Treatment

There is no cure for mesothelioma, but treatments are available to slow its spread and reduce symptoms.

Receiving a mesothelioma cancer diagnosis is difficult. Because the disease has such an aggressive malignancy, the discussion of treatment with one’s primary oncologist, family members, and loved ones is important. Nearly all mesothelioma patients have treatment options – be they curative or palliative that can extend survival, alleviate pain, and increase quality of life.

Each mesothelioma case is considered individually and there is no singular prescribed roadmap for the management of malignant mesothelioma. What’s best for each individual patient will depend on any number of factors. Diagnostic procedures such as x-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and biopsies will be used to determine these factors and these tests will assist your primary care physician and/or oncologist in determining the best treatment for the individual and their particular circumstances.

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Treatment Timeline

Patients should work with their doctors to create a detailed treatment plan. While each patient’s mesothelioma treatment schedule will differ according to their individual situation, they will often include the general steps provided in the timeline below.

  • Diagnosis

    The first step is a mesothelioma diagnosis, which often includes ruling out other forms of cancer, such as adenocarcinoma, or ailments like asbestosis.

  • Testing

    After diagnosis, testing will help specialists determine what stage the mesothelioma is at, and provide useful insights about which treatments may be most effective. This stage may include taking a biopsy of the cancerous tumor(s).

  • Treatment Plan

    Once the tests are done, mesothelioma patients and doctors will consult with each other to determine the best course of action in accordance with the patient’s wishes.

  • Neoadjuvant Treatment

    Before the primary treatment, a preliminary treatment may be given to shrink the mesothelioma tumor or reduce the amount of cancer in the body, in an attempt to make the primary treatment more effective.

  • Primary Treatment

    The primary treatment may be surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or some form of emerging treatment, to provide the most effective attempt to meet treatment goals.

  • Adjuvant Treatment

    After the primary treatment is administered, an adjuvant treatment may be required to enhance the effectiveness of the primary treatment and help with recovery and survivorship.

  • Recovery

    Given the invasive and taxing nature of cancer treatments, there will be a period of recovery. Recovery may also take place between various phases of treatment.

  • Follow-Up

    After treatment and recovery, mesothelioma survivors will continue to have follow-up visits with their primary care doctors and specialists to assess the effectiveness of the treatments and watch for any signs of recurrence.

Treatment Types

Cancer treatment focuses on destroying malignant cells and preserving healthy ones.

Currently, there are three primary treatments used to fight cancer: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. These forms of treatment, used individually or in combination, are considered the most effective therapies to employ in treating malignant mesothelioma.

Treatment Options

Emerging and Experimental Treatments

Emerging and Experimental Treatments

Scientists and doctors are continuously researching innovative and more effective options to treat, and hopefully one day cure, deadly cancers like mesothelioma. Some of these methods involve adapting techniques used to fight other forms of cancer to the particular needs of mesothelioma patients, while other forms of treatment target mesothelioma-specific problems. Clinical trials are being conducted that focus on every aspect of treating mesothelioma, from earlier detection and diagnosis—which allows more treatment options and improves prognosis—to enhancing patients’ quality of life, extending survivorship, and preventing remission.

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New Mesothelioma Treatments

Immunotherapy // Kick-starts the immune system to fight cancer

Gene Therapy // Fixes genetic issues from which cancer develops

p53 Restorative Drugs // Restores a protein that repairs DNA

Epigenetic Therapy // Enables anticancer mechanisms in the epigenome

Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) // Uses light to trigger a chemical reaction that kills cancer cells

Multimodal Therapy

Multimodal Therapy

Multimodal therapy combines multiple forms of treatment (“modalities”) to improve a mesothelioma patient’s chances of long-term survival.

The most common form of multimodal therapy is trimodal therapy, which uses a three-step treatment plan using neoadjuvant therapy, primary therapy, and adjuvant therapy. Trimodal therapy often uses surgery as the primary treatment, with chemotherapy and radiation used in the neoadjuvant or adjuvant stages. However, the actual treatment plan followed depends on many factors, including the patient’s diagnosis, age, overall health, and the stage of the cancer.

Emerging treatments may also be used as part of a multimodal therapy approach.

Multimodal Therapy »

Treatment Order

Neoadjuvant Therapy // Treatment given before the primary therapy to improve results.

Primary Therapy // The main course of treatment for mesothelioma (often surgery).

Adjuvant Therapy // Additional treatments to alleviate symptoms and protect against remission.

Curative vs. Palliative Treatment

Curative vs. Palliative Treatment

The treatment plan for mesothelioma patients can differ significantly based on whether their diagnosis calls for curative or palliative treatment.

Curative treatments are anticancer therapies that aim to completely eradicate the disease from the body. Due to their aggressive nature, curative treatments are often reserved for mesothelioma patients who are younger, in relatively good health, and whose cancer is diagnosed at an early stage.

Palliative treatments are designed to help reduce the amount of pain and discomfort caused by the symptoms mesothelioma. While the same methods may be used as with curative treatments—including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation—the intent in using them is to make terminally ill patients more comfortable, rather than to completely remove the cancer.

Factors That Affect Treatment

  • The type of mesothelioma
  • The stage of the cancer
  • The location and size of the tumor(s)
  • The degree to which the cancer has metastasized
  • The age and overall health of the patient
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Mesothelioma Doctors and Cancer Centers

Find mesothelioma specialists and cancer clinics for top treatment.

Mesothelioma Clinics

Across the country, there are many cancer centers that focus specifically on treating mesothelioma. In addition to providing traditional treatments like surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, these clinics are continually conducting research and experimental trials to develop future treatment options.

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Mesothelioma Doctors

After being diagnosed with mesothelioma, patients are often referred to a specialist who has experience in treating the disease. The majority of mesothelioma doctors are thoracic specialists who have expertise on cancers of the lungs, chest, and esophagus. However, you may need to find other specialists, depending on your specific situation.

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Paying for Treatment

Cancer treatment can be expensive. Know your financial options to plan for the best care available.

Upon receiving a diagnosis of cancer, a mesothelioma patient is often confronted with a number of thoughts—and usually at least one of those is about money. How can I afford treatment? How will I be able to pay for all my own needs, as well as those of my family? How will I be able to make ends meet? Even patients who have health insurance can quickly find the expenses piling up, especially if they have to leave work and experience a loss of income during their treatment and recovery.

While there are some financial assistance programs that can help mesothelioma patients pay for certain aspects of treatment and ongoing care, they are far apart and often only cover a small portion of costs. Because mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure, patients or their families may also be eligible to receive compensation from asbestos trust funds or a settlement from the companies responsible for the exposure. Talking to an experienced lawyer about your financial options may be the best way to ease your mind on the financial front when battling cancer.

Common Treatment-Related Costs

  • Doctors’ visits (primary care and specialists)
  • Testing and procedure fees
  • Prescriptions
  • Travel to clinics/treatment centers
  • Lodging and food for patient and family members while traveling
  • Home care or other assistance
  • Ongoing bills and services