Mesothelioma - Treatment

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What is the treatment for mesothelioma?

There are three traditional kinds of treatment for patients with malignant mesothelioma. Often two or more of these are combined in the course of treatment:

  • surgery (taking out the cancer),
  • radiation therapy (using high-dose X-rays or other high-energy rays to kill cancer cells), and
  • chemotherapy (using drugs to fight the cancer).

Additional information

Surgery: There are several types of surgery used in treating mesothelioma.

  • A pleurectomy is the removal of part of the chest or abdomen lining and some of the tissue around it.
  • Depending on how far the cancer has spread, a lung also may be removed in an operation called a pneumonectomy.
  • In an extrapleural pneumonectomy, the lung is removed along with the lining and diaphragm (the muscle that helps you breathe) on the affected side. In this surgery, the lining around the heart is also removed.
  • Sometimes a pleurectomy/decortication is performed. In this surgery, the lining of the lung is removed along with as much of the tumor as possible.

Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external radiation therapy) or from putting materials that produce radiation (radioisotopes) through thin plastic tubes in the area where the cancer cells are found (internal radiation therapy).

If fluid has collected in the chest or abdomen, your doctor may drain the fluid out of your body by putting in a needle into the chest or abdomen and using gentle suction to remove the fluid. If fluid is removed from the chest, this is called thoracentesis. If fluid is removed from the abdomen, this is called paracentesis. Your doctor may also put drugs through a tube into the chest to prevent more fluid from accumulating.

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be administered by pill, or it may be put into the body by a needle in the vein or muscle.

Chemotherapeutic agents can be administered either systemically (through the bloodstream) or intrapleurally (in the pleural cavity). When it is administered intrapleurally, the treatment is localized at the site of the tumor. These drugs are generally very toxic and you should discuss their use very carefully with your physician.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: NelleS, 65-74 Female (Caregiver) Published: February 12

My husband was diagnosed with mesothelioma last March (2013). He was not a candidate for surgery, so started receiving chemotherapy in April 2013. He had 2 or 3 rounds of Cisplatin and Alimta. However, he did not tolerate the Cisplatin well, so he has been getting Alimta only. The oncologist has said that the Alimta is no longer working, as there appears to be more involvement in my husband"s abdomen. Plus, he now has a golf-ball sized tumor just under the skin near his collarbone. The oncologist now wants my husband to start getting gemcitabine every week. However, my husband is very nervous about the stated side effects. He is considering not using this drug and staying on Alimta.

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Comment from: maurice, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: August 14

I am a schoolteacher, suffering fatigue and breathlessness. It was diagnosed originally as adult onset asthma. Picked up by a locum general physician that it was more serious, and was diagnosed mesothelioma within 10 days, after tests at our local teaching hospital. Current treatment is Cisplatin and pemetrexed.

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