Mesothelioma is a terrible disease, lying in wait for years after exposure to asbestos before wreaking havoc on the body. Mesothelioma can be difficult to diagnose and in the early stages can be mistaken for an infection.
Once diagnosed, treatment of mesothelioma focuses on reducing symptoms and giving the patient the best possible quality of life. Unfortunately at the moment there is no known cure for mesothelioma, although more recently many people have been surviving longer than the average life expectancy period of 18 to 24 months, post diagnosis.
One treatment option available to mesothelioma patients is surgery. Those with pleural mesothelioma, affecting the lungs, can opt for a pleurectomy decortication. This is an aggressive surgery where the lining of the lung is removed (pleurectomy) before any tumours are removed from the chest cavity (decortication). Pleurectomies were previously done on their own as a form of palliative treatment to ease pain and reduce the build up of fluid around the lung. However, combined with decortication, the procedure can increase a patient’s life span, especially when used in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Unfortunately, not all mesothelioma patients are eligible for surgery and many factors must be taken into consideration including the stage of the mesothelioma and the fitness of the patient. Previously, a patient’s age may also have been a consideration. However, Dr Annabel Sharkey, cardiothoracic surgeon at the University of Leicester has found that age may not be a crucial factor and should not be used when deciding upon whether surgery is an option.
Dr Sharkey made comments in April at the European Lung Cancer Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, following a study conducted at the Glenfield Hospital. The study consisted of 282 mesothelioma patients treated between 1999 and 2015. 79 of the patients were aged 70 or over at the time of their surgery and only slight differences were found in their recovery and survival rates following surgery. On average, those 70 or over stayed in hospital two days longer than the younger patients and the average survival rate differed by just two and a half months.
Although given their increased age, older patients are not expected to live as long as other patients, surgery for mesothelioma can massively improve quality of life, allowing patients to make the most of their time with family and friends.
Dr Sharkey stated, “The main thing is, don’t discount the idea of surgery just because you are older. People generally are more fit today than they once were and that allows more people to benefit from surgery.”
This is not the first study to state that age should not discount a mesothelioma patient from undergoing aggressive surgery. In August last year Dr Wickii Vigneswaran, published a study of 100 mesothelioma patients who had undergone pleurectomy decortication. He actually found that older patients had an increased median survival compared to the younger patients. Vigenswaran stated, “I’m convinced more than ever that age just doesn’t make a difference, but it raises the importance of finding a speciality center that does a lot of these operations. I’ve heard of too many places where there is a reluctance [to perform surgery] because of age. It’s important for people to know this can be done safely at all ages.”
If you require assistance in pursuing a mesothelioma claim or believe you have a valid asbestos claim for any other disease, then please contact us today on our freephone number 0800 038 6767. Alternatively, head over to the ‘Contact Us’ page, complete the form and we will be in touch.
Sources: European Society for Medical Oncology. (2016, April 14). Elderly patients with malignant mesothelioma should not be excluded from extended pleurectomy decortication.
Williams, T. et al. (2015, August 25). Extended Pleurectomy and Decortication for Malignant Mesothelioma is an Effective and Safe Cytoreductive Surgery in the Elderly. The Annals of Thoracic Surgery.