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A radical approach to treating mesothelioma

Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic describes it as a rare form of cancer in the thin layer of tissue that covers most internal organs. Mesothelioma is rare, but it’s also “an aggressive and deadly form of cancer,” according to the clinic’s website.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t treatments available, however. One such approach is radical surgery, a treatment that has sparked controversy in the medical community, especially after a clinical trial failed to find evidence of health benefits for those who underwent the complex procedure.

According to Medscape, many experts consider the extrapleural pneumonectomy and a slightly less radical surgery to both be experimental with questionable benefits. In a recent editorial in a medical journal, an expert group wrote that there’s doubt that patients undergoing the complex surgical procedures live longer or see a lessening of mesothelioma symptoms, “but we know that there is harm.”

The fierce debate over surgical treatments might be fueled by the knowledge that while mesothelioma is still rare, diagnoses of it are on the rise.

The primary risk factor for mesothelioma, the Mayo Clinic notes, is exposure to asbestos. The naturally occurring mineral has been used in a variety of common products, including insulation material for homes and businesses, car brakes, flooring, shingles and other items.

When asbestos dust is inhaled or swallowed (often in mining or clean-up), its fibers enter the lungs and stomach. The irritation in those organs can lead to mesothelioma over a period of years.

The decision for victims to pursue compensation can be a difficult one best made with family and with an attorney experienced in mesothelioma-related negotiations and litigation. 

Source: Medscape, "Radical Surgery for Mesothelioma: Still Controversial," Zosia Chustecka, April 22, 2014

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