Consult a Mesothelioma Specialist
With a diagnosis of mesothelioma, it’s important to find a qualified specialist as soon as possible. Oncologists who focus on mesothelioma have studied this rare cancer and worked with patients like you.
Only mesothelioma specialists can provide access to the latest treatments. They also collaborate with other experts as part of a patient-focused team.
Mesothelioma specialists lead cutting-edge research for diagnosis and treatment, as well as clinical trials. They can offer some of the most innovative therapies available anywhere.
Mesothelioma Treatment Facilities
Specialists provide the best treatment and the most options for mesothelioma patients. They often work at specialty mesothelioma and cancer treatment facilities.
Mesothelioma treatment centers and departments have the staff, equipment, knowledge, and experience to provide the most up-to-date options for mesothelioma patients.
Making treatment decisions is difficult when facing such a devastating and life-threatening illness. With an expert mesothelioma team guiding you, making the right choices becomes a little easier.
What Are Available Treatment Options?
Your treatment plan for mesothelioma depends on several factors:
- The type of mesothelioma
- The stage of your cancer
- Your age and overall health
- Your preferences and goals
Final treatment decisions belong to the patient. A good medical team will provide information and guidance to help patients make the best choices for their needs and preferences.
One important issue is to determine how aggressive to be with treatment. Patients must weigh the benefits and risks of aggressive treatment.
Some prefer to focus on extending their lives at any cost. Others want to be comfortable in the time they have left and choose treatments that address symptom relief and quality of life.
- The goal of surgery is to remove as much of the cancerous tissue as possible.
- Surgery is often combined with chemotherapy or radiation to eliminate remaining cancer cells or to shrink tumors before surgery.
- Some patients choose aggressive surgical procedures to try to cure mesothelioma.
- Surgery is more often used to extend a patient’s life, rather than to provide a cure.
- Surgery also improves quality of life by providing relief from symptoms.
- Chemotherapy is a standard and common treatment for mesothelioma.
- Chemotherapy uses drugs to target and damage fast-growing cancer cells.
- Patients receive chemotherapy drugs intravenously over multiple cycles.
- Chemotherapy typically causes several side effects.
- An innovative and promising new treatment for peritoneal mesothelioma involves washing the abdominal cavity with heated chemotherapy drugs after surgery.
- Radiation therapy is a beam of high-energy particles that kills cancer cells.
- Radiation may be used before surgery to reduce tumor size or after surgery to destroy any remaining cells.
- Traditionally, radiation is administered from outside the body by aiming the beam at the area of tumor growth.
- New methods allow oncologists to deliver radiation internally for more targeted treatment and fewer side effects.
In general, treatment for mesothelioma involves a combination of therapies, also known as a multi-modal approach. Each treatment can increase the effectiveness of the others.
A combination of surgery with chemotherapy or radiation therapy, or all three treatment types, is most effective.
Discuss these options with your oncologist to find out if they are appropriate for your treatment.
What Can I Expect with Mesothelioma Surgery?
Surgery gives most patients the best chance of extending survival time, but you must be a good candidate for it.
Consider these important factors when choosing surgery as part of a treatment plan:
- If you have late-stage, metastatic cancer or are in poor health, aggressive surgery is probably not an option.
- Aggressive procedures to remove a lot of tissue can extend life but are also very risky.
- Although an important part of treatment, surgery is rarely used alone. It is usually combined with radiation and chemotherapy.
- Some surgical procedures are used to provide symptom relief. This is called palliative surgery.
Can I Benefit from Research and Clinical Trials?
In addition to standard treatments, you may be able to benefit from new therapies under study. These treatments are experimental and not yet approved. They are available to patients only through clinical trials.
Physicians and researchers run clinical trials to determine if these new treatments are effective and safe.
Participation in a clinical trial provides patients with the unique opportunity to try a treatment that may have a better outcome than any other therapy currently approved.
Your team of specialists will be able to connect you to relevant and appropriate clinical trials. Remember that the effectiveness of treatments being offered is still unproven. Experimental therapies can even be harmful, causing unexpected side effects.
What Are My Other Therapy Options?
Cancer cells use strong defenses against the immune system. Researchers are working on overcoming those defenses with novel treatments.
Researchers have developed different types of immunotherapies. Some may be available for your treatment. Talk to your medical team about the possibility of immunotherapy as part of your treatment.
Researchers manipulate the genome in patients with many types of cancer. Gene therapy shows promise for mesothelioma patients.
For mesothelioma, doctors use carefully manipulated cells with specific genes. They inject the patient with these cells to target and kill cancer cells. This is just one of several gene therapy strategies currently under investigation.
Once the injected toxic drug has accumulated in cancer cells, doctors expose the tumor to light. This activates the drug to start acting on and killing the cells.
Clinical trials using photodynamic therapy are already proving that this strategy can extend life expectancies in mesothelioma patients.
Cryotherapy is an emerging treatment that uses cold temperatures to kill cancer cells. Although tested in other types of cancers, researchers continue to review the effectiveness of cryotherapy in mesothelioma patients.
Cryotherapy may be able to extend life expectancy. Right now many patients receive the treatment as a type of palliative care. It is safe and low risk, which makes it a good option for many patients.
Tumor Treating Fields System
The therapy uses electrical currents tuned to a specific frequency. This frequency disrupts the growth of cancer cells and slows tumor growth.
Tumor Treating Fields System is non-invasive and safe. Clinical trials proved that it could significantly extend life expectancy for patients with mesothelioma who cannot be treated with surgery.
What Are My Options for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Many cancer patients turn to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in addition to traditional treatments.
Yoga, massage therapy, aromatherapy, acupuncture, and other CAM therapies provide important benefits for patients with mesothelioma.
CAM practitioners provide services to relieve cancer symptoms or side effects of treatments, like chemotherapy. Many patients report CAM therapies bring relief from pain, nausea, vomiting, stress, anxiety, and other symptoms.
Practitioners provide CAM therapies along with standard cancer treatments. CAM is not a replacement for traditional medical treatment.
Many cancer treatment centers include CAM practitioners on their multi-disciplinary teams.With your medical team’s guidance, try alternative treatments that interest you and provide relief.
The many options include:
- Homeopathic medications
- Herbal and traditional Chinese medicines
- Energy therapies
- Massage therapy
- Acupuncture and acupressure
- Relaxation techniques
What Are My Options for Paying for Mesothelioma Treatment?
For a rare cancer like mesothelioma, costs rise quickly. Surgery can reach into the tens of thousands of dollars. Chemotherapy takes several weeks and multiple cycles to administer. A full course may cost $30,000 or more.
Radiation therapy is less expensive but still averages $2,000 per month. Alternative therapies may cost much less but are additional costs because they are not designed to replace any standard treatments.
Patients with limited or no health insurance may find themselves facing stressful decisions about treatment and costs. There also face additional financial burdens:
- Traveling for treatment
- Home medical care
- Providing for children
- Lost wages if going back to work is impossible
Several resources help patients struggling with finances during cancer treatment:
- Specialty treatment centers for mesothelioma and cancer often have aid for those who cannot afford to travel for their care.
- Clinical trials and grants may also be available.
- Veterans of the U.S. military may be eligible for special benefits.
- Victims of workplace asbestos exposure may receive compensation through a settlement or trust fund.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are There Any New Mesothelioma Treatments?
Researchers continue to investigate safer, more effective mesothelioma treatments. Ongoing studies test:
- New combinations of chemotherapy drugs
- Photodynamic therapy, which uses light-activated drugs to target tumors
- New targeted drugs specific for mesothelioma cells
- Immunotherapy treatments to harness the power of the immune system to attack cancer cells
- Tumor treating fields, a therapy that uses electric currents to kill cancer cells
Can Mesothelioma Ever Be Cured?
Mesothelioma is considered incurable in most cases. Patients usually receive a diagnosis in the later stages. At this point, treatments are limited. In rare instances, patients have achieved remission for several years with treatment.
Can Chemo Cure Mesothelioma?
There is no cure for mesothelioma, but there are rare cases of patients achieving remission. The best chances of remission are for those patients diagnosed during stage I or II of the cancer, before it has spread very far. The best chance of achieving remission is with a multimodal approach to treatment, usually involving chemotherapy and surgery. For example, some patients achieve remission from peritoneal mesothelioma after HIPEC, a treatment that involves surgery followed by chemotherapy.
Can Mesothelioma Go into Remission?
Remission is rare but possible with mesothelioma. Patients most likely to achieve remission are diagnosed in the earlier stages of the cancer and with aggressive, multimodal treatment. The five-year survival rate for mesothelioma is just 10 percent.
Can Lungs Heal from Asbestos?
Not everyone exposed to asbestos will develop a lung disease. Exposure does increase the risk for mesothelioma, lung cancer, and a type of progressive lung scarring known as asbestosis. If this damage occurs, the lungs generally do not heal. The progression of disease may be slowed or even stopped, but asbestos damage is generally irreversible.
Page Medically Reviewed and Edited byLuis Argote-Greene, M.D.
Luis Argote-Greene is an internationally recognized thoracic surgeon. He has trained and worked with some of the most prominently known thoracic surgeons in the United States and Mexico, including pioneering mesothelioma surgeon Dr. David Sugarbaker. He is professionally affiliated with University Hospitals (UH). His areas of interest and expertise are mesothelioma, mediastinal tumors, thoracic malignancies, lung cancer, lung transplantation, esophageal cancer, experimental surgery, and lung volume reduction. Dr. Argote-Greene has also done pioneering work with video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS), as well as robotic assisted minimally invasive surgery. He has taught the procedures to other surgeons both nationally and internationally.