Malignant mesothelioma is a type of cancer most notably associated with prolonged exposure to asbestos. Once regarded as a relatively obscure disease, malignant mesothelioma is now deemed to be among the most lethal and complicated tumors with regards to treatment.
Often referred to as asbestos cancer, malignant mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer caused primarily by the perpetual inhalation of asbestos fibers. The cancer attacks the mesothelium, which is a protective, two-layered membrane that shields several internal organs of the human body, including the heart, abdomen and lungs. Between these protective lawyers, the cells produce fluids to allow free movement of the lungs and heart within the abdomen. The layer that covers the lungs is referred to as the pericardium, which is where a form of mesothelioma cancer (named pericardial mesothelioma) originates. By contrast, peritoneum mesothelioma cancer attacks the peritoneum, which lines the abdominal cavity. Mesothelium also shields the male and female reproductive bodies. Mesothelioma cancer may affect each of these sells; however, mesothelioma cases are typically observed in the pleural or peritoneal mesothelium. The most common mesothelioma diagnosis is pleural mesothelioma cancer.
The cancer takes anywhere from 25 to 50 years to develop. The insidious nature of the cancer complicates diagnosis, which in turn, generally eliminates curative mesothelioma treatment options. The invasion of the mesothelium by carcinogens makes it extremely difficult for a mesothelioma patient to breathe. Those mesothelioma patients stricken with the pleural form will also suffer from pleural effusions. This condition prevents the smooth movement of the organs and lungs in the chest.
The bulk of mesothelioma statistics reveal, because of work history, the disease typically affects males between the ages of 45 and 70 who were previously employed in asbestos-laden industries or environments, especially before asbestos regulations were imposed in the late 70’s.
Mesothelioma cancer is typically diagnosed in its latter stages. This diagnosis is devastating to mesothelioma patients and their families. Though research has been ongoing regarding curative mesothelioma treatments, there is currently no cure for the cancer. That being said, if the cancer is caught in its early stages, a mesothelioma patient may be eligible to receive mesothelioma surgery. These operations will attempt to extract the cancerous tumors or the infected organs. More often than not; however, mesothelioma surgery will be administered as a palliative treatment—the operation is primarily undertaken to ease the mesothelioma symptoms that greatly affect one’s life.
Because of mesothelioma’s slow-developing nature, surgery is rarely deemed compulsory. Mesothelioma patients, if in good health, may choose to have the elective surgery if their symptoms are debilitating. Because the disease is attached to a horrific prognosis, the likelihood of receiving a curative treatment is minimal, for it is solely dependent on catching the disease in its earliest stages or when it is regarded as utterly inconspicuous.
Will I Need Mesothelioma Surgery?
When a patient is diagnosed with mesothelioma, treatment options will be immediately discussed between the sick individual and his/her oncologist. Available mesothelioma treatment options vary from case to case and are widely dependent on the type of mesothelioma cancer present, the amount of proliferation (or stage) and the patient’s general health.
If, by small chance, the disease was detected before it metastasized to vital organs or ate away at the protective tissues of the mesothelium, a patient may be eligible for curative mesothelioma surgery. This type of operation is intrusive; an oncologist will extract the infected tissues and organs only if proliferation has not occurred. In an ideal situation, the patient’s mesothelioma tumor is acute and has yet to metastasize. Moreover, to perform a curative mesothelioma surgery, the patient must be in solid overall health and free of other medical conditions that would complicate the procedure or impede effective recovery. Simultaneous ailments, such as diabetes or hypertension, will greatly diminish the chances of receiving a curative mesothelioma operation.
If an oncologist determines an individual to be fit for mesothelioma surgery, the following operations may be undertaken:
A Pneumonectomy is an aggressive surgery that attempts to extract a patient’s infected lung. Pneumonectomy candidates must possess mesothelioma that is precisely limited to only one of their lungs. Performed under traditional anesthesia, this type of mesothelioma cancer is an ambitious operation that may last up to four hours.
During a Pneumonectomy the infected lung is deflated and extracted through a wide incision to prevent bleeding into the chest cavity. A drainage tube is then inserted to close the incision. Following surgery, the patient must remain in intensive care for at least 2 days and then in a regular hospital for one to two weeks. Because of the operation’s extreme nature, roughly 50% of patients who undergo this surgery will experience complications. Additionally, it may take six months for the healthy lung to heal and expedite the breathing process.
This type of mesothelioma surgery is only recommended in rare cases. An Extrapleural Pneumonectomy extracts the affected lung as well as its surrounding areas.
This type of mesothelioma surgery is regarded as extremely risky and carries with it a multitude of complications including: heart failure and gastrointestinal problems. An Extrapleural Pneumonectomy is similar to a Pneumonectomy; only those diagnosed with early stage mesothelioma are eligible to receive said operations.
To qualify for Extrapleural Pneumonectomy, a patient’s mesothelioma cancer must be localized; if proliferation to the lymph nodes is observable, the patient will not be permitted to undergo such an aggressive operation. Moreover, prospects for this mesothelioma surgery must be in strong physical health. The recovery for Extrapleural Pneumonectomy is a half-year or longer.
This type of mesothelioma surgery aims to remove the parietal pleura (lining of the lungs) and the visceral. A Pleurectomy may be undertaken as a curative route; however, the surgery is widely administered as a palliative mesothelioma treatment option. A Pleurectomy is commonly applied to mitigate the symptoms associated with pleural effusions or the build-up of fluid in the lungs.
Pleurectomy’s are administered under general anesthesia. The surgery will begin with an incision in the affected area. Through the incision, both the outer and inner lungs are extracted.
Following the operation, radiation or chemo is administered to remove remaining cancerous tissues. Post-surgery treatment will typically last a week or longer if complications arise.
Palliative Surgeries for Mesothelioma Cancer:
As mentioned above, the majority of mesothelioma surgeries are elective and only administered to reduce the associated symptoms. Palliative mesothelioma surgeries will not alter prognosis; patients, even after receiving said operations, will still die within 1-2 years of diagnosis. Palliative surgeries are applied to mesothelioma patients to increase their quality of life. Palliative surgeries will never to cure the disease.
Palliative surgeries are administered to relieve pain and other problems associated with mesothelioma. These operations are performed on patients who are diagnosed with stage III or stage IV mesothelioma cancer. If diagnosed with a developed form of mesothelioma, a patient may opt to have one or more of the following palliative surgeries, to increase their overall quality of life.
This type of palliative surgery is administered to mitigate the symptoms caused by pleural effusion, the build-up of fluids in the pleural cavity surrounding the lungs. The buildup of these fluids complicates breathing and causes great pain to mesothelioma sufferers. Pleurocentesis is performed in outpatient locations through means of extended needles which are inserted into the pleural space. Once inserted, the needle extracts fluids from the space. After receiving a Pleurocentesis, the patient may return home a few hours following the surgery.
Paracentesis is very similar to a pleurocentesis. The primary difference is location of the extraction; a Paracentesis is administered to extract fluids in the abdominal area. This type of palliative mesothelioma surgery aims to provide comfort to patients with severe mesothelioma symptoms.
This mesothelioma palliative surgery is the most intrusive non-curable operation assocaited with mesothelioma cancer. Pleurodesis aims to impede the build-up of fluid through a talc insertion into the pleural space. The talc inflames the area and halts the fluid from amassing for as long as 5 years. Pleurodesis is an inpatient palliative mesothelioma surgery performed under general anesthetic. The operation requires a hospital stay of at least 3 days, during which a chest tube may remain in the mesothelioma patient to drain excess fluids. Recovery time attached to Pleurodesis mesothelioma surgery is roughly 6 to 8 weeks for the majority of patients.