Surgery is the most effective way to treat mesothelioma and follows one of two approaches: curative and palliative. Curative surgery prevents the disease from spreading as well as prolongs the lifespan of the patient. This form is often performed during earlier stages, when tumors may be more easily removed, and the patient can better handle the procedure.
Palliative surgery alleviates pain caused by the disease's symptoms and helps the patient feel more comfortable. It is often used during later stages, when curative surgery isn't available. Curative and palliative distinctions are made because the mesothelium is a delicate area, and surgeons have to be sure that they can remove the growth without harming the patient. This is often a difficult procedure performed only by the most skilled of surgeons.
With curative surgeries, surgeons may be able to completely remove the tumors and the nearby tissue. In other cases, larger parts of organs may be extracted. In the case of pleural mesothelioma, for example, part of the lung may be removed during the procedure. A more invasive procedure, a pneumonectomy, removes an entire lung. It is typically used to prevent the spread of mesothelioma from one lung to the other, provided the disease is caught early.
To determine whether a curative surgery is a viable solution, doctors have to take a lot into consideration. Once they have reached a diagnosis, doctors use a four-stage system to determine treatment methods based on the spread of the cancerous cells, the general health of the patient, and the symptoms present, among other factors. From this evaluation, the method of treatment is decided.
Palliative surgery is more commonly chosen over curative options, as doctors often can't diagnose mesothelioma until it's progressed to later stages. In these cases, a few types of palliative surgery options may be selected, depending on the patient's symptoms. A pleurodesis, for example, prevents a condition called pleural effusion from developing. This problem occurs when excess fluid builds up in the pleural cavity, causing breathing troubles. In a pleurodesis, this fluid is drained, and the pleural spaces are treated to prevent further buildup. For patients with peritoneal mesothelioma, doctors perform what's called a paracentesis. It's a procedure similar to pleurodesis and is used to relieve pain and fluid buildup in the abdominal cavity.
Often, doctors will perform surgery as well as chemotherapy or radiation to combat the illness on multiple fronts. With diversified tracts of treatment, doctors can be sure they're making as much progress against the growth as possible.