Medical Treatment Options

If you or a family member have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestos-induced lung cancer or asbestosis, the first priority is to make sure you receive the best medical care.

Mesothelioma: Treatment Options

In the last ten years, treatment options for people diagnosed with mesothelioma have advanced. The University of Chicago Medical Center is one of the leading hospitals in the world for mesothelioma treatment and research.

While there is no cure for mesothelioma, treatment programs will vary depending on factors specific to each patient, such as the cell-type and location of the cancer, whether the cancer has spread, the patient’s age and health before the diagnosis, and the way in which an individual wishes to proceed.

Typically, there are three traditional kinds of treatment for patients with cancer, including those with malignant mesothelioma:

• Surgery for mesothelioma involves removing the tumor and often some areas of the body not yet affected by the tumor to prevent a recurrence of the cancer. Sometimes surgeons refer to “de-bulking” surgery, which is a removal of a portion of the cancerous tissue. De-bulking surgery, in combination with chemotherapy/radiation, has proved successful according to some physicians. Due to the risks involved, surgery may not always be an option or even the best option for every person.

• Radiation Therapy is targeted at killing the actual cancer cells to reduce the size of the tumor and prevent further growth. This therapy can also be done after surgery to prevent a relapse.

• Chemotherapy involves the use of anti-cancer drugs which are used in different combinations. In recent years, some physicians have administered chemotherapy during surgical treatment for mesothelioma.

Some chemotherapy drugs have been used for years, while others may be experimental drugs specifically designed for mesothelioma. Like radiation therapy, chemotherapy can be used in combination with surgery (before, during or after surgery) or in place of surgery.

Doctors have recently found that the best results may often be obtained by using surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy together. This is called a tri-modality approach.

Again, the use of these treatments should be discussed with your medical provider to find out the best option for you. According to the University of Chicago, new chemotherapy regimens can shrink mesothelioma tumors, decrease symptoms, and prolong a person’s life.

Lung Cancer Treatment

Like mesothelioma, the treatment for lung cancer will vary depending on a number of factors. Surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy are also used in treating lung cancer.

Recent research has shown that the size of the tumor may be a key factor in determining the best treatment option. If the tumor is localized and smaller in size, the scope of the surgery can be reduced.

Lung cancer surgeries include a pneumonectomy (a removal of an entire lung), a lobectomy (which is a removal of the affected lobe of the lung), a segmentectomy (which is a removal of a portion of the lobe) and a wedge resection (which is a removal of a triangular or smaller section of the lung). VATS refers to “video-assisted thoracic surgery,” which has been seen to be a less invasive procedure in some cases.

Asbestosis Treatment

Though there are no direct medical treatment options to combat asbestosis, it is advisable to get regular pulmonary function or breathing tests. These tests should include measurements for Total Lung Capacity (TLC) and Diffusing Capacity (DLCO).

These measurements, which show how much air your lungs can hold (TLC) and how well the lungs can get oxygen into the bloodstream (DLCO), provide lung doctors (pulmonologists) with a more complete picture of the disease.

Also, with an exercise test on a treadmill or an exercise bicycle, doctors can measure the oxygen content of your blood, which is a benchmark for how the lungs are performing.

Breathing tests or pulmonary function tests may be able to assess whether asbestos exposure has impaired your lungs (restrictive impairment) or whether exposure to cigarette smoke caused the impairment (obstructive impairment). Some people have a combination of an asbestos-induced and a smoking-induced breathing problem.

A pulmonologist trained in the asbestos-related diseases should be consulted to review an individual’s breathing tests.

Links for More Information

To assist you with gathering more information about your treatment options, we have provided you with some helpful links:

University of Chicago Cancer Research Center Mesothelioma Site

American Cancer Society: Mesothelioma

National Cancer Institute: Mesothelioma

Mayo Clinic: Mesothelioma

Dick Gaylord

Dick Gaylord, a Local 17 Asbestos Worker from Peoria, at work at an Illinois Powerhouse in the late 1950’s.

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