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Mesothelioma Treatment

Standard Mesothelioma Treatment Options: The most promising treatment options for mesothelioma are a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, with emerging treatment options utilized when appropriate.

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that is aggressive and difficult to treat, but in spite of the challenges there are still many good options for treatment. These can effectively manage symptoms and quality of life, and even extend a patient's survival time.

Treatment choices vary greatly and include both traditional therapies like chemotherapy, as well as alternative medicine. There are also new emerging treatments being tested in clinical trials. With access to quality, reliable information along with an experienced medical team, patients and families can make important decisions about their individual treatment path.

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Mesothelioma is a difficult disease to manage and treat with a generally poor prognosis. In spite of the poor odds and the challenges, treatments have improved in recent decades. Today, specialists are helping patients live longer lives in greater comfort.

Patients can get the best treatment and more options by visiting specialized mesothelioma treatment centers. These are found all around the country, and they provide compassionate, effective care from mesothelioma experts. They also provide access to clinical trials.

Some of the biggest advances in mesothelioma treatment include improvements in the safety and effectiveness of surgical procedures. Surgery is the best way to attempt to cure this cancer and alleviate symptoms.

Researchers have also made important developments in experimental treatments, including gene therapy and immunotherapy. Many of these advances are currently being made in clinical trials have great promise for helping more patients.

Medicine and science have not yet found a cure for this rare and difficult disease. But there is hope for patients. Important progress is being made right now, providing hope for mesothelioma patients.

Mesothelioma patients are experiencing longer, more fulfilling lives in spite of their diagnosis thanks to advances in treatments and dedicated facilities staffed by specialists and other health care professionals.

Consult a

Mesothelioma Specialist

If you or a loved one recently received a diagnosis of mesothelioma, it's important to select a specialist. Oncologists who focus on mesothelioma have experience working with patients like you, and they have specialized knowledge and expertise. They can provide access to the latest treatments and they work with other experts on a multidisciplinary team.

Mesothelioma specialists can provide you with more treatment options than general oncologists. Most specialists are involved in cutting-edge research for diagnosis and treatment. They can offer some of the most innovative therapies available anywhere.

You may want to start with your trusted family doctor, but know that you will need to see a specialist to get the best treatment for mesothelioma. Your doctor can help you find the right specialist as well as a dedicated treatment center for cancer care and mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma

Treatment Facilities

Specialists provide the best treatment and the most options for mesothelioma patients. A multi-disciplinary team of experts, typically working at a cancer treatment center, provides even more options for treatment and access to newer therapies.

Specialized mesothelioma treatment centers and departments have the staff, the equipment, the knowledge and the experience that allow them 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 medical team to guide you, making choices that are best for you and your family is a little easier.

What are available

Treatment Options?

The creation of a treatment and management plan for mesothelioma depends on several factors. These include the type of mesothelioma and its stage, as well as individual and personal factors like age, health, and treatment preferences.

Patients must also weigh the benefits and risks of aggressive treatment. Some prefer to focus on extending their lives at whatever cost, while others want to be comfortable in the time they have left. For most patients, treatment plans include some combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

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Surgery

Surgical treatment for mesothelioma is used to remove as much of the cancerous tissue as possible. It is often combined chemotherapy or radiation to eliminate any tumor growth that a surgeon was unable to remove.

Aggressive surgical procedures can be used to attempt to cure mesothelioma, but generally it is used to extend a patient’s life. Or, these surgeries are used to improve quality of life by providing relief from some of the symptoms.

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Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a standard and common treatment for mesothelioma. It involves administering drugs that target and damage fast-growing cells throughout the body, including cancer cells. The drugs are usually given intravenously.

Patients usually need multiple rounds of chemotherapy, and this can cause a lot of uncomfortable side effects. An innovative and promising new treatment for peritoneal mesothelioma involves washing the abdominal cavity with heated chemotherapy drugs.

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Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses a beam of high-energy particles to target and kill cancer cells. It is typically used as an adjunct to surgery or chemotherapy, or both. It may be used before surgery to reduce tumor sizes or after surgery to destroy any remaining tumor cells.

Traditionally radiation is administered from outside the body by aiming the beam at the area of tumor growth. New innovations are allowing oncologists to deliver radiation internally for more targeted treatment and to avoid some of the side effects.

Surgery

Surgical treatment for mesothelioma is used to remove as much of the cancerous tissue as possible. It is often combined chemotherapy or radiation to eliminate any tumor growth that a surgeon was unable to remove.

Aggressive surgical procedures can be used to attempt to cure mesothelioma, but generally it is used to extend a patient’s life. Or, these surgeries are used to improve quality of life by providing relief from some of the symptoms.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a standard and common treatment for mesothelioma. It involves administering drugs that target and damage fast-growing cells throughout the body, including cancer cells. The drugs are usually given intravenously.

Patients usually need multiple rounds of chemotherapy, and this can cause a lot of uncomfortable side effects. An innovative and promising new treatment for peritoneal mesothelioma involves washing the abdominal cavity with heated chemotherapy drugs.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses a beam of high-energy particles to target and kill cancer cells. It is typically used as an adjunct to surgery or chemotherapy, or both. It may be used before surgery to reduce tumor sizes or after surgery to destroy any remaining tumor cells.

Traditionally radiation is administered from outside the body by aiming the beam at the area of tumor growth. New innovations are allowing oncologists to deliver radiation internally for more targeted treatment and to avoid some of the side effects.

After a mesothelioma diagnosis you will likely be using a combination of treatments, also called a multi-modal approach. Each treatment enhances the effectiveness of the others. A combination of surgery with chemotherapy or radiation therapy, or all three treatment types, often gives the best results. For patients in earlier stages, these can be used aggressively to slow the cancer's growth significantly.

For more advanced cases of cancer, doctors usually recommend a palliative approach to care. The main goal for palliative care is providing relief for symptoms and a higher quality of life.

Palliative care does not usually include major surgery, as most patients are not healthy enough for it and because surgery will not effectively remove most of the cancer. Some minor surgical treatments may be offered to provide pain relief.

Many mesothelioma patients have also found hope in emerging experimental approaches. These are novel therapies being investigated in clinical trials. Discuss such options as photodynamic therapy, immunotherapy, or gene therapy with your physician. Discuss these options with your specialist to find out if you qualify for clinical trials.

What's involved with

Mesothelioma Surgery?

Surgery is one of the best options for extending life expectancy in patients with mesothelioma. Unfortunately it is not an option for everyone, especially for patients with metastatic cancer.

The surgical procedures that can be used for mesothelioma are most successful when the cancer has not spread far from the original tumor. Because the surgeries tend to be extensive, they are also best for patients in good overall health.

Surgery is rarely used alone. It is usually combined with radiation and chemotherapy. One or the other may be given before surgery to reduce tumor size. Alternatively, they may be administered after the procedure to eliminate any remaining cancer cells.

Some surgical procedures are used to provide relief from pain and other symptoms. This is called palliative care, which is important for improving quality of life and relieving symptoms.

Procedures include:

  • Biopsy
  • Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP)
  • Lobectomy
  • Paracentesis
  • Peritonectomy/cytoreductive
  • Pleurectomy/decortication (P/D)
  • Pleurodesis
  • Thoracentesis
  • Thoracoscopy
  • Thoracotomy
  • Wedge Resection
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Is there access to

Research and Clinical Trials?

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In addition to traditional treatments, researchers are working on novel, innovative therapies to improve mesothelioma patient outcomes. Most of 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. Trials provide patients with the unique opportunity to try cutting edge, unapproved treatments.

If you are interested in participating in a clinical trial, it is important to remember that the effectiveness of treatments being offered is still unproven.

Experimental therapies can even be harmful, causing unexpected side effects. There is a risk but also potential rewards. Participation in trials always helps to advance this important research. Talk to your specialist about available trials and if you qualify.

Are there available

Therapy Options?

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is an exciting line of research for all types of cancer, including mesothelioma. Big improvements have been made in these therapies that use the power of the immune system to attack and kill cancer cells.

The body’s immune system is naturally designed to attack invading cells like viruses and bacteria. That response can be extended to cancer cells and enhanced to be more effective.

There are different types of immunotherapy, including active and passive approaches. Active therapies stimulate the patient's own immune system to fight back against cancer. Passive therapies involve injecting the patient with immune compounds that the patient cannot produce naturally.

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Gene Therapy

Gene therapy is an exciting, relatively new type of treatment that takes advantage of a patient's DNA and genes to fight disease. Researchers are manipulating the genome in clinical patients to treat all types of cancer. It has already been used to successfully treat other conditions and shows promise for mesothelioma.

In the treatment of mesothelioma, genes that targets cancer cells and kills them are injected into the body using carefully manipulated cells. This is just one strategy using gene therapy that is currently being studied for treatment of mesothelioma and there is a potential for more.

Photodynamic Therapy

Photodynamic therapy uses the energy of light to specifically target and kill cancer cells. The treatment begins with an infusion of drugs similar to those used in chemotherapy. The difference is that phototherapy drugs are only active when stimulated by light.

Once the drug has accumulated in cancer cells after being injected in the patient, the tumor is exposed to light, and the drug goes to work.

Clinical trials using photodynamic therapy are already proving that this strategy can extend life expectancies in patients with mesothelioma. The solution used in these trials has already been approved for use in other types of cancers and the potential for being approved for mesothelioma is high.

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mesothelioma_treatment_cryotherapy

Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy is an emerging treatment that uses cold to kill cancer cells. It has already been tested in other types of cancers. Its effectiveness in mesothelioma is still being reviewed in clinical trials.

Cryotherapy has the potential to extend life expectancy, and could potentially be used as a cancer cure. Currently, many patients are given the treatment as a type of palliative care, to relieve pain and other symptoms.

A patient may receive cryotherapy, for example to shrink the size of tumors, reducing pressure on the lungs or spine. Cryotherapy is safe and low risk, which makes it a good option for many patients.

What are options for

Alternative Treatments?

In addition to standard treatments and experimental therapies in clinical trials, patients also often like to try complementary and alternative medicine. Yoga, massage therapy, aromatherapy, acupuncture, and other therapies can provide a lot of important benefits for patients with mesothelioma.

Alternative therapies are often useful for relieving cancer symptoms or side effects of traditional treatment. Many patients report relief from pain, nausea, vomiting, stress, anxiety, and other symptoms.

It is important to remember that alternative and complementary therapies are designed to be used concurrently with standard cancer treatments. They are not replacements for treatment.

Mesothelioma specialists often encourage patients to seek alternative treatments concurrently with the traditional medical approaches that are being used. You may even find that alternative practitioners are part of a your mesothelioma treatment team.

With your medical team's guidance, try alternative treatments that interest you and that you feel provide a benefit. The many options include nutrition, homeopathic medications, herbal and traditional Chinese medicines, energy therapies, emotional based therapies, and body and mind-based therapies like acupuncture and acupressure, yoga and massage, and meditation and other relaxation techniques.

What are my options

Paying For Mesothelioma Treatment?

The treatment of mesothelioma is expensive. Surgery alone can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Chemotherapy takes several weeks and multiple cycles to administer. It can run to costs of $30,000 or more for a full course.

Radiation therapy averages around $2,000 per month. Alternative therapies may cost much less but are still an added expense because they are not designed to be used as a replacement for traditional treatment.

Patients with limited or no health insurance may find themselves facing stressful decisions about treatment because of the costs. Treatment is expensive, and there are also additional financial burdens: traveling for treatment, providing for children, and the loss of wages if going back to work is not possible.

Some patients go into debt trying to fund treatment. This is not an ideal solution, as it can leave you in a big financial hole that is impossible to climb out of later, for you or your surviving family.

Alternatives are worth considering, including financial assistance available to most patients. If you need help paying for treatment and other expenses, contact charitable and government organizations that offer assistance.

Mesothelioma specialty care facilities often have a variety of types of aid for those who cannot afford to travel for their care. Veterans of the U.S. military may be eligible for special benefits, and some clinical trials and grants may also be available.

Page Medically Reviewed and Edited by
Luis Argote-Greene, MD

Luis Marcelo Argote-Greene, MD
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.
Sources
  1. Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Mesothelioma - Diagnosis and Treatment.
    Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mesothelioma/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20375028
  2. National Institutes of Health. National Cancer Institute. (2018, July 30). Malignant Mesothelioma Treatment (PDQ) - Patient Version.
    Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.gov/types/mesothelioma/patient/mesothelioma-treatment-pdq#section/_130
  3. National Organization for Rare Disorders. Rare Disease Database. (n.d.). Mesothelioma.
    Retrieved from: https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/mesothelioma/
  4. National Institutes of Health. National Cancer Institute. (n.d.). Treatment Clinical Trials for Mesothelioma.
    Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/clinical-trials/disease/mesothelioma/treatment?pn=1

Where can I

Learn about the latest treatments?

For over 15 years, we’ve provided the best FREE resources to mesothelioma patients and loved ones. Our resources include information on the leading treatment options and best doctors in your area, lessons learned from survivors, claims and benefits specifically for Veterans, and how to access your share of billions of dollars in trust fund money.

Learn about the latest treatments with our FREE resources.

resources-shot_optimized
  • New treatment options
  • Learn from survivors
  • Veterans benefits & claims
  • File for your share of $30 billion in trust funds

– Or Call –
1-800-692-8608

Where can I

Learn about the latest treatments?

For over 15 years, we’ve provided the best FREE resources to mesothelioma patients and loved ones. Our resources include information on the leading treatment options and best doctors in your area, lessons learned from survivors, claims and benefits specifically for Veterans, and how to access your share of billions of dollars in trust fund money.

Learn about the latest treatments with our FREE resources.

resources-shot_optimized
  • New treatment options
  • Learn from survivors
  • Veterans benefits & claims
  • File for your share of $30 billion in trust funds

– Or Call –
1-800-692-8608

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