Mature woman with cancer has a concerned look on her face

What Treatment Options are Available for Each Stage of Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a cancer of mesothelial tissue that is typically connected to asbestos exposure.

When determining the best treatment options, it’s important to understand what stage the cancer has progressed to. However, other elements may also be involved, including whether the physician believes the cancer is resectable, as all visible cancer may be removed with surgery. An individual’s general health and biases can also make an impact.

Even if mesothelioma is resectable, unfortunately, it is often difficult to treat. The best option is to receive care from a team of medical professionals who have extensive experience with mesothelioma specifically.

Subsequently, it’s critical that patients are aware of the goal of treatment and any potential advantages and risks before beginning to receive treatment. The goal of treatment may be to treat the disease's side effects or try and cure the mesothelioma.

When taking the aforementioned elements into consideration, it’s possible to make an informed choice when assessing the available treatment options.

Read on to learn more about the treatment options available at each stage of mesothelioma.

When the Cancer Can Be Removed

There are instances in which cancer is resectable, which means that it may be removed. Most stage I and some cases of stage II and stage III pleural mesotheliomas have the potential to be resectable, but some exceptions remain.

There are several factors that may determine whether a tumor is resectable, including:

  • The subtype,
  • Its location on the body,
  • Its progression of growth into nearby tissues, and
  • Whether the individual is a healthy enough candidate for surgery.

The most common ways that resectable pleural mesothelioma is removed include:

  • Pleurectomy/decortication (P/D)
  • Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP)

When cancer is in the earlier stages, the chances are better that surgery will have more significant long-term advantages. In these cases, there’s a stronger likelihood that most or all of the cancer can be taken out.

EPP may provide the highest odds regarding eliminating cancer, but it is a complicated and exhaustive process that is prone to causing problems and not everyone is able to bear it.

If a patient has early-stage peritoneal mesothelioma, it may be beneficial to undergo surgery and remove as much of the cancer as possible. Surgery may be used in combination with heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC), in order to achieve a long remission following treatment.

Remission occurs when the cancer is under control and is not expanding or infecting other areas of the body.

It may also be helpful for patients with late-stage cancers to have surgery, but the advantages are not expected to last very long.

At times, imaging tests conducted before surgery may reveal that the cancer appears to be resectable, according to the surgeon’s opinion. However, once the operation begins, it is understood that some portions of the cancer cannot be removed. When this happens, the surgeon may choose to transition to a treatment that is not as pervasive, such as P/D, since it does not put as much of a strain on patients. In other cases, the surgeon may choose to discontinue the surgery completely if it is unlikely to be useful, at which point the treatment would be the same as it is for unresectable mesotheliomas.

The following treatments are still being studied with respect to cases of mesothelioma as not all physicians agree on their usefulness:

  • Chemotherapy (chemo)
  • Radiation therapy

Some physicians may choose to administer chemotherapy before or after surgery and radiation therapy could be used after surgery, either on its own or in combination with chemotherapy.

If a patient is not in strong enough health to undergo a significant operation, the treatment will be the same as it is for unresectable mesothelioma.

Thoracentesis/paracentesis or pleurodesis may be suitable for those who suffer from symptoms associated with fluid buildup in the chest or abdomen.

When the Cancer Cannot Be Removed

Surgery cannot always remove cancer from the body. Unfortunately, stage IV mesotheliomas and some other earlier-stage mesotheliomas cannot be fully removed by surgery. The following are some of the most common reasons why cancer cannot be completely removed using surgery:

  • The extent of the cancer,
  • The cancer subtype, or
  • The patient is not healthy enough to undergo an operation.

When these types of cancers are detected, chemotherapy tends to be the most prominent treatment. Chemo can help provide comfort for symptoms and reduce the size or slow the expansion of the cancer for a period of time.

Some physicians may choose to recommend chemotherapy in tandem with a targeted therapy drug or a tool that produces electric fields within the tumor.

It may also be possible for some patients to benefit from immunotherapy, which is a form of biotherapy that uses the body’s existing immune system to prevent, control, and terminate the cancer.

The aforementioned treatments may be able to help patients live longer lives, but the chances of having cancer cured using these therapies are low. It’s very important to clearly define all expectations before going into any particular treatment plan.

If a patient with an early-stage mesothelioma condition is unlikely to expand rapidly and is not causing discomfort, it may be viable to monitor the cancer closely in the beginning. At any point, if the cancer begins to show signs that it is growing more quickly or if symptoms arise, treatment can start.

It is often a good idea for patients who suffer from the discomfort mesothelioma can bring to undergo treatment designed to relieve symptoms and provide a greater sense of well-being. The following treatments can help provide relief to patients in discomfort:

  • Treatments designed to prevent or reduce fluid buildup in the body, such as:
    • Thoracentesis/paracentesis, or
    • Pleurodesis.
  • Pleurectomy/decortication may provide relief for patients who have trouble breathing or who experience chest pain.

Another vital element of tolerating the effects of mesothelioma is pain management. There are some minimal operations and types of radiation therapy that may be utilized to relieve pain.

It is also possible for physicians to prescribe strong pain-relieving medications. Some patients might be concerned that taking opioids may cause fatigue and brain fog. Others may worry about becoming dependent on the drugs. These are valid worries, so it is important to speak with a physician about everything that causes concern.

When the Cancer Returns

If a patient’s cancer returns after treatment, it is considered recurrent. Recurrent mesothelioma may be either:

  • Local:
    • In or around the same area it started.
  • Distant:
    • Advanced to other organs such as the brain or liver.

Sadly, after the initial treatment, it is not uncommon for mesotheliomas to return. In such cases, continued treatment options will hinge on the following elements:

  • The location of the cancer within the body,
  • Which treatments have already been conducted, and
  • The patient’s overall health.

Most of the time, the treatment options will be similar to those provided above for unresectable mesotheliomas.

For instance, chemotherapy or radiation therapy could be utilized to reduce the size or expansion of the cancer and alleviate any side effects.

We’re Here to Help Victims

If you have developed mesothelioma as a result of negligent asbestos exposure, you may be entitled to compensation. We have helped many others in similar situations and we may be able to help you too. Don’t delay—reach out right away with any questions you may have.

Contact our experienced team here at Shrader & Associates L.L.P. to learn more about how we can help with your case. Give us a call at (877) 958-7920 or fill out the online contact form to get in touch with a skilled attorney today.

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