Mesothelioma is a form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. It is very difficult to treat, and at this time there is no known cure. Early detection is the key to surviving mesothelioma. If you have any reason to suspect that you may be in the early stages of mesothelioma, you should get tested right away, even if there is only an outside chance that you may have it. Mesothelioma is an incredibly painful disease, and pain management makes up a large portion of treatment. Mesothelioma can also have a significant psychological impact on its victims and their loved ones. Because it is deadly, very painful, and entirely preventable, it is often accompanied by severe anger and depression.
Most patients who are diagnosed with mesothelioma are told they have about one year to live. New treatments are being researched every day. Because mesothelioma is difficult and expensive to treat, many patients choose to participate in clinical trials in order to have access to the most advanced treatment options. With the right treatment and when the cancer is detected and treated early, many patients can survive for five years or more.
Traditional mesothelioma treatments
Traditional mesothelioma treatments are rarely used alone. They are combined in what is referred to as multimodality treatments. The three standard treatments for mesothelioma are:
These treatments are used in various combinations, and surgery is almost always involved. Typically, chemotherapy is administered first to slow or stop the growth of the cancer, surgery is then performed to remove the tumor or cancerous mass, and radiation is used after surgery to destroy any remaining cancerous cells. So far, this has not been successful in eradicating mesothelioma entirely, but combining the three treatments is very effective and can greatly lengthen a person’s life. Unfortunately, all of these treatments have their own risks and drawbacks. Chemotherapy can significantly reduce a patient’s quality of life.
Experimental mesothelioma treatments
New drugs and new types of treatments are currently being researched, and some are very promising. Experimental treatments may seem risky, but with little chance for long-term survival when using traditional treatments, they may be a mesothelioma patient’s best hope.
- Alimta – an anticancer drug which blocks enzymes thought to speed the growth of tumors.
- Immunotherapy – provokes the body’s immune system to recognize and attack mesothelioma cells.
- Gene therapy – used to attack certain genes which cause tumors to form or to replace damaged or missing genes which suppress tumor growth.
- Photodynamic therapy – uses a drug and a special light which interact to kill the cancerous cells.
Alternative mesothelioma treatments
Alternative treatments for mesothelioma typically focus on pain management, establishing a sense of well-being, and improving general overall health. In addition to the cancer itself, treatments such as chemotherapy, can have very unpleasant, uncomfortable and damaging side effects. Improving overall health can help the body fight the cancer and withstand the treatments. Alternative, or complimentary, treatments for mesothelioma include:
- Massage therapy
- Nutritional support
- Coenzyme Q10
- Shitake mushrooms
Some of these treatments, such as acupuncture and biofeedback address pain. Others, including shitake mushrooms and coenzyme Q10, actually help fight the cancer itself.