What Are the Best Treatments for Mesothelioma?
There are many treatments available for mesothelioma. The main treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapy. Other treatments can include palliative (pain-relieving) care and new therapies through clinical trials.
The best treatment for you will depend on the type of mesothelioma you have — pleural, peritoneal, pericardial, or testicular — and other factors such as cell type, cancer stage, age, and overall health. Mesothelioma oncologists might recommend multimodal therapies, which combine multiple types of treatment, to treat your cancer.
The staff at Lung Cancer Group can help you or a loved one find mesothelioma doctors and top treatment centers faster. We may also be able to help you pursue financial aid to ease the burden of medical expenses.
Learn about top mesothelioma treatments below or get a free case review for more information.
Surgery is a common treatment type for patients diagnosed in the early stages of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma surgery can often help patients live longer with this cancer — sometimes for years or decades after a diagnosis.
Several different surgeries can be used depending on the type of mesothelioma a patient has, how far it has spread, and the patient’s overall health. The main goal of each procedure is to remove all visible mesothelioma tumors from the infected organs and surrounding areas.
Patients may also receive other treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy before, during, or after a mesothelioma surgery to lower the risk of cancer cells growing and spreading.
Chemotherapy involves mesothelioma patients receiving cancer-killing medication. These medications circulate to every part of the body through the bloodstream, providing patients with systemic treatment and preventing cancer cells from growing and spreading.
Chemotherapy is the most common type of mesothelioma treatment. All types of mesothelioma can use chemotherapy in a treatment plan. It can be used in combination with other treatments, especially as an adjuvant treatment following a surgical procedure to reduce the risk of cancer cells returning. Additionally, it may be used as a main treatment if surgery is not an option.
Patients may either receive one type of chemotherapy drug or a combination depending on the mesothelioma cell type and location of the cancer cells.
Mesothelioma chemotherapy drugs include:
Chemotherapy is typically given in cycles — a set schedule where the patient receives the treatment and then has a period of time to recover. This is important as chemotherapy can cause side effects like nausea and fatigue.
To ease the side effects of chemotherapy and keep the immune system strong, oncologists may recommend patients take specific vitamins and anti-nausea medications.
Mesothelioma Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy) uses powerful X-ray machines to target and kill mesothelioma cells in a specific location.
It is hard to treat mesothelioma through radiation alone since this cancer can quickly spread to other parts of the body. For this reason, it is instead often used as part of a multimodal mesothelioma treatment plan that includes surgery and/or chemotherapy.
Radiation therapy is used more often for patients with pleural mesothelioma following surgery because the chest cavity is somewhat more resilient to the treatment compared to the abdomen.
The main procedure for radiation therapy is external beam radiation therapy (EBRT). This uses X-rays from outside the body. In contrast, brachytherapy involves putting the source of radiation inside the body at the location of the cancer cells being targeted.
With mesothelioma immunotherapy, patients are prescribed immune-boosting drugs. This allows the patient’s immune system to grow stronger and become more skilled in targeting and killing cancer cells when they emerge.
In 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved two immunotherapy drugs — Opdivo® and Yervoy® — to treat pleural mesothelioma. Both these drugs are administered by injection and, similar to chemotherapy, provide systemic treatment by circulating the medication to all parts of the body.
Immunotherapy is typically used to treat pleural mesothelioma when tumors may not be removable through surgery.
Our team can help you find top mesothelioma treatments right now. Call (877) 446-5767 to learn more.
Treatment Options by Mesothelioma Type
There are four types of mesothelioma, and each develops in a different part of the body. Because of this, unique mesothelioma treatments are needed for each type. Doctors that treat mesothelioma typically specialize in only one type.
Learn about cancer treatment options for each type of mesothelioma below.
Pleural Mesothelioma Treatments
Surgery is one of the primary cancer treatment options for pleural mesothelioma. To receive a pleural mesothelioma surgery, you’ll need to get medical care from a thoracic surgeon that’s treated this cancer before. Thoracic surgeons specialize in treating cancers of the chest and lungs.
Dr. David Sugarbaker, a renowned thoracic surgeon until his passing in 2018, developed specialized treatments for pleural mesothelioma that are considered the most effective.
There are two main pleural mesothelioma surgeries:
- Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP): This surgery removes the lung nearest to the cancer tumors, part of the heart lining, part of the diaphragm, and part of the lung lining (pleura). Despite the invasive nature of the procedure, patients who undergo an EPP may experience significant improvements in life expectancy with a median survival time of about 36 months.
- Pleurectomy with decortication (P/D): Less intensive than an EPP, this surgery removes the pleura and any visible cancer tumors. A P/D is considered less invasive than an EPP because both lungs remain intact, improving patient quality of life post-procedure. Patients who receive a P/D have a median survival time of about 34 months.
Pleural mesothelioma surgery is often followed by chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or immunotherapy to keep cancer cells from returning. These other treatment options may also be used in cases of late-stage pleural mesothelioma when surgery is no longer an option.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Treatments
The most effective treatment option for peritoneal mesothelioma is cytoreduction with hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC), which combines both surgery and chemotherapy. The procedure was developed by mesothelioma specialist Dr. Paul Sugarbaker, and it is considered the gold standard of peritoneal mesothelioma treatment.
This procedure first involves surgeons removing all visible mesothelioma tumors in the lining of the abdomen and any surrounding areas, including digestive organs. Once all visible tumors are removed, the abdomen is treated with heated and targeted chemotherapy to kill any remaining cancer cells.
Patients who undergo cytoreduction with HIPEC have a chance of increasing their average life expectancy to 53 months.
Pericardial Mesothelioma Treatments
As a rare type of mesothelioma, there are no specialized treatments specific for pericardial mesothelioma. However, specialists may use multimodal mesothelioma treatments to improve a patient’s prognosis (health outlook).
Surgeons may remove mesothelioma tumors by removing the pericardium (heart lining). Other options include making a small hole in the heart lining, allowing doctors to apply chemotherapy to the heart and surrounding areas.
Unfortunately, most pericardial mesothelioma patients are only diagnosed after they’ve died. However, a 54-year-old woman was able to survive for 4 years following her pericardial mesothelioma diagnosis.
Testicular Mesothelioma Treatments
Testicular mesothelioma is the rarest type of mesothelioma, and primary treatment methods involve a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
It is rare for surgery to completely remove cancer cells around the testicles. If possible, surgeons will perform an orchiectomy to remove one or both testicles.
Doctors then develop a treatment schedule of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy to ensure the cancer does not return or metastasize (spread) to lymph nodes or other parts of the body.
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Latest Treatments for Mesothelioma in Clinical Trials
Doctors are regularly performing mesothelioma research to develop new treatment options or make current ones better. There are currently several treatments undergoing clinical trials, which are research studies that put emerging therapies to the test. Additionally, emerging therapies are discovered every year.
Learn about some of the new mesothelioma treatments that are currently being studied in clinical trials below.
Cryotherapy Treatment for Mesothelioma
Cryotherapy, also known as cryoablation, uses extreme cold to freeze and kill any cancerous tissue.
For years cryotherapy has been used to treat other cancers or conditions, and in recent years leading mesothelioma specialists like Dr. Robert Cameron have begun using it too.
Gene Therapy Treatment for Mesothelioma
Gene therapy involves injecting patients with modified viruses that infect cancer cells, making them easier to kill.
The viruses are specially modified in a lab to have DNA structures that are weaker. When cancer cells are infected with the virus, they replicate that DNA structure. This may cause mesothelioma spread to slow and become more responsive to other treatment options.
Some gene therapy treatments may even include a virus with genes that the immune system is more efficient at targeting and fighting.
Photodynamic Therapy Treatment for Mesothelioma
In photodynamic therapy, patients receive a drug that is reactive when placed under intense light. As it circulates through the body, the drug gathers around cancer cells.
Patients then undergo a short, minimally invasive procedure in which a tube guides a high-intensity light to the location of the cancer cells. When the laser-like light is shined on the drug absorbed by cancer cells, it activates, causing a chemical reaction and killing the cancer.
Mesothelioma Doctors and Cancer Centers
Because mesothelioma is so rare, it is important to find oncologists that are specialized in treating it. Mesothelioma doctors are knowledgeable about the unique characteristics of mesothelioma and the best treatments for each patient.
Types of mesothelioma specialists include:
- Medical oncologists
- Radiation oncologists
- Surgical oncologists
- Thoracic surgeons
Finding cancer centers with a team of many skilled doctors on staff will help ensure that you are receiving the best mesothelioma treatments that are tailored to your diagnosis.
For help finding a mesothelioma doctor and cancer center near you, contact the Lung Cancer Group team. Our nursing support staff can help you find top specialists and get treatments faster.
Managing Mesothelioma With Palliative Care
Palliative treatment can be used to ease discomfort and mesothelioma symptoms. While palliative care may not be curative, it can greatly improve a patient’s quality of life.
Low doses of chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and radiation therapy may all be used to keep mesothelioma tumors from growing, thus keeping more serious symptoms at bay. There are also a number of procedures that are specialized for mesothelioma palliative care.
Specialized mesothelioma palliative treatments include:
- Paracentesis: This treatment involves surgeons draining ascites (fluid that’s built up in the abdominal lining). By doing so, peritoneal mesothelioma patients may experience a reduction in abdominal bloating and pain.
- Partial pleurectomy: Also known as debulking, this surgical procedure is used to treat pleural mesothelioma. It involves removing as much mesothelioma as possible without being as invasive as an EPP or a P/D. It can help pleural mesothelioma patients with breathing and chest pain.
- Pleurodesis: This procedure not only drains fluid in the lung lining but also injects talcum powder to seal it shut so the fluid won’t build up again. Pleural mesothelioma patients may want to receive pleurodesis if their lung lining keeps filling up with fluid.
- PleurX catheter: Some mesothelioma doctors may recommend the insertion of this catheter when the lining of the lungs continues to fill with fluid. It allows pleural mesothelioma patients to drain the fluid at home and avoid multiple surgical procedures.
- Thoracentesis: Similar to paracentesis, this surgical procedure drains the fluid from the lining of the lungs. This can improve breathing and ease chest pain for pleural mesothelioma patients.
Other healthy habits, such as light exercise and good nutrition, may also ease mesothelioma symptoms.
It is important to work closely with your mesothelioma specialist on your treatment plan. Be sure to communicate any symptoms so they can adjust treatments and medications as needed.
How Mesothelioma Treatment Influences Prognosis
Getting treated is one of the biggest factors that affect mesothelioma prognosis — especially if the cancer is diagnosed before it has spread.
While the average prognosis for mesothelioma is poor, cancer treatment plans may allow you to live for months or years after a diagnosis, giving you precious time to spend with your loved ones.
There even are reports of some patients living 15-20 years following their diagnosis thanks to mesothelioma treatments.
Without treatment, your prognosis will likely be even worse. Many mesothelioma patients pass away within a year of their diagnosis if they don’t get medical care.
Cost of Mesothelioma Treatment
Mesothelioma treatment can cost upwards of $500,000. This may not include potential travel costs to specialists or other financial burdens that could come if you can’t work after being diagnosed.
Thankfully, there are resources available to help mesothelioma patients and their families lighten the financial burden so they can focus on receiving cancer care and spending time with loved ones.
Mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure and manufacturers of asbestos-based products hid the risks for decades. Thus, mesothelioma patients can pursue financial compensation from manufacturers. A mesothelioma lawyer may be able to help you seek financial compensation to cover the cost of cancer treatments.
On average, a successful mesothelioma legal claim awards over $1 million.
Veterans, who are at an increased risk of developing mesothelioma, are also eligible to file a disability claim with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). VA benefits can allow veterans access to low-cost mesothelioma treatment through a VA cancer center as well as monthly payments to cover living expenses and other health care costs.
It may feel overwhelming to even start the process. That is why the Lung Cancer Group team is here to help. Contact us at (877) 446-5767 or submit a free case review. We can help you access top treatments, doctors, and financial compensation if you qualify.
FAQs About Mesothelioma Treatment
What causes mesothelioma?
The only cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Asbestos was used in thousands of products because of its highly durable and non-flammable characteristics.
Manufacturers of asbestos products knew of the dangers of asbestos as early as the 1930s. For decades they concealed the truth, and millions of people were exposed, increasing their risk of asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma.
Thankfully, you may be eligible to file an asbestos lawsuit to receive financial compensation that can help pay for mesothelioma treatment. Contact our team for help finding top doctors and financial aid.
Is there a cure for mesothelioma?
At this time, there is no cure for mesothelioma. However, there are cases where patients can live years or even decades after their diagnosis thanks to mesothelioma treatments.
Some patients may also enter remission, which is when the cancer is not growing or spreading, and they have little to no symptoms.
What is the life expectancy of a person with mesothelioma?
The average life expectancy for all types of mesothelioma is 12-21 months. However, each prognosis for mesothelioma is different depending on several factors including a patient’s age, overall health, the cancer’s cell type, and the stage of mesothelioma.
There are reports of some patients living for 15-20 years thanks to mesothelioma treatments.
What are the side effects of mesothelioma treatment?
Possible side effects of mesothelioma treatments include fatigue, weakness, hair loss, and sometimes nausea when receiving chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Your mesothelioma specialist can let you know about any possible side effects before starting any treatments. They can also help you manage any side effects that may come up.