Mesothelioma: Treatment Options

Mesothelioma: Treatment Options

Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer which is caused by asbestos exposure. With a poor prognosis and no cure existing at the moment, the disease may take between 20 and 50 years to appear. In the U.S., more than 2.000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year. Most of these people were exposed to asbestos, at work or at home.

Asbestos has been widely used in various industries, especially before the 1970s. Therefore, whether they were working in power plants, in the mining industry, as firefighters or were just renovating their homes by themselves, people were unconsciously exposing themselves to a toxic mineral they knew nothing about. Moreover, exposure can also happen by simply carrying at home the deadly fibers on work clothes, so family members were put at risk as well.

The types of mesothelioma are classified by the place of development. This form of cancer affects the lining of organs and usually appears in three areas:

  • Pleural. This is malignant cancer with tumors forming in the lining of the lungs, called pleura. As it affects the respiratory system, the most common symptoms are shortness of breath and chest pain.
  • Peritoneal. Developing in the peritoneum and caused by asbestos exposure, this type of mesothelioma is very rare and has a poor diagnosis. It is signaled by abdominal pain and weight loss.
  • Pericardial. An extremely rare type of mesothelioma which affects the pericardium. Most cases are diagnosed after autopsy and symptoms include chest pain and pulse variance.

Standard Treatment

Although no cure for mesothelioma has been found, there are several treatment options to reduce patients' suffering and increase their lifespan. Normally, mesothelioma treatments consist of a multimodal approach which is actually a combination of three individual treatment options:

  • Surgery. When the illness is diagnosed in its early stages, surgery can be performed in order to remove some or even all tumors. Even though it might provide long-term survival for the patient, it is not recommended for people with a poor health condition.
  • Chemotherapy. Drugs used in this type of treatment attack the remaining cancer cells that could not be removed during the surgery. One of the most common treatment options for cancer, it also prevents cells from multiplying.
  • Radiation Therapy. Targeted radiation is used to shrink the tumors and help the surgeon remove them more easily. It is used after surgery, as well, to avoid the recurrence of the disease. This treatment method has improved a lot over the years as specialists have developed various techniques in order to avoid damaging the healthy tissue.

Several studies have shown that this multimodal treatment is significantly more effective than the above-mentioned treatment options alone.

Experimental Treatments

When standard treatment leads nowhere, patients might have to try experimental treatments. Using clinical trials, researchers continuously think of ways of developing new medicine that might treat or at least help people suffering from mesothelioma. These experimental treatments have had positive outcomes on several patients, remarkably extending their lives. The most popular and effective are the following:

  • Immunotherapy. It is used in order to boost the immune system and help the body fight cancer. It might also involve the creation of immune system proteins and their introduction into the patient's body to help the natural immune system identify and attack cancer cells.
  • Gene Therapy. As cancer appears due to issues in the cell DNA, specialists try to find a way to fix these troublesome genes.
  • Photodynamic Therapy. It kills cancer cells with the aid of drugs that are activated by light of high intensity. These drugs are administered before the surgical treatment but, unfortunately, no significant results have been seen so far.

How Do I pay for Mesothelioma Treatment?

The costs of mesothelioma treatments are quite high and insurance companies might avoid covering all of them. However, there are other ways to pay for treatment, depending on the severity of the disease and the place of asbestos exposure. For example, veterans, people exposed to asbestos during the 9/11 attacks and more can benefit from special funds. Moreover, if you have been exposed at work, you can claim compensation from the company you were working for at the moment of exposure.

Why Should I Test Products in My Home for Asbestos?

It is often impossible to tell whether asbestos is embedded in a material, as the fibers are too small to be observed with the naked eye. Exposure to asbestos is responsible for serious respiratory conditions, so thorough testing is required to ensure your home is asbestos-free.