Is Mesothelioma Curable ? Known for its long latency period, mesothelioma is a malignant tumour that affects the upper part of the human body and attacks the mesothelium lining the walls of organs like, heart, lungs, abdomen, and chest.
People exposed to asbestos are highly endangered as it is the primary cause of this dreaded disease. Over 2,400-2,800 persons are diagnosed with this disease each year in the United States according to a report made in 2017 by the Centre for Disease Control. The life expectancy of a mesothelioma patient is poor, as the signs and symptoms of this disease appear after a very long time (20-30 years). The most important factors to consider for patients survival includes; cell type, tumour(s) location, and the stages of the disease. Some other factors like age, overall health, and spread of cancer also have an impact on its prognosis.
Is Mesothelioma Curable?
Currently, there is no existing cure for mesothelioma. Tumour surgery is the only treatment that offers hope for curing this asbestos-related disease. This method is often advance in other to carry out a safe surgery because it is very hard to diagnose the disease.
However, there are treatments that can usually improve the likely course of the medical conditions of mesothelioma patients. Therapies are carried out and often help reduce suffering and pains for many mesothelioma patients even in the case where improving their lifespan is not possible.
Mesothelioma Standard Treatments
To determine a suitable mesothelioma treatment, cell type, stage of cancer, and primarily affected sites are the important traits to consider. Other treatment options equally depend on where the cancer is localised whether on the chest or has spread to its diaphragm, lymph nodes, or wall as well as the patient overall health and age. In this effect, there are three standard therapies used for the treatment of this illness. They include chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.
Chemotherapy drugs act by attacking rapidly-growing cells, like cancerous cells. It usually used alongside surgery as it can kill any mesothelioma cell that could not be removed physically during surgery.
2. Radiation Therapy
Mesothelioma tumours can always be shrunk via the use of targeted radiation making them removed easily through surgery. This method can be delivered by an internal or external source depending on the location of a mesothelioma tumour.
Surgery can be applied to patients that have been diagnosed with an early-stage of mesothelioma. All or most of the tumour(s) can be removed by this method. This may include the removal of one or more lymph nodes, or the mesothelial tissue lining the affected lung or other organs.
In many cases, a multimodal approach is highly recommended by mesothelioma specialists. This approach uses a combination of the three type of the standard mesothelioma treatment. This multimodal approach has shown to be more effective than any of these treatment used alone. In recent years, an increase in the life expectancy of peritoneal mesothelioma patient has been experienced as a result of the combination of hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) and surgery.
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In multimodal treatment, a primary therapy is used in combination with a helper treatment used before or after the primary treatment, namely neoadjuvant therapy and adjuvant treatment respectively. A multimodal approach may comprise of the following:
- Primary Treatment: The removal of a tumour through surgery
- Neoadjuvant Therapy: Shrinking of tumour size by radiation
- Adjuvant Therapy: killing of remaining cells after surgery via chemotherapy
Researchers are continuously looking for new ways to treat this disease. This has yielded to extremely promising treatments. In some cases, the lives of people suffering from this sickness are extended by days, months, and/or even years from these experimental mesothelioma treatments. They include;
- Gene Therapy: A new way to fight cancer is by overwriting or fixing problematic genes since cancer is caused by errors in the DNA of cells.
- Immunotherapy: To enhance the body’s own defenses against cancer, boosting the body immune system is a possible way.
- Photodynamic Therapy: Through the use of photosensitizing drugs, researchers have come out with a way to kill these cancerous cells.
For chronic and critical conditions, palliative care is an alternate option. The main aim of this care is to relieve the pains and suffering of patients rather than trying to totally eradicate the disease. This makes use of many of the above-described method.
Treatment Side Effects
Mesothelioma is an extremely difficult form of cancer that cannot be managed with ease. It is important to know the certain Side effect that can come along with these treatments.
- Loss of hair and it is the most common side effect of chemotherapy
- Wasting disorders and malnutrition especially in severe cases
- Cognition and memory disorder (Chemo brain)
- Distortion of the immune system allowing the body susceptible to other infections
A treatment plan is developed in conjunction with a mesothelioma specialist who will give a specific therapy approach to be used.