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Mesothelioma is a rare aggressive cancer that is exclusively caused by an exposure to asbestos.  It typically takes between 10 to 60 years from the initial exposure to asbestos for the disease to develop.  While there is no cure for mesothelioma and the life expectancy following a diagnosis is about one year, the goal of treatment is more palliative in nature.  First and foremost, patients suffering from any form of mesothelioma need to seek medical guidance and support from a reputable mesothelioma specialist who can help determine what treatment options are the most appropriate for your specific case.  Many factors need to be considered including the type of mesothelioma, the stage of the disease, an individual’s overall health, the person’s age and the patient’s own wishes as to how aggressively they would like to pursue their treatment.

Currently, there are a wide array of new treatments, procedures and medications that are being researched and tested in clinical trials.  In recent years, many of these new innovative therapies have shown promise in improving the quality of life for mesothelioma victims, and in some cases, their lives have even been prolonged.

Traditional Treatments for Mesothelioma

The traditional treatments for mesothelioma include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, or any combination of the three.  This multimodal therapy is aimed at removing or shrinking tumor growth and easing a patient’s pain and alleviating any other symptoms.

Surgery

There are several surgeries that are often utilized in the treatment plan for mesothelioma patients.  The main goal of surgery is to remove as much of the cancer as possible; however, at times surgery is considered an option to help alleviate pain and improve a patient’s quality of life.  Surgery is most effective if mesothelioma is diagnosed in its earliest stages.  Surgery is almost never used alone.  Instead, it is used in conjunction with other treatment options such as radiation and chemotherapy.

  • Extrapleural Pneumonectomy: an extensive complex operation in which a surgeon removes the affected cancerous lung along with the lining of the lung (pleura), the lining of the heart sac (pericardium), the diaphragm and lymph nodes.  This is an option for patients whose pleural mesothelioma has been diagnosed in an early stage and has not spread to other organs.  While this option has a greater potential for removing all the cancer cells, a patient’s quality of life can be severely impacted because the entire lung is removed.  Patients usually suffer from shortness of breath and a diminished capacity for physical activity.  Many mesothelioma patients do not qualify for this surgery because the majority of mesothelioma patients are diagnosed when the disease has already reached an advanced stage.
  • Pleurectomy/decortication: this is a surgical procedure for patients with pleural mesothelioma.   First, a pleurectomy is performed.  Essentially, the outer lining of the pleura on the affected lung is removed, but the lung itself is left intact.  Then a surgeon will perform a decortication in which the surgeon will remove any detectable tumor growth and scrape the lung to remove any additional cancer cells.  A patient’s quality of life is better preserved with this surgery because the lung is left in place, but the potential for cancer cells to still exist is a real concern.
  • Peritonectomy:  this is the surgical treatment of choice for patients suffering from peritoneal mesothelioma.  A surgeon will remove the lining of the abdominal cavity.
  • Cytoreductive Surgery: this treatment option for peritoneal mesothelioma patients involves surgeons removing the lining of the abdominal cavity as well as any additional cancer growth in the abdomen.  Surgeons will often have to remove segments of other organs including the stomach, pancreas, liver, bowels, gall bladder and the spleen.
  • Pericardiectomy:  a surgical procedure that is used to treat patients suffering from pericardial mesothelioma.  The outer lining of the heart, the pericardium, is removed.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation is a common method that is used to treat mesothelioma and is ordinarily performed in conjunction with surgery and chemotherapy.  Radiation therapy is used to shrink tumors and kill cancer cells.  It can be administered from an external source that involves patients receiving the radiation in the form of x-rays or gamma rays from a machine.  There are also options for internal radiation in which radioisotopes or other radioactive substances are implanted or injected in or near the cancer cells in the body.  In addition, a new alternative radiation therapy has become available.  Intensity –modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) is a type of radiation treatment that can more precisely focus in on the cancer cells while preserving healthy cells and tissues. As with other treatments, radiation poses a risk of side effects including skin irritation, fatigue, dry mouth and nausea.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a mesothelioma treatment that is used to help eradicate the cancer cells, decrease the size of the tumors and lessen the risk that the cancer will spread.  Chemotherapy drugs are most often administered orally or intravenously.  Patients will usually experience side effects from the chemotherapy such as fatigue, nausea, vomiting, hair loss and anemia.  In the case of pleural mesothelioma, chemotherapy can be given directly into the chest.  This is known as intrapleural chemotherapy.  Likewise, if a patient has peritoneal mesothelioma, chemotherapy can be given directly into the peritoneum.  This is known as intraperitoneal chemotherapy.  Some of the more common chemotherapy agents used for mesothelioma are Alimta (pemetrexed) and Cisplatin.  They are normally used in combination together.

Recent Developments in Treating Mesothelioma

Fortunately, research and clinical trials are always underway to advance the current treatment options as well as to find new innovative treatments and drugs for mesothelioma.  Recent studies have shown some promise and hope for those suffering from this horrible disease.

Photodynamic Therapy

This relatively new treatment option involves patients being injected with a drug, a photosensitizer.  All the cells in the body will absorb the photosensitizing drug, but the cancer cells retain the drug longer than normal healthy cells.  After a period of time, typically a few days, doctors will insert a light of a specific wavelength into the body to identify the cancer cells that have become more sensitive to the light.  The light will cause a chemical reaction.  The photosensitizer drug that is now present in the cancer cells will produce a form of oxygen causing the cancer cells to die.  In addition, this type of mesothelioma treatment can be helpful in destroying the blood vessels that help support the growth of the tumor.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is a process in which a mesothelioma patient’s own immune system is stimulated or manipulated to help fight off the cancer.  This type of treatment is designed to help a person’s own natural defense system identify the cancerous mesothelioma cells, and then react by attacking and destroying the cells.  Most often, this type of therapy involves a patient being injected with proteins that are already produced in the body or by proteins developed in a lab. Immunotherapy is often referred to as biologic therapy.

Gene Therapy

Gene therapy is continually being researched and tested as a treatment for mesothelioma.  This type of therapy can be achieved in several different approaches.  A patient’s defective genes can be inactivated or they can be replaced with healthy ones or in some cases, new genes can be introduced in to the body to help fight the disease.  Researchers are also using viruses that have been modified in the lab as part of the gene therapy approach that can aid in attacking cancer cells and slowing or shrinking tumor growth.

Alternative Treatments For Mesothelioma

Some patients may choose to incorporate other treatments into their care plan as a means to help ease the stress and anxiety that go along with a mesothelioma diagnosis, thereby improving their quality of life.  Alternative therapies have been shown to help relieve pain as well as other side effects that patients have to endure as a result of undergoing medical treatment.  Choosing to partake in any of these treatments also gives patients a feeling of control over their disease.  Some examples include acupuncture, massage, homeopathy, meditation, aromatherapy, herbal supplements, yoga, pet therapy and hypnotherapy.

Philadelphia Mesothelioma Attorneys at Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown & Sandler:  Dedicated to Fighting for the Rights of Mesothelioma Victims

The mesothelioma lawyers at Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown & Sandler in Philadelphia understand that being diagnosed with mesothelioma and undergoing the treatment process can be overwhelming for both you and your family.  We have dedicated a key area of our practice to ensuring that mesothelioma victims obtain the full and fair compensation for illness.  Our success both in and out of the courtroom has earned us a reputation for being a top-notch mesothelioma law firm that aggressively fights for the rights of individuals suffering from mesothelioma as well as other asbestos-related diseases.  To schedule a free consultation with an experienced Philadelphia mesothelioma attorney at the law firm of Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown & Sandler, call our office today at 800-369-0899 or fill out our online contact form.

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