Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that affects mesothelium, a fine cell membrane lining the thoracic, abdominal cavities and heart sac. A person is prone to develop mesothelioma if exposed to asbestos. Malignant mesothelioma is caused by inhalation of fine asbestos particles; however, symptoms appear only many years later post asbestos exposure.
Types of Mesothelioma
Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type of disease and attacks the lining of the lung, the pleura. Peritoneal mesothelioma affects the lining of the abdominal cavity known as the peritoneum. Pericardial mesothelioma is related to pericardium that lines the heart.
Symptoms of Mesothelioma
Symptoms vary based on the type of mesothelioma. Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms include chronic coughing, chest pain and body aches, fever, pleural effusion, fatigue, night sweats, weight loss. Peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms such as loss of appetite, abdominal pain, and swelling, Ascites, bowel obstruction, anemia (mostly in women), fever are shown by the patient. Pericardial mesothelioma symptoms include pericardial effusion, chest pain, heart murmur, dyspnea (labored breathing), arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), fever.
As Malignant Mesothelioma develops over an extended period of time and shows few and mild symptoms at early stages, the disease is difficult to diagnose in the early stages.
Standard Treatment Options
Once diagnosed with mesothelioma; the patient undergoes a surgical operation for tumor removal as a relief and a possible longevity. However, surgery is usually not recommended if the disease is diagnosed at later stages and if the health of the patient does not allow.
For mesothelioma patients, radiation therapy can be used in tandem with surgery. This can help prevent growth and recurrence of cancer. Radiation therapy option is usually used to contain the infection and prevent its growth and spread to other body areas.
There are two types of mesothelioma radiation therapy based on the radiation techniques applied for the treatment. External Beam Radiation is the most widely used radiation technique and probably the oldest one. It focuses on a particular locale in order to slow and stop the development of tumor cells. It is a painless radiation therapy option and can be administered at an outpatient facility.
For Mesothelioma Treatment; Internal Radiation Therapy or Brachytherapy, a relatively newer technique, implants tiny radioactive seeds in or around tumor area. By doing so, high doses of radiation reach the targeted cancer cells with minimal effect on normal tissues. This technique also has got two subtypes; one being Permanent where radioactive seeds stay inside, however, depending upon the radioactive material type and dosage levels used, radioactive emission ceases after some time, usually between 3-12 months. The other one being Temporary Brachytherapy in which the radioactive seeds are removed after shorter periods of implants.
Chemotherapy or Chemical Therapy involves the usage of a wide range of medications/ drugs to kill tumor cells and prevent their growth.
In some instances, the patient does not respond to conventional Mesothelioma Treatment Options. Under those scenarios, clinical trials are resorted to as the best option. Clinical trials involve experimental drugs and procedures that may prove a life-saving option.