While tremendous advancements have been made in recent years in the treatment and control of mesothelioma, there is still no curative therapy for the disease. Mesothelioma is treated in a number of different ways, but most often through some combination of chemotherapy and radiation. If diagnosed in its early stages however, mesothelioma patients may be eligible for surgery. Surgery, in this case, provides the most favorable prognosis for mesothelioma patients.
Surgical resection of mesothelioma is similar to that of lung cancers. Pneumoectomy is the removal of a portion or entire lung. While the lung is not actually where the cancer occurs, the lung is within the affected area and must be removed (wholly or partially) for surgery to be successful. Mesothelioma actually occurs in the lining of the lung and abdominal cavity, known as the mesothelium. Typically patients who are eligible for surgery will be diagnosed with mesothelioma that is confined and localized within these areas. Once the disease begins to metastasize to other areas of the body, surgery is typically no longer an option and the disease will be treated aggressively with chemotherapeutic drugs and radiation therapy.
Among the more exciting advancements in recent years has been the research and trials performed by Dr. David Sugarbaker in tri-modal mesothelioma treatment. This treatment involves an extensive and aggressive surgical procedure known as the extra-pleural pneumonectomy. This surgery is intended to completely remove the disease from the body by both removing the existing tumor as well as areas in which the disease may manifest in the future. The procedure involves the removal of the entire affected lung, the pericardium (mesothelial lining of the heart), the peritoneum (mesothelial lining of the abdomen), and the diaphragm. Once the organs are resected, the entire area is treated with contact chemotherapy directly on the tissue surface, allowing for a more potent and direct delivery of the agent. The diaphragm is then reconstructed with prosthetic material.
Surgery is almost often followed after a period of time with some conjunctive radiation or chemotherapy. These treatments ensure the disease will be controlled for an extended period of time. It should be reiterated that no treatment represents a cure for mesothelioma. However, patients who have emerged from aggressive surgical procedures in good health have, in recent years particularly, lived long beyond initial prognoses. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma and would like information about which treatments you’re eligible for, please complete the information form on this page and we’ll send you a complimentary mesothelioma treatment information kid to review.
- Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston MA. Dr. David Sugarbaker. Cardiothoracic Surgery. Physician Profile.
- American Cancer Society: "How is Malignant Mesothelioma Diagnosed". http://www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_4_3X_How_is_malignant_mesothelioma_diagnosed_29.asp?rnav=cri
Last modified: February 15, 2010.