Standard treatments for malignant mesothelioma include surgery and chemotherapy.
Multimodal therapy is often most recommended for treating mesothelioma.
Emerging therapies for mesothelioma may be considered if standard treatments are not an option or do not help.
Palliative treatments help reduce symptoms of mesothelioma.
Thousands of people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year, leading many patients and families down a difficult path of determining a treatment plan. With a very poor prognosis, the life expectancy for malignant mesothelioma patients can range from as little as a few months to around a year, challenging treatment options. However, with continued research and advances in cancer studies, there is hope for boosting the efficacy of treatments and finding new methods that may one day lead to a cure.
Establishing A Mesothelioma Treatment Plan
After diagnosis and initial testing, mesothelioma patients will need to develop a treatment plan. A treatment plan can offer cancer patients and their families peace of mind, outlining viable treatment options, a general timeline of treatment frequencies and establishing a medical care team.
The medical care teams dedicated to providing mesothelioma help are composed of many different people, which could include:
- The patient
- Friends and/or family members
- Facility nurses
- Social worker
- Psychiatrist or psychologist
- Nutritionists and dieticians
- Hospice or home care
Together, members of the healthcare team will make informed decisions regarding what’s best for the patient’s mental, physical and emotional health and well-being.
Mesothelioma Cancer Centers & Mesothelioma Specialists
Mesothelioma is a very rare type of cancer, and not all physicians are well-versed in the disease and its treatment options. For many patients, the best option for their healthcare is to travel to a cancer institute where they can seek professional and experienced care from a mesothelioma specialist. When researching renowned clinics and doctors, patients may find physicians that specialize specifically in malignant pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma or pericardial mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma Treatment Options
It is difficult to “cure” a patient of mesothelioma. Standard cancer therapies offer limited benefit overall for mesothelioma when compared to other more treatable types of cancer. When looking at the standard of care for mesothelioma patients, treatments include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
Multimodal treatment, or a combination of several standard treatment options together or paired with emerging treatments, are commonly recommended for any type of mesothelioma. For peritoneal mesothelioma, one of the most successful multimodal approaches is surgery with HIPEC, a form of intraoperative chemotherapy.
Mesothelioma Clinical Trials and Emerging Treatments
Emerging treatments and clinical trials offer much promise, with new options like immunotherapy showing success in treating malignant mesothelioma. Clinical trials allow physicians to test the efficacy of new treatment options, while patients are able to try something new if their cancer is unresponsive to traditional treatments.
Examples of current experimental therapies include:
- Gene therapy
- Epigenetic therapy
- Photodynamic therapy
- Mesothelioma virotherapy
Mesothelioma Palliative Care
Mesothelioma treatment is not straight-forward and could be limited depending on overall patient health, staging, cell type and the type of mesothelioma. Curative treatment options may not be viable for patients, limiting them to palliative care.
When palliative care may be the main course of treatment:
- Poor overall health: Patients with poor health will have a weakened immune system, unable to withstand the side effects of aggressive treatments like chemotherapy, which can damage both cancerous and healthy cells.
- Late stage diagnoses: Patients diagnosed early on have more options for treatment, whereas those diagnosed at stage 3 or stage 4 are often limited to palliative care as the cancer has metastasized to the lymph nodes and distant organs.
- Aggressive cell type or cancer type: Sarcomatoid mesothelioma is often more aggressive and difficult to treat than epithelioid, similar to some rare cell types with poor prognosis.
Palliative care options focus on limiting or eliminating symptoms, instead of targeting the cancer itself. This could be as simple as occupational therapy or as complex as a surgical procedure.
Mesothelioma Treatment Costs
Insurance plans will often cover some medical costs of cancer treatment. However, insurance limitations, loss of income from being out of work, a need for home care assistance and other fees can lead to a growing financial burden. Patients and their families should establish a financial plan to better understand all costs associated with mesothelioma treatment.
Mesothelioma victims or their loved ones may also be eligible for compensation to help pay for treatment. Options may be veterans’ benefits, compensation through a mesothelioma and asbestos lawsuit or workers’ compensation. Ideally, patients will be able to determine a financial plan to accommodate all costs associated with getting the best treatment and care possible.