You may be wondering which form of treatment will be right for you: surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation? In many cases, medical professionals and researchers have found that multimodal therapy—combining several forms of treatment—gives patients the best chance at prolonging their life. Multimodal therapy is customized for you, so if you don’t think a certain part of your treatment is quite right, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your doctor may be able to fine-tune the approach accordingly.
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Surgery Options for Mesothelioma Patients
There is not just one type of surgery for those with mesothelioma. Depending on your overall health and whether or not your cancer has spread, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the tumor or other procedures to relieve pain and possibly extend your life.
- Aggressive surgery
- Patient must be in otherwise good health to qualify for surgery
- Removal of 1 lung, part of chest lining, diaphragm, and lining of the sac around the heart
- Likely outcomes: increased life expectancy, pain relief
- Very complicated and invasive
- Removal of membrane coating of 1 lung, mediastinum, diaphragm, and lining of the chest wall
- Likely outcomes: potential pain relief, better quality of life
Cytoreduction with HIPEC
- Invasive and complex procedure
- Removal of all visible tumors
- Heated chemotherapy drugs circulated throughout abdominal wall
- Likely outcomes: significantly improved quality of life, increased life expectancy
Chemotherapy, also known as “chemo,” is probably the most widely known type of cancer treatment. When a person with mesothelioma undergoes chemo, this usually means he or she is being given anti-cancer medication administered over specific periods of time. The drugs are very strong, so doing this kind of therapy in cycles allows the person’s body to rest and recover.
Chemotherapy drugs work hard to aggressively attack the cancer cells, but unfortunately, healthy cells are also often affected. Going into chemotherapy, you should be prepared for uncomfortable side effects such as hair loss, loss of appetite, mouth sores, and nausea. The reduction of red and white blood cells may also cause fatigue and increase your chance of infection. Thankfully, these difficult side effects typically fade away when you have completed treatment.
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Radiation therapy targets cancer cells directly using high-energy forms of radiation. It is not always a preferred treatment option for mesothelioma because it usually works best when it’s aimed at specific tumors; mesothelioma tends to be more widespread. It is still sometimes used after surgery to clean up cancer cells that were missed, or just to help ease some of the more painful mesothelioma symptoms.
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Living with Mesothelioma
Building a comprehensive plan to treat your mesothelioma is important, but living with the symptoms on a day-to-day basis is an ongoing challenge you’re probably facing as well.
If you’re living with mesothelioma, you may need to come up with a treatment plan that addresses:
- Loss of appetite
- Dry or sore mouth
- Bowel problems
- Hair loss
- Trouble breathing
Thankfully, there are things you can do—both mentally and physically—that can help make every day a little easier. Learn more about living with mesothelioma and ways to manage your symptoms.