Asbestos Treatments

There are a number of treatments available for mesothelioma and your medical team will advise the best way for you to proceed.

Pleural Mesothelioma Treatments

Treatment options for pleural mesothelioma will depend on a number of issues, your general health and fitness, the stage of your cancer and any additional medical conditions you may have.

As there is currently no cure for mesothelioma, treatment aims at controlling the condition and symptoms for as long as possible.

There are three treatment options and stages currently available in the UK for mesothelioma:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiotherapy

It may be that a combination of two of the above or all three can be used however, this does depend on the stage of the cancer. Your medical team will discuss your treatment options with you and together you can devise a treatment plan.

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Surgery

There are two surgical options for pleural mesothelioma, both aim to remove localised mesothelioma:

Pleurectomy

Removal of the pleura from around the lung. This can also be called decortication. In a pleurectomy the pleura is removed and the space around the lung is treated so that fluid cannot collect there. This not only helps to relieve symptoms but can also slow the growth of the disease.

Extrapleural pneumonectomy

Removal of the lung, pleura, diaphragm and pericardium (covering of the heart). This can also be called EPP. It is extensive surgery and as such is not suitable for everyone, patients suitable for this surgery must be well enough and have good heart and lung function.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy aims to shrink the mesothelioma, reducing symptoms and prolonging life, it can also slow the growth of the mesothelioma. It is generally administered in cycles, anti-cancer drugs are injected into a vein of the patient to destroy the cancer cells. Chemotherapy is often used together with surgery.

Chemotherapy can have side effects however, everyone is different and everyone’s bodies react in different ways. Side effects can include:

  • Localised mesothelioma
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Hair loss
  • Tiredness

Your medical team will discuss whether chemotherapy is an option for you.

Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy is often used to reduce mesothelioma symptoms and slow the growth of the cancer. It can also be used following a surgical procedure or fluid drain to prevent new growths of mesothelioma where incisions were made. Radiotherapy is generally given once a day during the week and sessions take just a few minutes. It uses high energy rays to kill cancer cells.

As with chemotherapy, radiotherapy can have side effects, these include:

  • Reddening of the treated area
  • Hair loss in the treated area
  • Tiredness

Palliative care

Unfortunately, it is often not until the cancer has reached an advanced stage that mesothelioma is diagnosed. In these circumstances the patient may be too unwell to have any surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy however, treatment of the symptoms can still be given, such as draining fluid from the lungs.


Peritoneal Mesothelioma Treatments

Treatment options for peritoneal mesothelioma will depend on a number of issues, your general health and fitness, the stage of your cancer and any additional medical conditions you may have.

As there is currently no cure for mesothelioma, treatment aims at controlling the condition and symptoms for as long as possible.

There are two treatment options currently available in the UK for mesothelioma:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy

It may be that a combination of the two is used however, this does depend on the stage of the cancer. Your medical team will discuss your treatment options with you and together you can devise a treatment plan.

Click here to read more

Surgery

In many cases surgery is not an option in the treatment of peritoneal mesothelioma as it requires a major operation and patients are often not well enough to undergo this. However, if the patient is fit enough surgical options are available:

Peritonectomy

Removal of part of the peritoneum (lining of the abdomen). The peritoneum is where the mesothelioma grows, removing it can reduce symptoms.

Cytoreductive surgery

Similar to a peritonectomy, cytoreductive surgery can involve as many as 6 different peritonectomy procedures to remove as much of the mesothelioma as possible. Following these procedures heated chemotherapy is given into the peritoneal cavity through a catheter, this is know as Hyperthermic Intraoperative Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIIC).

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy aims to shrink the mesothelioma, reducing symptoms and prolonging life, it can also slow the growth of the mesothelioma. It is generally administered in cycles, anti-cancer drugs are injected into a vein of the patient to destroy the cancer cells. Chemotherapy is often used together with surgery.

Chemotherapy can have side effects however everyone is different and everyone’s bodies react in different ways. Side effects can include:

  • Localised mesothelioma
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Hair loss
  • Tiredness

Your medical team will discuss whether chemotherapy is an option for you.

Palliative care

Unfortunately, it is often not until the cancer has reached an advanced stage that mesothelioma is diagnosed. In these circumstances the patient may be too unwell to have any surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy however, treatment of the symptoms can still be given, such as draining fluid from the abdomen.


Pleurodesis

Many people with asbestos related diseases suffer from pleural effusions. This is where fluid collects between the pleura. This collection of fluid can cause breathing difficulties as it prevents the lungs from expanding fully. This can be treated by having pleurodesis.

Pleurodesis seals the space between the pleura using chemicals which inflame the pleura causing it to stick together. This means that there is no space and so fluid cannot collect.

Pleurodesis does not treat mesothelioma but is used to treat the symptoms and to make the patient more comfortable by aiming to ease breathing problems.


Mistletoe Treatment

For over 80 years mistletoe extracts have been used as a complementary therapy in the treatment of cancer.

As with most medical treatments, mistletoe extracts can have different effects on different people however, mistletoe has been found to have the following effects:

  • It can stimulate the immune system, improving and strengthening the body’s natural defenses.
  • It can induce apoptosis in cancer cells, this is where cells self destruct and so can help to stop or, in some cases, reverse tumour growth.
  • It can protect DNA in healthy cells from the harmful effects of cell toxins. This can make the effects of chemotherapy or radiotherapy more tolerable as it can reduce the damage to healthy cells during such treatments.
  • It can induce an inflammatory reaction together with a mild fever. This can be a welcome effect for cancer patients as they can often feel cold and keeping warm is important for an active immune system and a well functioning metabolism.

Mistletoe has also been found to have a positive effect on a cancer patient’s quality of life. Patients have reported feeling stronger. They are more able to resist infections and many find their appetite returns allowing them to gain weight and feel better. It has been found that mistletoe can ease pain caused by tumours and help restore natural sleep patterns.

Currently there are two mistletoe preparations available on the NHS, Iscador® and Anoba Viscum®. Speak to your doctor about this form of treatment.


Chemoembolization

Chemoembolization is currently available in the UK for the treatment of liver cancer. A professor in Germany has conducted a 5 year clinical trial to use chemoembolization to treat lung cancer, including mesothelioma and found promising results.

Chemoembolization involves cytotoxic drugs being directed to the mesothelioma and retained in the affected area for several weeks. The drugs used are up to 20 times more concentrated than those used in chemotherapy.

Side effects of chemoembolization have been found to be quite low with patients feeling fatigued and occasionally nauseous.

So far, approximately 20 mesothelioma patients have been included in the trial and the results have shown that the symptoms and status of patients has improved following treatment.

For further information please contact us.


Clinical Trials

Trials are carried out all over the country each year to try and find better ways of treating cancer and controlling symptoms.

Inclusion in trials depends on a number of factors, researchers will have a brief of suitable candidates and you will need to meet the criteria for the trial to be considered for it.

If you are considering taking part in a clinical trial it is important that you know what to expect and what is expected of you. You may want to ask the following questions when discussing a trial:

  • What is the name of the trial?
  • What is the trial hoping to discover?
  • How will the trial help people?
  • What will I need to do?
  • Will I benefit from taking part in the trial?
  • How long is the trial expected to last?
  • When will the results of the trial be known?
  • Can I withdraw from the trial at any time?

If you give your consent to participate in a trial, do not feel obliged to continue with it until the end. You can leave at any time without giving a reason for your decision. If you have been receiving a new treatment as part of the trial and you leave, you may not be able to continue with the new treatment but would be given the standard treatment for your condition.

If you are interested in taking part in a clinical trial Cancer Research UK can provide details of these.