons Offered for Patients Not Receiving Chemotherapy
Malignant pleural mesothelioma is a challenging condition, that is always considered fatal, but that does not mean that patients need to give up all hope. There have been significant positive breakthroughs in ways to improve both patient quality of life and survival time using a multi-modality approach that includes surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and there has also been some success using innovative new protocols such as immunotherapy. Yet despite these possibilities, a survey of 107 doctors and 19 nurses conducted in 2014 revealed that 90 percent of doctors estimated that more than 10 percent of patients diagnosed with mesothelioma who would have been candidates for chemotherapy did not receive it, with almost half of the doctors indicating that the number not receiving the therapy was more than 20 percent. The physicians, who were largely either respiratory specialists or oncologists, indicated that they largely blamed the lack of chemotherapy administration on physicians not believing it worthwhile, with about half saying that general practitioners were not referring mesothelioma patients to cancer specialists and about half saying the fault lay with a lack of specialists in the regions where patients lived. Nurses had a slightly different view of why chemotherapy was not being used: three out of four believed that much of it had to do with the diagnosis coming so late that it was not worthwhile, while more than half agreed that general practitioners were not referring their patients to specialists. More than half also believed that general practitioners were simply unfamiliar with the disease and unaware of the possible treatments available.
Many Patients Believe Chemotherapy is Not Worth It
From the patients’ perspective, the blame for not choosing chemotherapy had to do with not wanting to go through the protocol’s negative side effects and an overall belief that the course of treatment was simply not worth it in light of the limited potential for survival. Physicians showed a preference for having patients make the decision on their own, while considering the opinion of their practitioners.
If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, the best way to make the right decision is to have all of the information that you need. For access to the most up-to-date resources, contact our Patient Advocates at 1-800-692-8608.