Available Treatments for Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma has an extremely poor prognosis due to a variety of factors, not the least of which being that malignant mesothelioma is an extremely aggressive form of cancer. Even more problematic is the extremely long latency period of the disease, as it can take 20 to 50 years for detectable forms of cancer to develop after initial exposure to the carcinogen which caused it, asbestos being the most common cause. Cases of mesothelioma are typically not detected until later the later stages of cancer, and as a result a typical survival rate is only one to two years following diagnosis. Full recovery is still possible when then disease is detected in the early stages however, and aggressive application of cancer treatments can improve the outlook of the victim.

While various treatments exist, only chemotherapy has been objectively shown to improve survival of patients in randomized and controlled trials. Other treatments have seen success, but with less consistency. A 2003 study indicated that chemotherapy improved survival rates from a median of 10 months to 13.3 months, and in other test groups with various combinations of drugs survival rates were improved as much as 46%. Chemotherapy is by far the best treatment option for the many mesothelioma patients who are not candidates for more radical surgical options which can attempt to remove cancerous tissue entirely.

Such surgical treatments are not generally effective as stand-alone solutions to mesothelioma, but instead are used in tandem with radiation and chemotherapy. As mesothelioma occurs within the lining of various organs in the body, most commonly the chest and lungs, the most common surgical treatment is known as a pleurectormy/decortication. In this process, the lining of the chest is removed. In other situations where more specific excision is required, an extrapleural pneumonectormy will be performed wherein the lung, the lining of the inside of the chest, the pericardium, and the hemi-diaphragm are all removed.

Following surgery, radiation therapy is typically applied as a post-operative measure, creating a consolidated treatment process which can more effectively eliminate cancerous cells. Such combined treatments can extend life expectancy of some patients to a more than 5 years, a vast improvement over prognosis without treatment.

Various other less proven techniques have shown promise in the treatment of mesothelioma and other cancers, including immunotherapy, heated intraopertaive intraperitoneal chemotherapy, and multimodality treatment. The unfortunate reality of such treatments is that while many are successful in improving the survival rates of mesothelioma patients, there is no cure for the disease and many treatments are prohibitively expensive for victims who lack sufficient health insurance to cover the costs. In such situations, the best option for the victim and their family may be to seek compensation for the significant costs of treatment and other losses through a lawsuit against the party responsible for the asbestos exposure which lead to the disease in the first place. With the assistance of a mesothelioma lawyer, it can be possible to clearly establish when the exposure took place, and therefor discover if negligence on the part of an external party was the proximate cause of the disease.

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