Receiving a diagnosis of mesothelioma is extremely difficult. The cancer is aggressive; it is resistant to treatment; and it is often discovered in its late stages. But patients and their families do have options for treatment—many more than existed a decade or two ago.
Each mesothelioma patient is different. Finding the right course of treatment will depend on a number of factors. Physicians use several diagnostic tools such as x-rays, MRIs, CT scans and biopsies to determine the type, location and extent of a patient’s cancer. Decisions about treatment can be made once these preliminary issues are resolved.
Several types of treatment are offered to patients with mesothelioma—some recommended more frequently than others. The most common treatments are surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. In addition, some doctors are working with experimental treatments that are showing encouraging results in clinical trials. These therapies include gene therapy, immunotherapy and photodynamic therapy.
The Medical Team
Mesothelioma patients are treated not by one doctor, but by a team of specialists, each with critical knowledge about different aspects of the disease. Learn about some of the medical professionals who could be part of the medical team who treat a patient with mesothelioma. A general practitioner is usually the first doctor to suspect mesothelioma. He is likely to refer the patient to an oncologist, a doctor who specializes in the treatment of cancer. To perform a biopsy or if surgery is recommended, a thoracic surgeon can be called in. A pulmonologist, and also in some cases a pulmonary therapist, may help the patient deal with diminished lung function. A psychologist may help the patient and the family deal with emotional issues related to the disease.
Find a Mesothelioma Doctor
For most patients, finding the right doctors with experience in treating mesothelioma will be the first step toward finding the right treatment. Search by state for a doctor who specializes in the treatment of mesothelioma.
Find a Mesothelioma Treatment Center
Search by state for a cancer center where mesothelioma patients are treated. Some centers provide only certain types of treatment, and the doctor you work with and treatment you choose can help you choose the appropriate treatment center.
Types of Treatment for Mesothelioma
Today, there are a number of treatment options for patients with mesothelioma: surgery, chemotherapy and radiation . Mesothelioma doctors have learned that most patients who are strong enough respond best to a combination of surgery and chemotherapy or radiation. Often, surgery is performed to remove as much of the tumor as possible, and then chemotherapy or radiotherapy is used as adjuvant therapy to destroy any remaining cancer cells. For patients unable to withstand surgery, radiation therapy may be the best option.
Enrolling in a clinical trial may be an option for some patients, and they provide information that could help improve mesothelioma treatment in the future.
Doctors are also exploring some innovative treatments for mesothelioma, such as gene therapy, immunotherapy and photodynamic therapy.
Patients should consider all of these options with the assistance of their doctors. Patients who educate themselves about their disease and their doctors are in the best position to make good choices for their treatment and their quality of life.