This is the fourth in our four-part series about mesothelioma and other asbestos-related conditions, entitled ‘Just the Facts.’ Through the course of the next four articles, you will be able to learn important and sometimes complex realities about the illness that you have been affected by, as well as its consequences and how to best proceed. This informational sequence is intended to present the facts most sought by asbestos victims and their families in a straightforward and easy-to-understand manner.
In this final installment, you’ll learn about some of the different options for mesothelioma treatment and why each one might or might not be right for you. It is important to be aware that your medical care team, including your doctor, is the best source for treatment information and guidance specific to your individual case. The following is intended to be a guide with general facts and statistics regarding the most common treatment methods currently available.
Your oncologist – a physician who specializes in cancer research and patient care – will likely be your mesothelioma treatment guide as you begin the process and will also see you through each and every step along the way. He or she will help you understand the possible benefits and potential risks for each type of treatment and put together a plan that best addresses your individual illness.
There are three primary forms of treatment available to mesothelioma patients, in addition to several alternative or holistic treatments that will not be covered in the section. There are also several new and promising forms of treatment that are still in the clinical phase and not yet approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA); patients interested in volunteering for mesothelioma clinical trials may have the opportunity to be among the first to receive those emerging forms of treatment and should talk to their physician about both availability and eligibility to see if they qualify.
When combined with one or more other treatments, surgery is generally considered to be one of the most promising efforts currently available. It should be noted that surgery may be curative or palliative in nature and that either will carry significant risks and possible complications. Additionally, there are several different types of surgical procedures used for various clinical purposes, and your mesothelioma treatment guide can help you determine which – if any – is right for you.
Clinical studies have shown chemotherapy to be the only mesothelioma treatment option to improve “survivability,” and it is often considered the most effective means of treating most forms of cancer overall. Even more recently, a Duke University study demonstrated a considerable increase in remission rates amongst those treated with a multimodal approach that combined chemo with surgery and/or radiation.
Your mesothelioma treatment guide may suggest radiation treatment as part of a combination therapy or multimodality plan. Little evidence has shown radiation to be effective when used independently as a curative measure for mesothelioma, but it may be used alone as a palliative treatment – intended to reduce physical symptoms of the illness and improve patient comfort.