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Pleural Mesothelioma

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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.

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 does not only help 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 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.

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