Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer, and it is often diagnosed at a late stage. Unfortunately, that often means that removing the cancer by surgical means is no longer possible.
Even if surgery is practical, it can be hard go remove all of the cancer from your body, according to the Mayo Clinic. At later stages. the chances for significant improvement are slim, but treatment may still provide benefits.
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you will have to make your treatment choices based on your values. Some people want to fight the cancer with everything they’ve got, even though that may result in uncomfortable side-effects. Other people prefer to focus on reducing their pain and discomfort so they can live as symptom-free as possible.
Although it may not be possible to remove all of the cancer, you may still benefit from surgery. One option is to use surgery to decrease fluid buildup in your chest which can cause difficulty breathing. Doctors may also inject a medicine that can help prevent the fluid from returning.
Another option is to remove tissue from around the lungs (pleurectomy). This is not a cure, but it can relieve the symptoms of mesothelioma.
A third option is to remove a lung and the surrounding tissue. Again, this can reduce the symptoms of mesothelioma, but it can also allow doctors to use a higher dose of radiation in the area.
For people with peritoneal mesothelioma, which occurs in the abdomen, surgeons may remove as much of the cancer as possible while also using chemotherapy to reduce the rest.
In general, chemotherapy is the use of chemicals to fight cancer. If there is cancer that cannot be removed via surgery, chemotherapy can sometimes shrink that cancer or slow its growth. Or, chemotherapy may be used before an attempt at surgery to make the operation easier and reduce the chance that the cancer will return.
In this process, high-energy beams like X-rays and proton beams are focused on the cancer to kill cancer cells. It is often used after surgery to attack any cancerous cells that remain. It can also be used to reduce the symptoms of mesothelioma if surgery is no longer an option.
Less commonly, immunotherapy and targeted drug therapy are sometimes used against mesothelioma.
Getting involved in clinical trials
Sometimes, new treatments are invented and tried on volunteer patients through clinical trials. Being involved in a clinical trial may help you, but it is also possible you will receive a placebo during the trial as part of a control group. However, your participation in the trial will help researchers better understand how to treat mesothelioma.