If you’ve just been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you’re probably overwhelmed with all of the new information coming your way. However, with mesothelioma, time is often of the essence, and it’s crucial to get a treatment plan in order as soon as you can.
What does mesothelioma treatment look like?
Different mesothelioma diagnoses have different paths to treatment. However, in most cases, mesothelioma cancer treatment may combine chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, and/or experimental therapies. It may also involve palliative care or supportive care, which focuses on providing relief from symptoms, improving quality of life, and extending life expectancy for patients. Your exact treatment will depend on your type of mesothelioma, what stage it is advanced to, and your overall health and medical history.
Most importantly, treatment choices depend on your needs and preferences. Your medical team will provide you with options and information about your choices, but the final choices when it comes to your treatment depend on what you would like to prioritize. Some patients want aggressive treatment that will give them the best chance at living longer, no matter what. Some people want to improve their quality of life and are much more interested in focusing on that element of care. It is essential to always get a second opinion when dealing with a diagnosis like mesothelioma so that you can arrive at the best possible treatment plan.
The common treatment methods for mesothelioma include:
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy involves using powerful cytotoxic drugs to target, damage, and hopefully eliminate cancer cells. It can be helpful in reducing the size of tumors, which helps fight cancer by reducing the spread and making surgeries more successful, while also alleviating symptoms caused by larger tumors.
- Surgery: Mesothelioma surgery usually attempts to remove as much of the cancerous tissue as possible, often in combination with other treatments. Mesothelioma, patients with more advanced stage cancer and those with distant spread tumors may not benefit from this sort of surgery.
- Radiation: Radiation therapy involves using a beam of energized particles to kill cancer cells. It is often used before surgery to shrink tumors and/or after surgery to target any remaining cancer cells. While it has traditionally been administered from outside of the body, new forms of radiation can be administered internally.
- Experimental Therapies: There are many types of new experimental treatments being developed to treat mesothelioma. Many of these treatments are only available in certain facilities and under certain conditions (i.e., they may require signing up for a clinical trial).
What are the Best Mesothelioma Treatment Centers?
Once you have your diagnosis and a sense of what sort of treatment you would like to pursue, it’s time to think about where you want to be treated. While there are many cancer treatment facilities throughout the country, there are several centers and experts that focus specifically on rare cancers like mesothelioma.
If you are considering treatment at a cancer center, it’s essential to know which centers will give you the best chance of a good outcome. When evaluating whether a mesothelioma treatment center is offering the best possible care, you should look for the following:
- Noted experts among staff, and physicians actively involved in research (as they are most likely to be up to date on the latest mesothelioma knowledge)
- Offering a full range of standard treatments (surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation), and ideally additional, more experimental treatments, such as targeted therapy, immunotherapy, photodynamic therapy, gene therapy, HIPEC for peritoneal mesothelioma, and/or cryotherapy).
- Offering clinical trials and enrollment in ongoing research
- Providing a diverse range of doctors and other professionals to make up your treatment team, including nutritionists, physical therapists, and psychologists/social workers.
If you’re looking for a mesothelioma-specific cancer center, you might want to start your search with one of the nine centers below, which are all known to offer excellent mesothelioma treatment and care:
- Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA: Through its own award-winning cancer treatment program and in consortium with other highly rated cancer specialist hospitals in the area (such as the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute), Brigham and Women’s offers a wide range of resources and treatments to mesothelioma patients. It is also the location of the International Mesothelioma Program, where around 200 patients each year are admitted for some of the most cutting-edge mesothelioma treatment available.
- University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX: One of the country’s highest rated cancer centers, the MD Anderson Cancer Center has a specific focus on lung and chest cancers (including pleural and pericardial mesothelioma). As a research hospital, they offer experimental treatments and many opportunities for participation in clinical trials.
- Mount Sinai Hospital, New York City, NY: This well-established name in the medical world has two of the world’s top experts of mesothelioma: Dr. Raja Flores and Dr. Daniel Labow. Dr. Flores is a top expert in pleural mesothelioma, while Dr. Labow is a top expert in peritoneal mesothelioma. In addition to offering access to two of the top minds in the field, Mt. Sinai also offers multi-modal treatments for mesothelioma that have been proven most effective for many patients.
- The Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute, Cleveland, OH: The Cleveland Clinic’s Cancer Institute focuses specifically on lung-related cancers, including mesothelioma. As a result, the Cancer Institute can offer a wide range of impressively credentialed specialists, who can contribute their skills and strategy to your cancer treatment. This is a particularly good choice for those with rarer types of pleural mesothelioma, as there are specialists on-staff in every possible sub-type of lung-related cancer.
- Pacific Mesothelioma Center (PMC) at the Pacific Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Los Angeles, CA: The PMC is a specialized unit of the well-regarded Pacific Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, which partners frequently with UCLA and the West Los Angeles, VA Medical Center. Focused on pleural mesothelioma, the PMC is currently in the process of developing many treatments and therapies aimed at improving prognosis and extending the life of pleural mesothelioma patients. Rather than viewing mesothelioma as a terminal diagnosis, they approach it as a chronic, albeit serious health condition to be managed.
- H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa, FL: In addition to being a highly rated cancer center in all regards, the H. Lee Moffit Center is particularly well-known in the southwest for its Department of Thoracic Oncology and Mesothelioma Research and Treatment Center, which provides award-winning care to mesothelioma patients.
- University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center, Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago is a research dynamo, producing some of the best medical innovations throughout the past century. Their Mesothelioma Program is no exception and is known as a world leader for both innovative treatment and complex cancer research. Patients are offered individualized, empathetic care with ample access to clinical studies.
- Mesothelioma Treatment Center, Baylor College of Medicine Lung Institute, Houston, TX: Like Boston, Houston is a city known for its excellent hospitals and medical centers, and the MTC at Baylor is one of the best for mesothelioma patients. Teams of highly qualified, highly knowledgeable experts offer top of the line, individualized treatment, and the ongoing research at the hospital provides ample opportunity for inclusion in clinical trials. The MTC also emphasizes psychological and spiritual care for both mesothelioma patients and their loved ones.
- University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Hillman Cancer Center, Pittsburgh, PA: The UPMC Hillman Cancer Center has a reputation for being one of the most established cancer treatment centers specializing in rare and complex cancers in the country. Their Mesothelioma Specialty Care Program offers experts in the field (such as Dr. David Bartlett, a world leader in peritoneal mesothelioma), as well as caring, thoughtful, and innovative care and access to clinical studies.