While a variety of treatments are currently available, only a doctor or, preferably a mesothelioma specialist will be able to determine appropriate treatment action for an individual patient. Treatment programs are designed based on factors such as a patient’s age, health condition, date of diagnosis, type of mesothelioma (pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma or pericardial mesothelioma) and stage to which the cancer has spread. Treatments may include, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, surgery, clinical trials, drug therapy or a combination thereof (called multimodal treatment).
Radiation therapy uses high energy x-rays to damage or kill cancer cells. Though it is not a cure for mesothelioma, radiation therapy may be used to delay the cancers growth. When used in combination with surgery, radiation therapy is referred to as adjuvant radiation and can be used to destroy small deposits of cancer that may have been missed in surgery.
External Beam Radiation
External beam radiation uses radiation delivered from outside the body. During treatment, a machine similar to an x-ray machine directs intense beams of light from outside the body at the cancer. It is the most commonly used form of radiation used in the treatment of mesothelioma.
Brachytherapy involves placing sources of radiation inside the body. Radioactive sources are positioned in the patient’s abdomen or chest, either close to, or inside the tumor itself.
Chemotherapy uses drugs or chemical agents to treat cancer. A doctor or mesothelioma specialist may recommend a single drug, or a combination of drugs. Chemotherapy drugs are systemic, meaning that the drugs are designed to enter the bloodstream and then circulate throughout the patient’s body or ‘system’ to destroy the cancer cells. While not a cure for mesothelioma, chemotherapy may help delay the progression of the cancer.
Surgery may be used in one of two ways: as a palliative treatment (to relieve pain and discomfort caused by the disease) or as a curative treatment (to cure or slow the progression of mesothelioma). Surgery may be performed in conjunction with other radiation or chemotherapy treatments, otherwise known as “multi-modal therapy.” Whether surgery is indicated depends on many factors, including the patient’s medical history, the health of the patient and the location and stage (extent to which the cancer has spread) and cell type of the cancer.