For a disease as complex and serious as mesothelioma, choosing a course of treatment can be stressful and overwhelming. Unfortunately, there is no one therapy that has shown drastically positive results in most patients, so doctors are often left to treat the cancer through traditional means. Recently, a team of medical scientists in Italy conducted a study that yielded excellent survival results in mesothelioma patients. Asbestos exposure attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm highlight this study, along with others that were recently published to help our clients choose the correct treatment path.
The Italian study required patients to undergo radical pleurectomy/decortication (P/D) – a surgical procedure to remove tumors – followed by high doses of radiation. Radiotherapy differs from chemotherapy in several ways, although they are usually used together. Chemotherapy uses medicines or drugs to destroy cancer, while radiation uses high-energy waves or particles to destroy it. More information on radiation therapy, what it is and how it works, can be found on the American Cancer Society’s website, located here.
Who can Undergo P/D and Radiation?
Typically, patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM), the most common type of mesothelioma cancer, are the best candidates for this type of treatment. The Italian researchers enrolled MPM 20 patients in their study, who first underwent radical P/D procedures and then radiotherapy. P/D surgeries remove the entire pleura lining of the affected side of the chest wall, along with the lining of the lung, diaphragm and mediastinum. During radical P/D, the diaphragm and pericardium are entirely removed.
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External radiation is usually the preferred type of radiotherapy for mesothelioma patients, and is similar to an x-ray procedure but takes more time to complete. These types of therapies are usually conducted five times per week for several weeks and helps ease the pain of mesothelioma symptoms, such as shortness of breath and pain. Radiotherapy was used in these patients to identify and kill small areas of cancer that could not be seen and removed during P/D.
P/D is not used to treat peritoneal or pericardial mesothelioma, although radiation and chemotherapy can be. 19 out of the 20 patients in the Italian study also underwent chemotherapy as well, using a combination of two drugs, cisplatin and pemetrexed.
The median overall survival rate for these patients was 33 months, or nearly three years. More than half of patients enjoyed progression-free survival during this time, and only seven patients’ cancer spread. Fortunately, there were no deaths associated with the P/D and radiotherapy themselves. This is significant because, at present, the majority of mesothelioma patients succumb to the disease within one year after diagnosis.
Other Treatment Options
Other surgeries available for mesothelioma patients include cytoreductive surgery and extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP). The former is preferable for patients with peritoneal mesothelioma, and the latter for pleural. Cytoreductive surgery removes cancerous cells from the abdominal area, which may mean parts of the intestines must be removed.
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EPP is one of the most radical surgeries, offering the best chance of removing all cancer cells but also the biggest risk. EPP is typically recommended for patients in good overall health with earlier-stage mesothelioma, which has not spread to the lymph nodes. The procedure removes the chest wall pleura lining, the entire affected lung, the pericardium (sac around the heart), and part of the diaphragm. The pericardium and diaphragm are reconstructed before the end of the surgery.
Other, non-surgical mesothelioma treatment options include radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and genetic-targeting treatments. Our team of mesothelioma lawyers recommends patients ask doctors about all possible treatment options, including any clinical trials that are currently enrolling. We remind patients to keep all health insurance and copies of medical records, make healthier lifestyle choices (such as eating better and reducing alcohol or tobacco consumption), and resting and exercising as it feels right in your body. If you have any questions regarding mesothelioma or asbestos exposure, contact our firm today for a free consultation.