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How do the different mesothelioma treatments work?

On Behalf of | Feb 24, 2022 | Mesothelioma/Asbestos-Related Illness

The treatments available to mesothelioma victims may vary according to their circumstances. The stage and type of your cancer are likely to affect your treatment options as may your general health history.

In some cases, your doctors may be able to remove all the cancer, but there is no known cure. In most cases, mesothelioma treatments aim to remove as much of the cancer as possible, then slow its growth.

The standard treatments

Doctors commonly use several different approaches to treat mesothelioma. As the Mayo Clinic notes, these include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, multimodal approaches and various palliative procedures.

  • Surgery is the physical removal of tumor cells. Surgeons cut into the body and work to cut all visible tumor cells loose from the healthy tissue. Performed early enough, surgery can sometimes help victims reach a full recovery. More often, the goal of surgery is to slow the disease and reduce the symptoms and suffering.
  • Chemotherapy is the use of drugs designed to kill tumor cells. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several drugs and drug combinations for use in mesothelioma treatment.
  • Radiation therapy uses high-powered beams, such as x-rays, to target tumor cells. As the Mayo Clinic notes, doctors often use radiation therapy after surgery. The goal is to kill any cancer cells the surgeons failed to see and remove.
  • A multimodal treatment is any treatment that uses more than one approach. Doctors frequently combine surgery with either chemotherapy or radiation therapy. These multimodal approaches tend to be more successful than either surgery or chemotherapy alone.
  • Palliative procedures do not aim to cure the disease. They aim to reduce symptoms and suffering. As the American Cancer Society notes, there are a range of different palliative procedures that doctors use to relieve suffering. Several of them focus on clearing excess fluids.

Because there is no clear cure for mesothelioma, it is important that you and your doctor discuss your options. Before you choose, you want to understand the procedure, the goals and the likely side effects. You are more likely to get the most from your treatment if you can commit to it fully.

Other treatment options

Researchers continue to look for newer and better ways to combat the disease. Their work has led to the development of several more situational treatments, and it means some victims may have the opportunity to seek new types of treatment in clinical trials.

  • Immunotherapy stimulates the victim’s immune response to the cancer. Immunotherapy is not viable in every situation, but it may be an option when the more common approaches are not appropriate.
  • Tumor Treating Fields (TTF) are a newer option. Recently approved by the FDA, TTF uses electrodes to shoot electrical waves through the tumor cells at a specific frequency. These electrical waves slow or stop the tumor’s growth.
  • Clinical trials explore new treatments to measure their effectiveness prior to approval. Before researchers can test their ideas with human volunteers, they must show the science and potential benefit, and they must conduct animal tests.

Because mesothelioma is a rare cancer, doctors are not always fully aware of all the treatment options, such as which clinical trials may possibly be a good fit. This is one of the reasons mesothelioma victims tend to receive better treatment when they can travel to one of the treatment centers that deals with a larger volume of mesothelioma cases.

Paying for treatment

The bad news is that mesothelioma treatments can be extremely expensive. The good news is that there does not appear to be a direct link between the quality of treatment and income level. In short, the quality of your treatment does not depend on your income.

Instead, many mesothelioma victims supplement their health insurance with the compensation they earn by taking legal action. This does not always mean filing a lawsuit. Many of the manufacturers whose materials exposed people to asbestos have created asbestos trust funds to pay for victims’ injuries. An attorney with knowledge of these funds can help you explore your options for financial recovery.

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