Diagnosis and Treatment of Mesothelioma Cancer
Writer : Dr. Cristine Naskan
Find out more about this rare cancer linked to asbestos exposure. Surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy are all used to treat mesothelioma.
Your doctor will conduct a physical exam to look for any lumps or other abnormalities that might indicate mesothelioma.
A chest X-ray or a computerized tomography (CT) scan of your chest or abdomen may be ordered by your doctor to check for any abnormalities.
Depending on the results, you may need to undergo additional testing to determine whether you have mesothelioma or another disease.
In order to determine whether you have mesothelioma, a biopsy is the only procedure that can be used. Your doctor will determine which biopsy procedure is best for you based on the location of the problem.
Options consist of:
- A needle is inserted into the skin. A thin needle inserted through the skin of your chest or abdomen may be used to remove fluid or tissue by your doctor.
- Taking a sample of tissue from the patient while they are being operated on. During an operation, a sample of fluid or tissue may be taken. An incision could be made in your chest or abdomen to insert a camera-equipped tube. Tissue samples can be collected using specialized tools that are inserted into the tube.
If the abnormal tissue is mesothelioma, the sample will be examined under a microscope to identify the cells involved. Your treatment depends on the type of mesothelioma you have.
Finding out how far the cancer has spread
Following a diagnosis of mesothelioma, your doctor may order additional tests to determine whether the cancer has spread to your lymph nodes or other parts of your body.
Testing could include:
- scans of the chest and abdomen were performed.
- The use of MRI technology (MRI)
- Tomography using positron emission (PET)
The tests you need are selected by your doctor. Not everyone necessitates each and every examination.
The results of these tests are used by your doctor to assign a stage to your cancer. Using Roman numerals, the stages of pleural mesothelioma can be referred to as I through IV. The lower the number, the more likely it is that the cancer will remain confined to the lungs, while the higher the number, the more likely it will have spread throughout the body.
As cancer diagnosis and treatment improve, the cancer staging system becomes more complicated. Selecting the right treatment depends on the stage of cancer you have.
Formal stages for other types of mesothelioma are unavailable.
Depending on your overall health and the stage and location of your mesothelioma, you may need a variety of treatments.
A cure is not always possible for those who have mesothelioma, which is often an aggressive disease and for most people, there is no hope. Typically, mesothelioma is diagnosed at a late stage, when it is too late for an operation to remove the cancer. Instead, he or she may try to alleviate your symptoms by controlling your cancer.
With your doctor, lay out your goals for treatment. Some people are willing to put up with the side effects of cancer treatment in order to have a better chance of beating the disease. For others, the goal is to be as comfortable as possible for the remainder of their lives.
An early diagnosis allows doctors to begin treatment by removing the cancerous cells. In some cases, the cancer may be cured by this.
Unfortunately, removing all of the cancer is not always an option. Mesothelioma spreads throughout the body and surgery may help alleviate the symptoms and signs.
surgical options may include:
- Surgeons perform surgery to reduce fluid accumulation. It's possible that pleural mesothelioma will cause your chest to fill with fluid, making it difficult to breathe. A chest tube or catheter is placed by the surgeons to drain the fluid. Medications may also be injected into your chest in order to keep fluid from re-entering your body (pleurodesis).
- Surgery to remove the lining of the lungs through a procedure. Surgeons may remove the lining of the ribs and the lungs in order to treat the condition (pleurectomy). There is no cure for mesothelioma, but there is hope that this procedure can alleviate some of the symptoms.
- A procedure to remove a lung and the surrounding tissue. Removal of the affected lung and surrounding tissue may alleviate pleural mesothelioma symptoms. After surgery, doctors can use higher doses of radiation to treat the chest because they don't have to worry about damaging radiation to the lung.
- Peritoneal mesothelioma is treated with surgery. For peritoneal mesothelioma, surgery is sometimes used as a treatment option. Chemotherapy can be administered prior to or following surgery.
Chemotherapy is a cancer-killing treatment that employs the use of chemicals. A mesothelioma that cannot be surgically removed may shrink or slow its growth with systemic chemotherapy, which travels throughout the body. Preoperative chemotherapy (neoadjuvant chemotherapy) can make surgery easier, while postoperative chemotherapy (adjuvant chemotherapy) lowers the risk of cancer recurrence.
In the case of peritoneal mesothelioma, chemotherapy drugs can also be heated and administered directly into the abdominal cavity (intraperitoneal chemotherapy).
In order to treat cancer, radiation therapy uses high-energy beams from sources such as X-rays and protons. Cancer cells that remain after surgery may be killed by radiation. In cases where surgery is not an option, it may also help reduce the symptoms of advanced cancer.
There are some circumstances in which other treatments for mesothelioma may be necessary. treatments that may be used are:
- Immunotherapy. Immunotherapy employs the body's own defense mechanisms to fight cancer. You may not be able to fight your cancer because your body's disease-fighting immune system is blinded by proteins produced by your cancer cells. That is how immunotherapy works. In cases where other treatments have failed, this therapy may be an option.
- Targeted treatment. The goal of targeted therapy is to use drugs that specifically target the cancer cells' weaknesses. Your doctor may recommend targeted therapy based on the results of tumor DNA testing if you have mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma clinical trials are studies of new therapies. Patients with mesothelioma may choose to participate in a clinical trial to test out new treatment options. However, there is no guarantee of a cure. Talk to your doctor about what clinical trials are available to you so that you can weigh your treatment options carefully. Doctors may learn more about how to treat mesothelioma in the future if you participate in a clinical trial.
Several new treatments for mesothelioma are being tested in clinical trials, including new targeted therapies and new immunotherapy approaches.
Other forms of mesothelioma can be treated.
Both pericardial and tunica vaginal mesothelioma are extremely rare. Surgery can be used to treat cancer in its early stages. Despite this, doctors are still unsure of the best treatment for advanced cancers. In order to improve your quality of life, your doctor may recommend additional treatments.
This condition can be prevented, detected, or treated with new treatments and interventions from Mayo Clinic.
Mesothelioma patients have found no benefit from alternative medicine treatments. The disease's symptoms and signs may be alleviated by complementary and alternative therapies. Talk to your doctor about your options.
If you have mesothelioma, you may experience shortness of breath due to pressure in your chest. Being unable to take a breath is upsetting. Supplemental oxygen or medications prescribed by your doctor may help you feel better, but they aren't always sufficient. You may feel better if you combine your doctor's prescribed treatments with complementary and alternative therapies.
Breathlessness can be alleviated with the use of alternative treatments, such as:
- Acupuncture. Acupuncture involves inserting fine needles into your skin at specific points.
- Exercises to improve one's breathing. When you're having trouble breathing, a physical therapist or nurse can show you how to breathe better. You may begin to panic at times, and this is perfectly normal. You may be able to gain more control over your breathing by utilizing the methods described here.
- Restorative practices. Muscle relaxation may help you feel more at ease and breathe more easily. Your doctor may suggest that you seek the services of a therapist who can guide you through the process of learning relaxation techniques on your own.
- Close to a vent. Using a fan to blow on your face can help alleviate shortness of breath.
Coping and support
You and your loved ones can be devastated by the news that you have mesothelioma. If you're having trouble regaining your composure, try these suggestions to help you out:
- In order to make informed decisions regarding your treatment, learn about mesothelioma. Make a list of questions you want to ask your physician. Obtain information from your medical team to better understand your condition. The National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, and the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation are excellent places to begin your research.
- Make sure you have a network of people who can help you. Assisting you with everyday tasks, such as getting you to appointments or treatment, can be done by close friends or family members. Be honest with yourself and accept help when you need it if you are hesitant to ask for it.
- Make an effort to connect with other cancer patients. Inquire with your medical team if there are any local cancer support groups in your area. Other people with cancer may be able to answer some of your questions better than you. There is a safe place where you can get answers to these kinds of questions, as well as support from others who have been in your shoes. The Cancer Survivors Network, an online message board run by the American Cancer Society, can provide similar support while keeping your identity private.
- Be prepared. Consult your medical team about advance directives, which provide your family with guidance on your medical wishes if you become unable to communicate those wishes to your family members anymore.
Getting ready for your meeting
Begin by making an appointment with your primary care physician if you're experiencing any symptoms of lung or abdomen discomfort. To diagnose mesothelioma, your doctor may refer you to an expert in lung disease (pulmonologist) or abdominal issues (gastroenterologist) (gastroenterologist).
If you want to get the most out of an appointment, it's a good idea to be well-prepared. Preparation is key, so here are some pointers and things to look forward to from your doctor.
What you can do
- Pre-appointment restrictions should be understood in advance. Be sure to ask if there is anything you need to do in advance, such as restricting your diet, when you make an appointment.
- The symptoms you're experiencing, even if they don't appear to be related to the reason for your appointment, should be recorded.
- Include any recent life changes or major stressors in your personal information.
- Create an inventory of all medications you currently take or have recently taken as well as any vitamins or supplements you've recently taken.
- Consider including a member of your family or a friend. It's not uncommon to have trouble recalling everything that was discussed during a consultation. Somebody who's with you might catch something you overlooked or forgot.
- Do some brainstorming before seeing your doctor.
- Medical records, including previous chest X-rays, should be collected.
Make the most of your doctor-patient relationship by preparing a list of questions to ask. List your questions in order of importance, in case you run out of time. Asking your doctor the following questions can help you learn more about Mesothelioma.
- Why am I experiencing these symptoms?
- Can you think of any other reasons why I'm having these symptoms?
- What kind of tests do I need to perform?
- Are my X-rays or scans available to me?
- Is it likely that my condition will be short-lived or long-term?
- What's the best way to proceed?
- You're proposing a primary strategy, but what are the alternatives to that?
- I'm also suffering from these other ailments. What is the best way to handle them all?
- Do I have to abide by any limitations?
- Is it necessary to see a doctor? My insurance may or may not cover the cost of that.
- Any brochures or other printed material that I can bring with me is welcome. What are your top picks for online resources?
- When should I schedule a follow-up appointment?
Don't be afraid to ask any additional questions that come to mind during your consultation with your doctor.
What to expect from the doctor you've hired
There are a lot of things your doctor will want to know about you. If you're prepared to answer their questions, you'll have more time to cover other topics. Dr. X may ask this question:
- Is there a specific date when you first noticed symptoms?
- Is your condition ongoing or sporadic?
- Please describe in detail the severity of your symptoms.
- Do you have any relief from your symptoms?
- Is there anything that makes your symptoms worse, if at all?
- Is it painful to inhale and exhale?
- Are you unable to work as a result of your symptoms?
- Is asbestos something you've ever had to deal with?
What to do while you wait
Avoid anything that could exacerbate your symptoms. While waiting to see your doctor because you're having trouble breathing, you might want to ease up on the activity until then. Take immediate action if your breathlessness becomes unbearable or distressing.
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