What are Treatment Options for Mesothelioma?
If you have mesothelioma, you’re facing some tough choices. You need to decide what treatment is right for you and your goals. Your treatment team should lay them out for you, give you the pros and cons, and let you decide.
The National Cancer Institute has a lot of helpful information for patients. Part of the decision process should include doing some research, but not so much you get overwhelmed.
If you have mesothelioma, there’s an excellent chance asbestos exposure caused this type of cancer. It forms after inhaled asbestos fibers lodge in the lining of the abdomen, lungs, or (much more rarely) heart.
Normal cells turn malignant or cancerous when they mutate and cease their healthy functioning. Instead, they replicate rapidly and spread. This disrupts organ function and weakens the person as more of the body’s nutrients support the tumors, not the body’s usual functioning.
Some treatments are standard, so they’re currently being used by patients, while others are being tested in clinical trials. They are research studies to see if different approaches may be more effective, have fewer side effects, or both. Current standard treatments were once subjects of clinical trials. There are currently five types of standard treatment.
The following surgical approaches may be used when mesothelioma affects the lungs and chest:
- Removing the cancer and some healthy tissue around it (wide local excision)
- Remove part of the lungs’ covering, the chest lining, and part of the lungs’ outside surface (pleurectomy and decortication)
- Removal of a lung and part of the chest lining, the diaphragm, and the membrane around the heart (extrapleural pneumonectomy)
- Fluid is drained out between the membrane layers covering the lung (pleura) with a catheter, and a scar is created by using chemicals and drugs. This should stop fluid build-up (pleurodesis)
You may get chemotherapy or radiation to kill any cancer cells that remain after the surgery.
- Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or prevent them from growing. Radiation may kill, mutate, or not affect normal and malignant cells. It’s used because cancer cells are more susceptible to damage caused by radiation.
External radiation therapy External radiation involves a linear accelerator outside the body sending radiation where there’s cancer. It may also be used when relieving symptoms and improving your quality of life is the goal, not a cure.
Chemotherapy involves drugs that stop cancer cells’ growth by killing or preventing them from dividing. How it’s delivered depends on your cancer’s type and stage. It’s available in pill form, infused into your bloodstream, or directly injected into an affected body part.
Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy is used to treat mesothelioma that’s spread to the peritoneum (a membrane lining the abdomen and covering most abdominal organs). After visible cancer is removed, a solution of chemotherapy drugs is warmed and pumped in and out of the abdomen.
Immunotherapy boosts your immune system to help it fight cancer. Substances from the body or made in a laboratory boost, direct, or improve the body’s natural defenses against cancer. This is called biologic therapy.
These are immunotherapies used to treat mesothelioma:
- Immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy: Some cells of the immune system, including T cells, and some cancer cells, have proteins on their surface. They’re called checkpoint proteins, and they limit immune responses. If a cancer cell has many of these proteins, T cells will leave them alone. Immune checkpoint inhibitors block these proteins so T cells are more likely to kill malignant cells
- Interferon slows the division of cancer cells and tumor growth
- Targeted therapy
Targeted therapy uses drugs or substances that identify and attack specific cancer cells. This approach includes:
- Monoclonal antibodies are immune system proteins created in a lab to treat many diseases, including cancer. The antibodies kill the cancer cells and prevent them from growing or spreading. Monoclonal antibodies are given by infusion and may deliver radioactive material, drugs, or toxins directly to cancer cells
- Bevacizumab is a monoclonal antibody used by patients with advanced malignant mesothelioma. It binds to a protein on the cell and may prevent the growth of new blood growth vessels needed by tumors to grow
One of the main benefits of this approach is, although there are side effects, they should be less harmful than chemotherapy or radiation because those treatments impact both healthy and malignant cells.
Which One is Right for You?
Depending on your situation, your treatment goal may not realistically be a cure. It’s to extend your life and make you as comfortable and functional as possible. You need to choose the method you’re most comfortable with, and that inspires the most confidence.
Satterley & Kelley is Here to Help
Mesothelioma treatment, like most cancers, is costly. If you have health insurance, contact your carrier to see what your plan covers and what it may not (which may need to be paid by you and your family).
Additional financial aid may be found through filing legal claims. An experienced, knowledgeable mesothelioma attorney may be able to get you compensation for your asbestos exposure that may cover the cost of your medical care (and other expenses related to your condition).
Satterley & Kelley is a reputable mesothelioma law firm that you can trust. Call us toll-free at 855-385-9532 or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation so we can discuss your situation, your legal rights, and how the law may apply in your case.