While there is currently no cure available for malignant mesothelioma, there are treatments available. The types of treatments may include:
- A common treatment of malignant mesothelioma. The doctor may remove part of the lining of the chest or abdomen and some of the tissue around it. Sometimes part of the diaphragm, the muscle below the lungs that helps with breathing, is also removed. Depending on how far the cancer has spread, a lung also may be removed. This operation is called pneumonectomy.
- Radiation therapy
- Using 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).
- Using drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be taken by pill, or it may be put into the body by a needle in the vein or muscle. Chemotherapy is called a systemic treatment because the drug enters the bloodstream, travels through the body, and can kill cancer cells throughout the body. In mesothelioma, chemotherapy may be put directly into the chest (intrapleural chemotherapy).
- Intraoperative photodynamic therapy
- A new type of treatment that uses special drugs and light to kill cancer cells during surgery. A drug that makes cancer cells more sensitive to light is injected into a vein several days before surgery. During surgery to remove as much of the cancer as possible, a special light is used to shine on the pleura. This treatment is being studied for early stages of mesothelioma in the chest.
The Stages of Treatment
How mesothelioma is treated depends on where the cancer is, how far it has spread, and the patient's age and general health. Some typical treatments are as follows:
Localized Malignant Mesothelioma (Stage I)
If the cancer is only in one place in the chest or abdomen, treatment will probably be surgery to remove part of the pleura and some of the tissue around it. If the cancer is found in a larger part of the pleura, treatment may entail one of the following:
- Surgery to remove the pleura and the tissue near it to relieve symptoms, with or without radiation therapy after surgery.
- Surgery to remove sections of the pleura, the lung, part of the diaphragm, and part of the lining around the heart.
- External beam radiation therapy to relieve symptoms.
- A clinical trial of surgery followed by chemotherapy given inside the chest.
- A clinical trial of surgery, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy.
Advanced Malignant Mesothelioma (Stages II, III, and IV)
For advanced malignant mesothelioma, treatment may be one of the following:
- Draining of fluid in the chest or abdomen (thoracentesis or paracentesis) to reduce discomfort. Drugs also may be put into the chest or abdomen to prevent further collection of fluid.
- Surgery to relieve symptoms.
- Radiation therapy to relieve symptoms.
- A clinical trial of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
- Chemotherapy given in the chest or abdomen.
Recurrent Malignant Mesothelioma
Treatment depends on many factors, including where the cancer came back and what treatment the patient received before. Clinical trials are testing new treatments.
Visit the Mesothelioma Center site for more information on mesothelioma.
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