Treatment Options For Patients

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There are few diseases that are more serious than cancer. When someone finds out they have cancer, it is always devastating. In the United States, we have access to world-renowned doctors and researchers who have worked to find ways to treat this deadly affliction. With the rare cancer known as mesothelioma, there have been major strides leading to better treatment of the disease.

Mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure, the harmful material used in buildings and products for more than a century. It is a cancer that is extremely difficult to treat, because most people are not even diagnosed until the cancer has progressed to a very serious point. Nevertheless, doctors will still attempt to use every treatment at their disposal to fight the cancer, as long as the patient is willing.

There are several treatments which are used to combat mesothelioma: traditional treatment options such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery; experimental treatments such as clinical trials; and holistic or alternative therapies that do not use any drugs. Before determining the best course of treatment, your doctor will stage your cancer, or determine the extent of its progression. Although there are three different staging systems that can be used, the stages themselves roughly correspond. In Stage I, the cancer is caught early, before it has metastasized or progressed to the lymphatic system. Stage I mesothelioma is the only one at which doctors can attempt curative surgery to remove the tumor, depending on the tumor's placement and the patient's overall health. Stages II and III see increasing tumor size, progression of the cancer to other areas of the body, and varying involvement of the lymph nodes. In Stage IV, or end-stage, the mesothelioma has usually spread throughout the body.

Traditional methods of treating mesothelioma and any other cancer include chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. For many mesothelioma patients, though, surgery is not usually an option because the tumor has progressed to the point where it would be dangerous for any surgeon to operate, usually Stages 3 or 4. Mesothelioma gets into the tissues and the inner workings of the organs, and is not often like a typical tumor that can be separated and removed.

Chemotherapy involves having a strong drug, or mixture of drugs, directly put into your system through an IV or in pill form. Patients may receive does of chemotherapy every week for many months. The drugs attack mesothelioma cells to shrink and kill them. Chemotherapy agents work to either eradicate cells or inhibit their growth and, in both cases, do not have the ability to distinguish between cancerous cells and normal cells, which takes a toll on the body. Hair loss, fatigue, and rapid weight loss are all associated with chemotherapy treatment. Chemotherapy is not a cure for cancer, but rather an extremely aggressive treatment that must be used in conjunction with other treatments in order to be successful.

Radiation therapy is another way to shrink and kill the cancer cells, and can be done internally or externally. It localizes the treatment in an attempt to save as many good, healthy cells as possible. External radiation is done using a large machine, where ionized atoms are injected through a laser into the body, killing the DNA in the cells. Internal radiation involves a wire implanted into the tumor that also shocks the cells with the radiated ions. Both forms of radiation can be very effective, especially when combined with chemotherapy.

Experimental options available to a mesothelioma patient may include enrollment in a clinical drug or treatment trial, as well as a number of experimental therapies. One of these therapies is angiogenesis inhibition therapy, in which medications called angiogenic inhibitors are administered to the tumor, limiting blood flow to the area and hopefully slowing or stopping its growth. Another experimental therapy is gene therapy, which involves exposing genes to to a virus and then putting the genes back in the body in hopes that they will go on to kill the cancer cells.

Holistic treatments for treating mesothelioma may include massage, hypnosis, acupuncture, or a treatment known as TENS therapy, which stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. TENS is not invasive and does not involve drugs; it involves the application of electrodes to the point of pain or tumor and shocking them with electric stimulation. TENS therapy is not widely available and may not be an option for all patients.

However you go about getting treatment for your mesothelioma, it is important to realize that there are other options available to you. If you are pursuing legal action for your injury and illness, it is recommended that you sit down with an experienced attorney and discuss your treatment with them as well. The decisions you make may have an impact on your case, and can be covered by a settlement you reach with those you are suing. Contact your lawyer as soon as possible.


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