Getting diagnosed with cancer is a life-altering moment. Your world changes in an instant, and you're suddenly facing a new road that you never thought was possible. Chances are, you know someone who has been through this before. One of out every three people will be diagnosed with cancer, and one in four will die from it. Mesothelioma has even grimmer statistics: only 3,000 people a year are diagnosed with the disease, and only 10 percent of all mesothelioma patients live beyond five years following diagnosis. Many of those who are diagnosed have already been determined to be in the advanced stages of the disease when treatments may not be as effective. However, these traditional and conventional mesothelioma treatment methods can still be pursued in an attempt to fight the cancer.
When we hear chemotherapy, we automatically think of cancer. Chemotherapy has been the long-standing method for fighting and treating cancer for many decades. The drugs used in chemotherapy can be taken in pill form, or delivered intravenously. For mesothelioma patients, the chemotherapy is usually delivered in IV form directly to the lung tissues where they can get to the cancer right away. For those in the third or fourth stages of mesothelioma, chemotherapy is not guaranteed to completely eradicate the cancer cells, as they have spread to far across the body. It will, however, help to shrink the tumors and alleviate pain in the chest and abdomen. Chemotherapy drugs can wreak havoc on the body, and may make a person weak for a long period of time. Still, this conventional treatment method has been a proven treatment for mesothelioma.
Radiation is often used in conjunction with chemotherapy. While chemotherapy works over the whole body to find and kill cancer cells, radiation is more direct and is targeted directly to the cancerous area/tumor. Radiation is a common treatment for mesothelioma. Patients undergo radiation much like they would an X-ray, but the process is longer. If the patient is too weak to undergo other treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation may be the only one used. It may also be used in preparation for surgery, to shrink the tumor as much as possible. If it is found that radiation is not working to shrink the tumor, patients may elect to undergo the treatment anyway for palliative, or comfort reasons. In this sense, radiation can help to to lessen breathing difficulties, pain, bleeding, or difficulty swallowing often associated with mesothelioma tumors.
For mesothelioma treatment, surgery is often seen as a last resort, because mesothelioma is almost always diagnosed in its late stages when it is deemed inoperable. In the later stages, the cancer has spread so far that surgery would be ineffective and may weaken the patient even more than they already are. If caught in early stages, surgery is usually a more popular option, as the tumor may be small and contained to only one or two places. More often than not, surgery for mesothelioma is used as a palliative treatment, designed to make the patient more comfortable with breathing and pain. Doctors may also elect to perform a simple, less invasive procedure to remove the fluid from the lung and chest cavity using thin needle.