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Effective Mesothelioma Treatments: Options and Progress in Mesothelioma Treatment

What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that develops in the mesothelium, the thin layer of tissue that covers and protects the majority of our internal organs, including the lungs, heart, and abdomen. This cancer is usually caused by exposure to asbestos, a fibrous mineral that was widely used in industries like construction, shipbuilding, and automotive manufacturing until the late 20th century. Asbestos fibers are very small and can easily be inhaled or ingested, where they may become trapped in the body's tissues and cause cancer over time.

Mesothelioma is a relatively rare cancer, with only about 3,000 new cases diagnosed in the United States each year. However, it is also a very aggressive cancer and difficult to treat, with a high mortality rate. Patients diagnosed with mesothelioma typically have a life expectancy of 12 to 21 months, depending on the stage of the cancer and other factors.

There are three main types of mesothelioma based on the location of the cancer: pleural mesothelioma (the most common type, affecting the lining of the lungs), peritoneal mesothelioma (affecting the lining of the abdomen), and pericardial mesothelioma (affecting the lining of the heart). Symptoms of mesothelioma may include chest pain, shortness of breath, abdominal swelling, and weight loss.

Diagnosing mesothelioma can be challenging, as symptoms may not appear until decades after exposure to asbestos and may be mistaken for other conditions. Imaging tests like X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs may be used to assess the extent of the cancer, and a biopsy (taking a tissue sample) is usually needed to confirm the diagnosis.

There is currently no cure for mesothelioma, but there are several treatment options available that can help manage the symptoms and improve quality of life. Some common treatments include surgery to remove the tumor and surrounding tissue, chemotherapy to kill cancer cells, radiation therapy to destroy cancer cells, and immunotherapy to boost the body's natural defenses against cancer. Treatment plans may vary depending on the type and stage of the cancer and the patient's overall health and preferences.

Overall, mesothelioma is a serious and complex cancer that requires specialized care. Patients and their families should work closely with their healthcare team to develop a personalized treatment plan and explore all available options for managing the cancer and its symptoms.

Surgery for Mesothelioma Treatment

Surgery is one of the main treatments for mesothelioma. The main aim of surgery is to remove the affected tissues and slow down the spread of cancer. The type of surgery recommended will depend on the location of the tumor in the body, as well as its size and stage of development.

There are two main surgeries that can be done for mesothelioma:

  • Pleurectomy/decortication (P/D)
  • Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP)

In P/D surgery, the surgeon removes the lining of the lungs and nearby tissues where the cancer is located. This type of surgery is recommended for early-stage mesothelioma where the cancer has not spread beyond the lung area.

EPP surgery is a more extensive procedure where the surgeon removes the affected lung and the lining around the heart and other organs. This surgery is recommended for more advanced stages of mesothelioma where the cancer has spread beyond the lung area.

Before surgery, patients will undergo various tests to determine the extent and stage of their cancer. After the surgery, patients may need to stay in the hospital for a few days or weeks to allow for proper recovery.

While surgery can be effective in removing the affected tissues and slowing down the spread of cancer, it is important to note that it may not completely cure the cancer. Patients will need to continue with other treatments as part of their mesothelioma management plan.


Surgical treatment is one of the primary options for mesothelioma patients. This type of treatment involves removing cancerous tissue and may include the removal of the affected lung, diaphragm, or other affected organs.

The type of surgery a mesothelioma patient undergoes depends on the stage and location of the cancer, as well as the overall health of the patient. Surgery is most commonly performed in the early stages of mesothelioma when the cancer is localized and has not spread to other parts of the body.

Extrapleural Pneumonectomy (EPP)

Extrapleural pneumonectomy or EPP is a type of surgery where the affected lung, tissue lining the lung and chest wall, the diaphragm, and nearby lymph nodes are removed. This surgery is typically performed on patients with early-stage mesothelioma and can be curative in some cases.

However, EPP is an aggressive surgery that requires a long hospital stay and a lengthy recovery period. As a result, patients must be in good overall health to undergo this surgery.

Pleurectomy with Decortication (P/D)

Pleurectomy with decortication or P/D is a surgery that involves the removal of the affected lung lining, pleura, and the decortication or removal of visible mesothelioma tumors. Unlike EPP, P/D aims to preserve the affected lung and retain lung function. This procedure is most beneficial for patients with early-stage mesothelioma who have good overall health.

Pleurectomy with decortication is a less invasive procedure compared to EPP and is associated with a shorter recovery period. However, this procedure may not be curative for some mesothelioma patients, and follow-up treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy may be necessary.

Cytoreductive Surgery with HIPEC

Cytoreductive surgery with HIPEC is a combination of surgery and heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) for patients with peritoneal mesothelioma. This procedure involves removing the cancerous tissue and treating the abdominal cavity with a heated chemotherapy solution.

Cytoreductive surgery with HIPEC is a complex procedure that requires a skilled surgical team and is typically performed in specialized medical centers. However, this procedure has shown promising results in treating peritoneal mesothelioma and has improved the survival rate of patients.

Overall, surgical treatments are essential in the management of mesothelioma. The type of surgery a patient undergoes depends on the stage and location of the cancer and the overall health of the patient. While surgery can be an effective treatment option, it is essential to discuss potential benefits and risks with a medical professional to identify the best course of action.


Chemotherapy is a mainstay in the treatment of mesothelioma and is often used with other therapies to improve outcomes. The goal of chemotherapy is to kill cancer cells throughout the body. It works by using drugs that target cancer cells and stop them from dividing and growing. This can help to shrink tumors and slow their growth.

Chemotherapy can be administered in different ways, including intravenously (IV), orally, or by injection. The drugs used in chemotherapy are often given in cycles, with a period of rest in between. This allows healthy cells to recover before the next round of chemotherapy is given.

There are different types of chemotherapy drugs used in the treatment of mesothelioma. The choice of drugs may depend on factors such as the type and stage of the cancer, as well as the individual's overall health and any previous treatments they may have received. Some common drugs used in mesothelioma treatment include cisplatin, carboplatin, and pemetrexed.

While chemotherapy can be effective in shrinking tumors and improving symptoms, it can also cause side effects. These may include nausea and vomiting, hair loss, fatigue, and lowered immunity. However, many of these side effects can be managed with medications or other supportive care measures.

In some cases, chemotherapy may be used as the primary treatment for mesothelioma, especially if the cancer is too widespread for surgical removal. In other cases, it may be used in combination with other treatments, such as surgery or radiation therapy, to improve outcomes. Your healthcare team can help determine the most appropriate treatment plan for your individual needs.

What is Radiation Therapy?

Radiation therapy, also known as radiotherapy, is a cancer treatment method that uses high-energy particles or waves, such as X-rays, gamma rays, or proton beams, to destroy or shrink cancer cells within a patient's body. It can be administered externally (external beam radiation) or internally (brachytherapy).

Radiation therapy is usually performed in conjunction with other cancer treatments such as surgery or chemotherapy, known as adjuvant therapy. It can also be used as a primary treatment option for cancer patients who are not suitable for surgical procedures.

Before initiating radiation therapy, all patients need to undergo a thorough medical examination, that includes laboratory tests, imaging scans, and a physical exam, to determine the most appropriate treatment plan for their specific type and stage of cancer.

How Does Radiation Therapy Work?

The purpose of radiation therapy is to target cancer cells and damage their DNA, causing them to die, so they can no longer spread. Radiation can also indirectly damage the blood vessels that feed cancer cells, cutting off their nutrient supply and slowing tumour growth. While radiation therapy targets cancer cells, it can damage healthy cells and tissues surrounding the tumour area. Still, new radiation delivery techniques and technologies aim to reduce this risk.

Types of Radiation Therapy:

There are two primary types of radiation therapy: external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) and brachytherapy, also known as internal radiation.

External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT)

EBRT is the most common type of radiation therapy, in which radiation is delivered to the tumour from an external machine called a linear accelerator. The patient lays down on a table while the machine rotates around their body targeting the tumour. It is an outpatient procedure that usually lasts between 15 and 30 minutes. Typically, patients undergo treatment every weekday for several weeks.

Brachytherapy (Internal Radiation)

Brachytherapy is a type of radiation therapy, where radioactive seeds or sources are placed internally directly at the tumour site, either permanently or temporarily suspended in the tumour area. Small, hollow needles are inserted through the skin or a body opening. The radiation source is then placed inside the needles, and after a few minutes of treatment, the radiation source is removed. The number of needles and the duration of treatment depend on the size and location of the tumour. Brachytherapy delivers high doses of radiation therapy to the tumour, and the radiation doses to the nearby healthy tissue are significantly lower. This type of therapy is typically performed on an outpatient or inpatient basis.

Side Effects of Radiation Therapy:

While radiation therapy is a standard cancer treatment with clinical efficacy, it can cause several temporary or long-term side effects depending on an individual's health status, treatment sites, and dosage. Common side effects include skin irritation, fatigue, and hair loss. Radiated skin may become red, dry, itchy, or sensitive to touch. More severe side effects include radiation pneumonitis, injury to organs, or malignant transformation of normal cells. Patients should talk to their radiation oncologist about their side effect concerns and use of supportive care measures like lotions, mouth rinses, or pain medication. Generally, side effects go away within a few weeks to months after the end of treatment.


Radiation therapy is a non-invasive cancer treatment that uses targeted beams of high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells, shrink tumours, and prevent cancer cell replication. The success of radiation therapy for mesothelioma varies depending on each patient's cancer stage, location, and overall health status. It can be used alone or in combination with other treatments like surgery or chemotherapy. Radiation therapy has a range of side effects, but most of them are manageable and go away after treatment is over. Your radiation oncologist can help you understand what to expect and reduce the risks for potential side effects.


Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that helps boost the body's natural defenses to fight the cancer cells. It is an emerging treatment option that has shown great promise in treating mesothelioma – a type of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart.

Unlike traditional cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation, which directly target cancer cells, immunotherapy works by stimulating the immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. This is done through the use of drugs called checkpoint inhibitors or monoclonal antibodies, which help boost the activity of immune cells such as T-cells and natural killer cells.

One of the most promising immunotherapy drugs for mesothelioma is pembrolizumab, which targets a protein called PD-1 on the surface of T-cells. By blocking this protein, pembrolizumab helps activate T-cells to attack mesothelioma cells, while leaving healthy cells unharmed.

Another immunotherapy drug that has shown promising results is nivolumab, which also targets the PD-1 protein. In a clinical trial, nivolumab was shown to improve survival in patients with mesothelioma who had previously undergone chemotherapy.

However, immunotherapy is not without its side effects. Common side effects of immunotherapy include fatigue, rash, diarrhea, and fever. In rare cases, immunotherapy can lead to more serious side effects like inflammation of the lungs, liver, or kidneys.

Immunotherapy is an exciting and promising new treatment option for mesothelioma patients. As more research is conducted, it is likely that new drugs and therapies will be developed that will continue to improve outcomes for patients with this devastating disease.

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that evaluate new treatments, drugs, or medical devices for their effectiveness and safety. For patients with mesothelioma, clinical trials can offer access to the latest and most promising treatments that are not yet widely available.

There are different types of clinical trials which may focus on different aspects of mesothelioma, such as preventing the spread of cancer, improving symptoms, or increasing survival rate. Clinical trials can also involve different kinds of treatments, such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery, or combinations of these.

Prior to being approved for clinical trials, researchers must go through a rigorous process to ensure that the new treatment or device is safe and effective for human use. Clinical trials have several phases and involve different levels of monitoring and supervision to minimize risks to participants and ensure compliance with ethical standards.

Patient eligibility for clinical trials depends on several factors, such as the stage and location of the mesothelioma, the patient's medical history and general health, and other criteria set by the researchers conducting the trial. Patients who are interested in participating in a clinical trial should discuss their options with their healthcare provider or mesothelioma specialist.

One of the benefits of participating in a clinical trial is access to cutting-edge treatments that may not be available otherwise. Additionally, clinical trials can help advance medical knowledge and improve the chances of developing more effective treatments for mesothelioma patients in the future.

However, there are also potential risks and drawbacks to participating in clinical trials. Patients are closely monitored and may experience side effects or complications from the treatment being tested. Furthermore, not all clinical trials yield positive results, and patients may not experience significant benefits from participating in the trial.

Patients who decide to participate in a clinical trial should carefully consider the potential risks and benefits, and should ensure that they fully understand the nature of the treatment and the expectations for participation.

In conclusion, clinical trials can offer mesothelioma patients the opportunity to receive innovative treatments and contribute to the advancement of medical knowledge. While there are potential risks, participation in a clinical trial can be a valuable option for eligible patients who are seeking to improve their prognosis and quality of life.

Palliative Care

When a patient is diagnosed with mesothelioma, a type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, they may undergo various treatments like surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. However, these treatment methods can often have side effects that reduce the patient's quality of life. Palliative care is an essential aspect of the treatment of mesothelioma patients. The primary goal of palliative care is to improve the patient's quality of life by providing relief from the symptoms they are experiencing.

Palliative care focuses on providing relief for the symptoms of mesothelioma, which can include pain, breathlessness, fatigue, and nausea. It can also help patients deal with the emotional stress that can come with a mesothelioma diagnosis. Palliative care can be delivered in various forms depending on the patient's needs. It may include medications, physical therapy exercises, counseling, and other interventions.

The goal of palliative care is not to cure the patient of mesothelioma, but rather to help them manage the symptoms that come with the disease. Palliative care can also support the patient's family members, helping them deal with the difficult emotions that come with having a loved one with mesothelioma.

Palliative care can be offered in different locations such as hospitals, hospices or at home. Depending on the severity of the patient's symptoms, healthcare providers may recommend the appropriate location for palliative care.

Palliative care is an essential aspect of mesothelioma treatment as it can help improve the quality of life for patients and their families. If you or a loved one has mesothelioma, it is important to discuss the possibility of palliative care with your healthcare provider.

Mesothelioma Treatment Options

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for mesothelioma. The best course of treatment will vary depending on the patient's age, overall health, the stage of cancer, and the location of the tumor. Some of the most common treatment options include:

  • Surgery: Depending on the stage and location of mesothelioma, there are different surgical options to remove the tumor. Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) involves removing the affected lung and surrounding tissue, while pleurectomy/decortication (P/D) removes only the tumor and affected lining around the lung. Cytoreductive surgery with heated chemotherapy (HIPEC) is another option that is effective for treating peritoneal mesothelioma.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is a common treatment option for mesothelioma that uses drugs to kill cancer cells. In addition to traditional chemotherapy, there are also targeted therapy options available for patients with specific gene mutations.
  • Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells and is often used as a complement to surgery or chemotherapy. Some patients may also receive radiation therapy as the primary treatment.
  • Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy is a treatment that uses the patient's own immune system to fight cancer cells.

The Importance of Early Detection

Early detection is key to successful treatment of mesothelioma. Patients who are diagnosed in the early stages of the disease have a better chance for survival and more options for treatment. Symptoms of mesothelioma can be very similar to those of other respiratory diseases, making early detection challenging.

For this reason, it is important for those who have been exposed to asbestos to be screened regularly for mesothelioma, even if they have not yet developed any symptoms. Early detection may involve imaging studies, such as CT scans or X-rays, as well as tests to measure lung function and take tissue or fluid samples for analysis.

The Importance of Choosing an Experienced Medical Team

Choosing an experienced medical team can make all the difference in a patient's mesothelioma treatment. Mesothelioma is a rare disease that requires expertise in both cancer treatment and respiratory diseases, making it important to work with doctors who specialize in mesothelioma or have experience treating the disease.

An experienced medical team can provide patients with the most current and effective treatment options, as well as help manage any side effects of treatment and provide emotional support throughout the journey.

The Importance of Support During Treatment

Mesothelioma treatment can be emotionally and physically challenging, making support from loved ones and mental health professionals an important part of a patient's overall care. It is important for patients and their families to communicate openly with each other and with their healthcare team about the challenges they may be facing.

Support groups for mesothelioma patients, either in person or online, can also provide an important source of understanding and encouragement.

The Importance of Palliative Care in Mesothelioma Treatment

Palliative care is an important part of mesothelioma treatment for patients experiencing symptoms or side effects that affect their quality of life. Palliative care focuses on addressing a patient's physical, emotional, and spiritual needs and may include medications, therapy, or other treatments to manage pain, anxiety, or other symptoms.

Palliative care services are available to mesothelioma patients at any stage of their disease and can be provided in conjunction with other treatments.

The Importance of Clinical Trials in Mesothelioma Treatment

Clinical trials are research studies that test new treatments and therapies for mesothelioma. Patients who participate in clinical trials have access to cutting-edge treatments and therapies that may not yet be widely available. They also contribute to the advancement of mesothelioma treatment for future patients.

Talk to your healthcare team about the possibility of participating in a clinical trial and whether it is a good option for your individual case.

The Importance of Lifestyle Changes During Mesothelioma Treatment

During mesothelioma treatment, it is important for patients to make changes to their lifestyle that can help them feel better and stay healthier. These may include:

  • Eating a healthy diet and staying hydrated
  • Getting regular exercise or physical therapy to maintain strength and flexibility
  • Getting adequate sleep and rest
  • Reducing stress through mindfulness techniques or other activities

Working with your healthcare team and making these lifestyle changes can improve a patient's overall well-being and quality of life during mesothelioma treatment.