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Mesothelioma Help Center - Asbestos Treatment

There is no certain cure for Asbestos, but medical researchers have recently developed procedures that can slow the progress of the disease and extend, with quality, the lives of some of those suffering from it.

Below are brief summaries of the available treatment options.

Tri-modality Therapy - Asbestos Treatment

Tri-modality therapy combines surgery with radiation and chemotherapy. It is being performed at major medical centers including:

Brigham and Women's in Boston
Mount Sinai in New York

M.D. Anderson in Houston
UCLA in Los Angeles
UCSF in San Francisco

Surgery - Asbestos Treatment

In the past several years, surgery has become an important tool for treating mesothelioma. Here are some surgical procedures doctors use to treat mesothelioma:

  • Pneumonectomy, the surgical removal of a lung. It can be performed in one of two ways:
  • Traditional pneumonectomy — only the diseased lung is removed.
  • Extrapleural pneumonectomy — the diseased lung is removed, together with the pleura, the diaphragm, and the pericardium, to remove as much of the tumor as possible.

Pleurectomy - Asbestos Treatment

The pleura is removed. This is a palliative procedure, which means it is done to make the patient feel better more than to cure the disease.

These surgeries are accompanied by intra-operative radiation and multi-cycle post-operative chemotherapy. These are not considered experimental procedures and should be covered by insurance and Medicaid. Paul, Hanley & Harley, LLP will be happy to work with you and your primary care physician should you need more detailed information and to refer you to one of the surgeons performing this procedure.

Radiation Therapy - Asbestos Treatment

Radiation therapy uses high dose radiation (X rays) to shrink the tumor by destroying cells at the tumor site. Once the size of tumor is reduced, the patient may feel better and be able to breathe more deeply. Radiation may also keep the cancer from spreading to other parts of the body. Side effects of radiation can include tiredness, skin rashes, and internal mucosa (throat) irritation or hoarseness.

Chemotherapy - Asbestos Treatment

Chemotherapy agents are medicines that kill cancer cells. They may be used on their own, before or after surgery, or along with radiation. Chemotherapy is especially used instead of surgery when a tumor is inoperable. To get chemotherapy, the patient usually goes to the doctor’s office or the hospital, where they are either given medicine to take orally, or they are given the medicine through an IV tube.

Side effects are common, and they include nausea, vomiting, weakness and fatigue. The efficacy of chemotherapy as a single agent in the treatment of malignant mesothelioma has been limited.

Chemotherapy Clinical Trials - Asbestos Treatment

Clinical trials (also called medical research and research studies) are research studies used to determine whether new drugs or treatments are both safe and effective. If you take part in a clinical trial, you might be given new medicines or other experimental treatments before they are widely available.

There are many clinical trials of new and combination chemotherapy agents in process around the country.

Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) - Asbestos Treatment

This is a highly experimental treatment using a drug that causes cells to become light sensitive. The drug is applied or injected and attaches itself to the tumor. Then the doctor uses fiber optics to focus intense light on the tumor, killing the tumor cells. This may be able to destroy the whole tumor or residual tumor not reached during surgery. However, keep in mind that the procedure is still under investigation.

Gene Therapy - Asbestos Treatment

Gene therapy is still being researched and is not yet easily available. Researchers are manipulating genes to make them more susceptible to certain anti-cancer drugs. It is possible that this therapy will destroy tumor cells while preserving healthy cells.

Did you know?

Mesothelioma is more treatable when diagnosed early.

Mesothelioma Treatment Options

There are three treatments for all patients with malignant mesothelioma.

  • surgery (taking out the cancer)
  • radiation therapy (using high-dose x-rays or other high-energy rays to kill cancer cells)
  • chemotherapy (using drugs to fight the cancer)

Mesothelioma Treatment Options

Surgery is a common treatment of malignant mesothelioma. The doctor may remove part of the lining of the chest or abdomen and some of the tissue around it. Depending on how far the cancer has spread, a lung also may be removed in an operation called a pneumonectomy. Sometimes part of the diaphragm, the muscle below the lungs that helps with breathing, is also removed.

Mesothelioma Treatment Options

Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external radiation therapy) or from putting materials that produce radiation (radioisotopes) through thin plastic tubes in the area where the cancer cells are found (internal radiation therapy).

If fluid has collected in the chest or abdomen, the doctor may drain the fluid out of the body by putting a needle into the chest or abdomen and using gentle suction to remove the fluid. If fluid is removed from the chest, this is called thoracentesis. If fluid is removed from the abdomen, this is called paracentesis. The doctor may also put drugs through a tube into the chest to prevent more fluid from accumulating.

Mesothelioma Treatment Options

Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be taken by pill, or it may be put into the body by a needle in the vein or muscle. Chemotherapy is called a systemic treatment because the drug enters the bloodstream, travels through the body, and can kill cancer cells throughout the body. In mesothelioma, chemotherapy may be put directly into the chest (intrapleural chemotherapy).
Intraoperative photodynamic therapy is a new type of treatment that uses special drugs and light to kill cancer cells during surgery. A drug that makes cancer cells more sensitive to light is injected into a vein several days before surgery. During surgery to remove as much of the cancer as possible, a special light is used to shine on the pleura. This treatment is being studied for early stages of mesothelioma in the chest.

Mesothelioma Treatment Options

Treatment by Stage - Treatment depends on where the cancer is, how far it has spread, and the patient's age and general health. Standard treatment may be considered because of its effectiveness in patients in past studies, or participation in a clinical trial may be considered. Not all patients are cured with standard therapy and some standard treatments may have more side effects than are desired. For these reasons, clinical trials are designed to find better ways to treat cancer patients and are based on the most up-to-date information. Clinical trials are ongoing in many parts of the country for many patients with malignant mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma Treatment Options

Drugs / Medications
ALIMTA [ (pemetrexed) is now available on expanded access basis. ALIMTA will be available on an expanded access use for people with malignant pleural mesothelioma, a cancer usually associated with exposure to asbestos. As of July 9, 2002 the Food and Drug Administration agreed to place ALIMTA in an expanded access program, which gives patients access to an agent that isn't yet commercially available, although the sponsor is actively pursuing marketing approval. Eli Lilly is pursuing approval of ALIMTA in combination with cisplatin for the treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma, a disease that causes tumors to grow in the linings of the lung, or pleura. Patients live an average of six to nine months following diagnosis. The company said results of a Phase III trial showed that patients treated with ALIMTA and cisplatin combined lived longer and had less pain and shortness of breath, than patients treated with cisplatin alone. In the trial, the most common side effect from cisplatin and ALIMTA was a decrease in infection- fighting white blood cells. Under the expanded access program, ALIMTA will be given free of charge to patients who meet medical eligibility requirements.

L-NDDP (aroplatin). Intrapleural administration is intended to exceed the usefulness of other platinum drugs like Cisplatin that are limited by toxicity and drug resistance.

Endostatin. Has been shown to inhibit a tumor's ability to grow blood vessels without destroying normal healthy cells. Works with angiostatin. Lovastatin. A cholesterol drug shown to potentially inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

Intrapleural interferon gamma. The anti-cancer drug, Interferon Gamma is directly administered into the affected area.

Photodynamic therapy. Light energy is used to destroy cancer cells. Immunotherapy. Focuses on strengthening the immune system to assist the body in fighting the disease.

Gene Therapy. Focuses on pinpointing and correcting the genetic defect that first allowed the tumor to develop.

With new clinical trials being introduced on a regular basis, there are a variety of mesothelioma treatments being used on mesothelioma patients today. The mesothelioma treatment used is dependant upon a variety of factors, including the extent of the disease, the age and medical history of the patient, and the location and type of the mesothelioma in each patient.

Mesothelioma Quick Facts:

  • About 4,000 People die from Mesothelioma every year, the rare cancer caused by asbestos exposure.
  • There are currently about 3000 new cases of Mesothelioma diagnosed per year, mostly in men over the age of 40.
  • It is estimated that 27.5 million Americans were exposed to asbestos between 1940 and 1979.
  • Mesothelioma has a latency period of 20 to 50 years after the first exposure to asbestos.
  • It is estimated that there will be about 250,000 cases of Mesothelioma before 2020.
  • Through 2003, more than 700,000 People have filed claims against more than 6,000 Asbestos companies. These same companies knew of the dangers for many years before ever warning the public of those risks.
  • During the 20th century, some 30 million tons of asbestos were used in industrial sites, homes, schools, shipyards and commercial buildings in the United States.
  • Many asbestos-containing products remain in buildings, ships, industrial facilities and other environments where the fibers can become airborne.
  • Statistics from the National Cancer Institute show that around 3000 cases of this malignant mesothelioma are reported each year in the United States, and this figure is on the increase.
  • It is thought that around eight million people in the United States have been exposed to asbestos over the past half a century, and many more cases - are expected to be reported in the next 25 years.
  • The first known asbestos lawsuit was in 1929 in New Jersey.
  • Over 2,100 people were diagnosed with mesothelioma in the UK in 2003.

Did you know?
It is estimated that 27.5 million Americans were exposed to asbestos between 1940 and 1979.

Mesothelioma Asbestos

There are three most commonly used types of asbestos: white, brown, and blue. Brown and blue asbestos are most commonly associated with mesothelioma.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that has been used for centuries in various products. Asbestos has many attributes that make it valuable, including fire resistance.

Asbestos was used in many products that were made for protection from heat and flame. This included actual clothing, such as gloves, to stuffing asbestos insulation into electrical conduit, to using asbestos to make fire proof cloth for use in power plants or petroleum refineries.

Asbestos also has excellent insulation and noise deadening qualities. This meant that asbestos was used in many construction products, including floor and ceiling tiles and wall board. Any home built before 1978 probably contains asbestos somewhere.

Asbestos exposure occurs when the asbestos that is in the products becomes damaged. Once damaged, the asbestos fibers are released into the air. The fibers are microscopic, smaller even than a grain of pollen, and invisible to the naked eye. The asbestos fibers, if inhaled or ingested, can become lodged into the body where it can create severe medical problems.

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Mesothelioma Symptoms

The most common Mesothelioma symptoms are the following:

Recent onset of shortness of breath (31%)
Recent increase in shortness of breath (30%)
Chest pain (43%)
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