Cancer is an overwhelming disease, as the thought of going through an emotionally, financially, and physically draining treatment is enough to give anyone cold feet. It is even more frightening when patients learn they have an aggressive form of mesothelioma cancer. This type of cancer impacts the cells lining, which consists of most internal organs, including the heart, the testicles, abdomen, and lungs. A cancer diagnosis is not easy to deal with, but a doctor’s gentle guiding hand can be a beacon of support. When patients know what’s in store for them, they’re better prepared. Information is power, and it makes the patient aware and helps them better decide what they should do. Here is everything that you need to know about mesothelioma:
1. What Is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a form of cancer, which occurs in the thin layer of tissues covering most internal organs. These include the heart, lungs, testicles, and abdomen. When a patient comes in for a checkup, a doctor starts by discussing and examining any symptoms the patient exhibits. They may subject a patient to X-rays, biopsies, and CT scans for further investigation.
The examination results inform both the doctor and the patient what they’re dealing with and its fatality. They encourage patients to learn more before concluding what route is the viable option for them. But, like any disease, patients must pay attention to their health. If they continue delaying a proper checkup or deciding on their health, they may jeopardize their condition.
2. What Does The Diagnosis Look Like?
When a patient comes in for a checkup, they undergo a thorough examination. Much needs studying, and doctors need to put all hands on deck and analyze patients’ symptoms. These include checking for unusual lumps and even noting if they have blood in their sputum. A checkup also includes collecting blood work, urine samples, and body scans such as X-rays and CT scans. If a doctor starts speculating about cancer, they may need to prescribe the patient for a biopsy. Biopsies are procedures where a small portion of tissue gets extracted for examination. A doctor may do it by inserting a needle through the skin or surgery to remove a small piece of tissue. This part of the examination warrants a discussion with the patient, leading to hard-hitting talk between a patient and healthcare practitioner to decide the best possible treatment routes.
3. What Does Treatment Look Like?
The treatment for mesothelioma depends on the stage and location of the cancer cells. Any form of cancer that is widely spread and covers most internal organs is hard to treat. It is also unfortunate that mesothelioma comes to light when it’s far too advanced in most cases, which makes the window of treatment nonexistent. But, even if the opportunity is small, it is worth the try. Most patients are willing to try experimental procedures to alleviate their symptoms. However, so far, these are the possible treatment routes for mesothelioma:
Patients get wheeled for surgery following an early diagnosis. For many, this is the best possible cure for cancer. A surgeon clears out the cancer site by removing cancer cells. Sometimes removing all the cells is not possible, so surgeons resort to other options to help alleviate symptoms. These include:
- Surgery to Decrease Fluid Buildup. If the patient has mesothelioma in the lungs (pleural), there is fluid in the chest. This makes it difficult for the patient to breathe and causes suffocation. A surgeon may drain the fluid by inserting a tube or a catheter in the patient’s chest. Once the procedure is complete, medicine is injected into the chest cavity to prevent a relapse.
- Removal of Tissue around the Lungs. Surgeons may remove the tissue lining the lungs and the ribs. This doesn’t cure mesothelioma entirely since there is a chance cancer may return but helps with symptoms.
- Removal of a Lung and the Surrounding Tissue. When surgeons remove the impacted lung and the surrounding tissue, it helps ease symptoms. The patient needs to go through radiation to clear the remaining cancer cells following surgery. Radiation allows doctors to prescribe a high dosage of radio waves safely. Following surgery, most patients go for chemotherapy.
The procedure uses chemicals to kill cancer cells. The medicine travels through the body and targets all mesothelioma cells. This helps doctors take care of mesothelioma cells when surgery is not enough alone. Some patients may go through chemotherapy before surgery, while some may get a dose after surgery. Doctors determine when chemotherapy should get administered depending on the extent of the case. Topping up surgery with chemotherapy helps reduce cancer from returning for more aggressive cases. The drug gets heated and inserted into the abdominal cavity in abdominal cancer. These factors ensure the cells have a minimal to nonexistent chance of returning.
3. Radiation Therapy
The procedure uses high energy from X-rays. The purpose of this intense treatment is to target rays on a specific spot on the body. Most patients get a dose after their surgery to kill the remaining cells. Doctors also use it when surgery is not viable and the cancer cells need to get controlled.
4. Other Treatment Options
Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation are conventional treatment options. After a mesothelioma diagnosis, most patients get subjected to these routes. However, the process of treatment is not limited to these methods alone. Some patients also get other options; these are as follows:
- Immunotherapy uses the immune system to fight cancer. The therapy introduces chemicals into the patient’s body that trigger their immune response in front of cancer cells. Generally, the immune system doesn’t recognize cancer cells and ignores them. When doctors modify the patient’s immunity, it can help the body fight cancer cells. This treatment helps when other options fall short.
- Targeted Cell Therapy. Targeted cell therapy uses drugs to attack cancer cells in a specific manner. Cancer cells have certain weaknesses, and the purpose of these chemicals is to attack cancer cells by identifying those weaknesses. While doctors may not prescribe targeted therapy for mesothelioma, it may become an option when nothing else works. A doctor may use tumor DNA testing as a targeted therapy option.
- Clinical Trials. Clinical Trials are experimental methods. These treatment options are still undergoing research and have yet to produce conclusive results. While the cure isn’t guaranteed, medical science dramatically benefits from a patient’s participation. Before enrolling for any clinical trial, a patient must undergo several tests and examinations to ensure suitability for the research. Only a doctor can determine if clinical medicines are the best treatment option for the patient.
Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer, and the diagnosis can get very startling for patients. They would want an immediate remedy for their ailment. Doctors determine the severity of the case by narrowing the location and the size of cancer. Once they know what they’re dealing with, a patient may undergo surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. If these options yield no results or are not possible for the patient, there are other treatment options. These include immunotherapy, targeted cell therapy, and clinical trials.