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Mesothelioma: Treatments and options

Malignant mesothelioma is a dangerous form of cancer. Many people die from this cancer, as it's usually not curable. There are some treatments that can give patients their best shot at successfully eliminating symptoms or extending their lives.

Every patient who develops mesothelioma will learn about four primary types of treatment. These include:

  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Surgery
  • Targeted therapy

They may also be taught about newer kinds of treatments, like biologic therapy, which is still in clinical trials as of 2018.

How do you decide on the kind of treatment to use?

The first thing medical providers look at is the extent of disease in the body. If the mesothelioma has not yet spread throughout the body, then there is a better chance to treat it. For instance, stage 1 patients may have few or no symptoms and relatively small areas of their lungs, abdomen or other parts of the body affected. A simple surgery, radiation therapy or other treatment might be enough to eliminate this mesothelioma and potentially prevent it from coming back.

On the other hand, a patient with stage 3 mesothelioma is likely already struggling with serious symptoms and needs more significant help to relieve those symptoms. Surgery might help reduce pain or symptoms if the cancer is only in one lung, for instance, since that organ could be removed. On the other hand, if the cancer has spread significantly, then chemotherapy or other treatments might be more effective. Each patient will have a unique treatment plan designed for them by their medical care providers.

What can patients do if the treatments don't work well?

There is always hope in clinical trials, which take place all the time. Clinical trial information can be found on the National Cancer Institute's website. Sometimes, these trials allow for human trials, so patients with unique forms of disease or specific circumstances can try new drugs or techniques to relieve their pain or to remove the cancer from their bodies.

Mesothelioma is a terminal illness, and most people will suffer from it until their deaths. While it doesn't usually emerge until 20 or 30 years after exposure, it can create a sudden shock for patients who did not know they were being exposed to dangerous asbestos. It's important to hold the employers who exposed you to asbestos responsible for the situation you're in today. Many people are able to have their medical care and other needs provided for by doing so.

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