Treatment and Care
When Should You see a Doctor?
See your doctor if you have signs and symptoms that may indicate mesothelioma and tell your doctor if you've been exposed to asbestos fibers.
Due to the rarity of mesothelioma, signs and symptoms of mesothelioma aren't specific to this disease and are more likely to be related to other conditions. If any persistent signs and symptoms seem unusual or bothersome, ask your doctor for further tests and evaluation.
Complications of Pleural Mesothelioma
As pleural mesothelioma spreads in the chest, it puts pressure on the structures in that area which can cause complications including:
- Swelling of the neck and face caused by pressure on the large vein that leads from your upper body to your heart
- Pain caused by pressure on the nerves and spinal cord
- Accumulation of fluid in the chest which can make breathing difficult
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
- Difficulty swallowing
Mesothelioma is an aggressive, but manageable, malignancy. While mesothelioma is not often diagnosis until it is in its advanced stages and there is no cure at this time treatment, options are available. These treatments may include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. There are also newer medications available.
Talk to your doctor about treatment options. Some people may choose aggressive treatment for their cancer while others prefer treatments that make them comfortable so that they can live their remaining time as symptom-free as possible. There are no right or wrong answers, only choices.
Radiation therapy is often used in conjunction with other treatment methods like surgery and chemotherapy. Radiation therapy focuses high-energy beams, such as X-rays, to a specific spot or spots on your body to reduce signs and symptoms of pleural mesothelioma. Radiation therapy is sometimes used after biopsy or surgery to prevent mesothelioma from spreading to the surgical incision.
Chemotherapy uses chemicals to kill cancer cells. Systemic chemotherapy travels throughout the body and may shrink or slow the growth of a mesothelioma that can't be removed using surgery. Chemotherapy may also be used before surgery to make an operation easier or after surgery to reduce the chance that cancer will return.
Chemotherapy drugs may also be heated and administered directly into the abdominal cavity of peritoneal mesothelioma, or into the chest cavity in the case of pleural mesothelioma.
Surgeons work to remove mesothelioma when it's diagnosed at an early stage. Sometimes it isn't possible to remove all of the cancer. In those cases, surgery may help to reduce the signs and symptoms caused by mesothelioma spreading in your body. In some cases this may cure the cancer.
Surgical options may include:
Surgery to decrease fluid buildup where a tube or catheter is inserted into the patient’s chest to drain the fluid. Doctors may also inject medicine into the patient’s chest to prevent fluid from returning.
Surgery to remove the tissue around the lungs or abdomen won’t cure mesothelioma, but may relieve signs and symptoms.
Surgery to remove as much of the cancer as possible allows doctors to more accurately direct radiation treatments to relieve pain and fluid buildup caused by mesothelioma.
Surgery to remove a lung and the surrounding tissue may relieve signs and symptoms of pleural mesothelioma. If you'll be receiving radiation therapy to the affected area after surgery, this procedure will allow the doctors to use higher doses, without the worry of protecting your lung from damaging radiation.