Mesothelioma is a cancer that attacks the mesothelium, which is the protective lining surrounding the heart, lungs, and other internal organs. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer, but its most common cause is prolonged exposure to inhaled asbestos, which can result in pleural mesothelioma, or a cancer attacking the lining around the lungs.
Like any other cancer, mesothelioma is generally treated using surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of these approaches. When it is caught at an early stage, mesothelioma has a much better chance of being treated successfully, but complete cures are rare because of many factors, including the ease with which cancerous tissue can metastasize.
Surgery on its own generally cannot prolong survival for long; one study found it only lengthened lifespan by about 11.7 months. It is more successful when combined with radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Usually, surgery for mesothelioma involves a pleurectomy, which is removal of the lining of the chest. Occasionally, a part of the lung and/or diaphragm may be removed as well.
Radiation therapy is often administered after therapy or to patients with extremely localized mesothelioma. Radiation therapy is applied to the thoracic area on the side where the disease is found, and may be given in conjunction with chemotherapy. Some patients can survive for up to 5 years following this combination of approaches. Radiation therapy may also target the site of a chest drain, since cancerous cells find it easy to begin propagating near these tubes. Radiation therapy is also given to lessen the symptoms of advanced cancer, including the blockage of blood vessels.
Chemotherapy is the most successful treatment out of the three when considering non-combinatorial approaches. A combination of cisplatin and pemexetred is often administered to patients, following a study that found it could increase survival time by 10 to 13 months. In order to counteract potential side effects of chemotherapy, folic acid and Vitamin B12 supplements are often given in conjunction with the medications. This can help reduce the nausea, vomiting, stomach inflammation, and diarrhea that often accompanies chemotherapy treatment.
Immunotherapy may be a future treatment for mesothelioma, since studies have shown that interleukin-2 therapy has rendered the cancerous cells able to be killed by an immune response. In some cases people had their tumors reduced by up to 50 percent. However, due to major side effects, immunotherapy has not become a widespread practice yet.