Surgical Procedures

While the aggressive nature of mesothelioma leaves many patients with few treatment options, there are several procedures available to patients that can slow the progression of the disease or work to alleviate some of the patientís suffering. The appropriate type of treatment will depend on the type of mesothelioma that the patient is suffering from and the stage of the cancer.

Pleural mesothelioma usually strikes one lung before the other giving physicians a chance (if caught early enough) to try surgery to slow the disease. The common surgical procedures are:

  • Pleurectomy Ė this procedure removes part of the infected lung and the surrounding lining of the chest. This will remove the tumor (or reduce the size) and relieve the painful pressure in the chest cavity area.
  • Pneumonectomy - is when the total lung, the lining around the lung and some of the connective tissue is removed. This procedure is only used in severe cases and only to relieve the pain.
  • Thoracentesis - a procedure to drain excess fluid from the lungs using a needle. This helps a patient to breath and reduces the painful pressure on their lungs.
  • Extrapleural pneumonectome Ė an extreme surgery that can only be used in cases of mesothelioma. This procedure removes the entire lining of the chest wall that surrounds the heart, lungs and diaphragm to prevent it from becoming infected with mesothelioma. This surgery is usually done in combination with radiation and chemotherapy. The recovery period can easily be a full year. For patients suffering from peritoneal or pericardial mesothelioma, surgical procedures are focused on tissue removal.

In theory, cancer in the body can be cured if it is entirely removed by surgery, but this is typically never the case in patients with mesothelioma. If the cancer has metastasized and moved to other regions of the body, surgery is usually impossible. Additionally, if cancerous cells are left within the body there is the potential that the cells will re-grow, leading to a new tumor mass recurring in the body.

Surgery is also often necessary for determining what stage of the cancer has progressed to, and doctors will always perform biopsies on the cells removed from the body in order to determine the extent of the disease.

Surgery is difficult for mesothelioma patients. Itís physically hard on the body, recovery is long and painful, and on top of that - itís expensive. It is very often the last resort in alleviating painful symptoms for patients with mesothelioma. However, if the cancer is detected early enough it can be the best option for patients who are not yet showing symptoms of mesothelioma. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma it is important to discuss all treatment options with your medical team. Your team will take all factors of your condition into account, including your personal wishes, and will give you all the information you need to make a decision regarding your personal treatment regime. Important information regarding treatment methods and alternative therapies is also available upon request.

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