Some treatments come into play in nearly all cases of malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM), while others are used much more sparingly. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with the disease, you’re almost certainly curious to know: Which treatments will be available? Does the regimen vary by stage of illness? Will I have a choice of treatments?
These are important questions, and at Kazan, McClain, Lyons, Greenwood and Harley, we encourage you to ask them. Your doctors and legal counsel will be able to fill you in on the treatments available for each stage of mesothelioma.
MPM is measured in four stages, with the first being considered local, and the other three categorized as advanced. If mesothelioma is caught in its early stage, it is usually by accident. However, a history of asbestos exposure can help contribute to early diagnosis, since doctors know that the mineral is the sole proven cause of mesothelioma.
Many MPM patients receive chemotherapy and radiation. These modes of treatment help shrink tumors and slow malignant growth. Surgeries, on the other hand, are more dependent on MPM stage.
As a rule of thumb, the less invasive a procedure is, the more often it is used. For example, fluid draining is a very common minor surgery for MPM, one that nearly all patients will undergo. All draining surgeries end in the suffix –centesis (e.g. thoracentesis, paracentesis and pericardiocentesis). In each case, surgeons insert a needle into the chest cavity to drain built-up fluid and relieve pressure.
Surgical resections (that is, removal of tissue) are also quite common, but the extent depends on disease stage. In debulking and pleurectomy/decortication, doctors remove as much tumor mass as they can while leaving the organs mostly intact. The operations are usually utilized for stages I, II and sometimes III.
A more radical surgery, known as extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP), comes into play when MPM is more advanced, as in stages II and III. In an EPP, surgeons take out the diaphragm muscle, the chest cavity lining, the sac surrounding the heart and one lung.
Stage IV mesothelioma is typically considered “unresectable,” meaning it is so advanced and a patient is so weak that surgery is not an option.
Two things to keep in mind:
1. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for MPM. Every case of mesothelioma is different, and doctors take many wellness factors into account before recommending certain procedures.
2. All treatments for MPM, surgical or otherwise, are considered palliative. This is because, for now, none is curative. However, treatments ease the tumor burden and improve comfort level, two very important benefits for people living with mesothelioma.