Chemotherapy is often the first standard treatment for patients diagnosed with cancer. This includes most patients diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer. Although there is no cure for mesothelioma, chemotherapy drugs can halt the progression of the disease, alleviate painful symptoms, and extend life expectancy.
Chemotherapy involves the use of cytotoxic drugs to target and destroy cancerous cells in the body. Mesothelioma occurs when asbestos particles are inhaled or ingested and become lodged in the chest cavity, slowly developing into tumors. Once the tumors are discovered and mesothelioma is diagnosed, chemotherapy drugs can be used to prevent further tumor growth, as well as shrink existing tumors.
There are multiple ways chemotherapy drugs can be used in mesothelioma patients. The most common mesothelioma treatment is systemic chemotherapy, which is delivered via the bloodstream and circulated through the body before targeting tumors. The drugs are administered via an IV or through a port, usually every two to three weeks. Some patients may also receive chemotherapy drugs in pill form. This is an easier and less invasive delivery method, but allowing the drugs to travel that far in the body puts healthy cells at risk.
Patients may experience uncomfortable side effects, such as fatigue, weight loss, digestive difficulties, bleeding or bruising, lowered immune response, or hair loss. The type of drug, the dosage, and the frequency of the treatments can be tailored to individual patients depending on the specifics of their illness.
Systemic chemotherapy can also be used in conjunction with other treatment methods, such as radiation or surgery in a multimodal treatment plan. Surgery is an effective treatment for eligible patients, and pairing it with chemotherapy can help improve life expectancy.
Neoadjuvant chemotherapy is a form of systemic chemotherapy administered before surgery to make tumors as small and accessible as possible before the operation. Similarly, adjuvant chemotherapy is systemic chemotherapy delivered after the procedure to prevent recurrence.
Also used in conjunction with surgery is intraoperative chemotherapy. In lieu of systemic delivery via the bloodstream, intraoperative chemotherapy is heated and administered directly into the surgical site during the procedure. This helps to ensure that any cancerous cells that remain in the area after the tumors are removed are destroyed. Intraoperative chemotherapy has extended average survival rates in both pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma patients.
Intraoperative chemotherapy is not as widely available as systemic chemotherapy, however. The procedure is typically only performed at dedicated cancer centers with expertise in the field, whereas systemic chemotherapy can be accessed at most hospitals and other health care facilities. Additionally, not all patients are eligible for surgery in the first place. Surgery is only an option for patients in early stages of the disease.
The overall five-year survival rate of malignant mesothelioma patients is approximately 10 percent. Chemotherapy has been shown to increase survival rates and get more patients to this benchmark. A study by the University of Maryland Medical System revealed that peritoneal mesothelioma patients who underwent hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) after a surgical procedure had a 69 percent survival rate at the five-year mark. Understanding treatment options, including forms of chemotherapy, can help patients and their care team.
Philadelphia Mesothelioma Attorneys at Shein Law Advocate for Mesothelioma Patients
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer, or another type of asbestos-related disease, one of our Philadelphia mesothelioma attorneys at Shein Law can provide legal assistance. Our knowledgeable legal team will hold those responsible for your asbestos exposure. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we help mesothelioma patients and their families throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Call 877-743-4652 or complete our online form to discuss your case.