Cancer is one of the most fatal diseases nowadays. It doesn’t choose its victims. Men and women alike, old and young die of cancer. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that affects the mesothelium, specifically the Pleura (membrane that surrounds the lungs) and the Peritoneum (membrane surrounding the abdomen). Both Pleural Mesothelioma and Peritoneum Mesothelioma are primarily caused by the inhalation or exposure to asbestos, an incombustible fibrous mineral of impure magnesium silicate used in various industrial products. About 30 to 50 per cent of the total Mesothelioma cancer patients had not been exposed to asbestos, yet they have acquired the disease. Cancer specialists continue to study this rare kind of cancer so as to provide the public clear and exact information with regard to its cause, nature and cure.
Like many other forms of cancer, Mesothelioma has different stages. The earliest stage is still curable since only one layer of the pleura is affected. Surgery is the number one option for patients with Stage I Mesothelioma. The doctor removes the part of the lining of the lungs or chest (in case of Pleural Mesothelioma) and the lining of the abdomen (in case of Peritoneal Mesothelioma). In Stage II Mesothelioma, surgery can still be executed although some lymph nodes may have already been infected by the malignant Mesothelioma cancer cells. The diaphragm may also be removed; in severe cases, the Mesothelioma patient has to sacrifice one of his lungs.
Usually, surgery comes with systemic treatments, which include radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Through radiotherapy, Mesothelioma cancer cells are killed; however, only the cells in the treated area die. High energy rays used in radiotherapy or radiation therapy may either come from an external machine or from thin plastic tubes positioned into the tissues where Mesothelioma cancer-stricken cells are found. Inside the plastic tubes are radiation-emitting materials that kill the malignant cells. The use of an external machine is called external radiation therapy while the other is called internal radiation therapy. Also, a radioactive substance such as radiolabeled monoclonal antibody is circulated around the body during radiotherapy.
Chemotherapy is the use of anti-cancer drugs to kill the malignant cells. In treating Mesothelioma, the anti-cancer drugs are usually given to the patient through intravenous injection (within the vein). Oncologists are still studying the possibility of treating Mesothelioma through intracavitary chemotherapy (within the chest or abdomen). Some Mesothelioma patients also undergo Photodynamic therapy, a kind of cancer therapy that combines the use of drug (photosensitizer) with a specific kind of light. The photosensitizing agent when exposed to the light produce oxygen that destroys nearby malignant cancer cells. The drug is injected into the bloodstream and is absorbed by the cells.
In order to relieve the symptoms of Mesothelioma such as the pain in the chest or abdomen due to the build up of fluid, a physician drains the fluid by using a needle. The procedure is known as thoracentesis (removal of fluid in the chest) or paracentesis (removal of the fluid in the abdomen). To prevent further accumulation of the lubricating fluid in the membranes of the chest or abdomen, drugs are given through a tube in the affected organ.
Although the said treatments to Mesothelioma have been proven effective, chance of recovery and survival still depends on the size or extent of the cancer. Chances are higher when Mesothelioma is still in its early stages. Surgery is only advisable only up to the second stage of the Mesothelioma cancer wherein only one part or smaller portions of the membranes are affected. A patient diagnosed with stage IV Mesothelioma (diffuse Mesothelioma) has only about 4-24 months to live. Furthermore, the age of the patient and his general health condition is also crucial to his recovery. Older patients do not respond well to certain cancer treatments such as surgery because their tissues, organs and other body parts are more delicate.
This article was posted on September 15, 2005