Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma – The 3 Main Types

In general, mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer. Different types of mesothelioma are distinguished between by where the cancer is growing. Pleural mesothelioma, the most common, accounting for 75% of all mesothelioma cases, is where cancerous cells develop on the lining of the lungs. The next most common form of mesothelioma is peritoneal mesothelioma and this is where cancerous cells grow on the peritoneum which is the lining of the abdomen. Pericardial mesothelioma, the least common major form of mesothelioma, makes up roughly 5% of all mesothelioma cases. This is where malignant cancer cells grow on the lining of the heart.

3 types of mesothelioma

All three of these forms of mesothelioma are caused by asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral that was discovered around the 1860s. Due to its highly useful property of being fireproof, asbestos was used greatly in construction in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. It was not until the early 1960s when the severe health hazards that asbestos causes were discovered, that asbestos stopped being used. When exposed to asbestos with insufficient protection a person will breathe in tiny asbestos fibres which are suspended in the air. These fibres pass into the respiratory system until they become lodged in the lining of the lungs. Over time, an accumulation of these asbestos fibres in the lungs can cause pleural mesothelioma. Asbestos fibres may also pass into the lymphatic system and be transported to either the lining of the abdomen or the tissue surrounding the heart. This may cause either peritoneal mesothelioma or pericardial mesothelioma.

In terms of symptoms, the three main types of mesothelioma have some symptoms in common with each other. These symptoms are usual of all three types: chest pain, shortness of breath, coughing, coughing up blood, vomiting, nausea, weight loss and loss of appetite. An additional symptom of pericardial mesothelioma is palpitations.

There are a few treatments for all types of mesothelioma but none of these have a high success rate. The effectiveness of the treatment depends on how early and how aggressively the cancer is treated. If the cancerous cells are treated when they have fully matured and developed then it is unlikely that treatment methods will be successful. Treatment methods include chemotherapy which is the use of drugs to kill the cancer, radiation therapy which uses a radiation dosage to kill off cancerous cells and surgery which attempts to gain long term control over the cancer by removing a large portion of malignant cells. These treatment methods can be combined in the form of dual therapy.

Pleural Mesothelioma (Lungs)
Peritoneal Mesothelioma (Abdomen)
Pericardial Mesothelioma (Heart)
Epithelioid Mesothelioma
Sarcomatoid Mesothelioma
Biphasic Mesothelioma
Malignant Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma – The 3 Main Types
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10 Options in Treating Mesothelioma

As with any cancer, treatment for Mesothelioma depends on the location of the cancer, the progression of the disease, the age as well as state of health of the patient.

It is the oncologist who specializes in the disease who will decide on the line of treatment. The disease is difficult to treat and in most cases the prognosis is poor.

Top 10 Mesothelioma Treatment options include:

1. If the diagnosis is done in the early stages surgery may be recommended to remove all cancerous tissues. This means thoracoscopy, VATS or video assisted thoracic surgery, mediastinoscopy (used for staging), or laparoscopy. Often, doctors will advise palliative procedures like chest tube drainage and pleurodesis, thoracoscopy and pleurodesis, pleuroperitoneal shunt, or pleurectomy, which treat the symptoms of mesothelioma rather than the disease.

2. Radiation is prescribed aggressively for mesothelioma patients and is often given in combination with surgery or in order to control symptoms, palliatively. Research on using radiation therapy using implants or UV light therapy is in progress as traditional radiation therapy damages surrounding healthy tissue.

3. Chemotherapy is an option and around 12-20% of patients respond to the drugs. Anti-cancer drugs destroy cancer cells and prevent their spread. In mesothelioma, chemotherapy is not considered to be curative. The aim is to prevent spread of the disease; shrink the tumor prior to surgery, known as neoadjuvant therapy; to annihilate any remains of the tumor in the body post surgery; and to relieve pain and other discomfort, palliative chemotherapy. Experts recommend prescribing pemetrexed along with cisplatin. These drugs have shown positive results and this is now standard care for Mesothelioma not treatable by surgery.

4. Biological therapy using interleukin 2.

5. Immunotherapy where the body’s own immune system is stimulated to fight the disease. Biological response modifiers, BRMs, are used in treatment. These enhance the functions of the immune system; regulate metabolic reactions that promote growth of cancers; alter cancer cell division; block or reverse processes that lead to formation of cancers; and prevent spread of cancer.

6. Gene therapy, where attempts are made to correct the gene sequence that causes the cancer. This is of two kinds, replacement gene therapy and knockout gene therapy.

7. Administration of lovastatin, a cholesterol lowering drug.

8. Photodynamic treatment where a photosensitive medication is activated using a laser. This is done during the surgical removal of cancerous tissues.

9. Draining of fluid in the chest or abdominal cavity followed by introduction of medications into the cavity to prevent fluid accumulation is done for patients who have uncontrolled fluid accumulation and intense discomfort stemming from it.

10. Combination therapy or Trimodal therapy which means surgery accompanied by radiation and chemotherapy.

Often, complementary medicines are also used. Termed to be holistic this kind of treatment focuses on a patient’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well being.

In the case of Mesothelioma Cancer which is untreatable one can opt for clinical trials of new treatments that are in progress in several research laboratories and centers. The best advice on the line of treatment would be that recommended by the oncologist or physician.

10 Options in Treating Mesothelioma
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