Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Although mesothelioma is incurable, getting treatment early can increase life expectancy and give patients more options, including surgery. Data shows that pairing surgery with hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) can improve life expectancy even more.
Like many forms of cancer, chemotherapy is standard for mesothelioma. There are several chemotherapy drugs that have been approved for mesothelioma, and many patients have seen positive results. Standard chemotherapy is delivered intravenously, circulating through the body before attacking cancer cells. Unfortunately, some healthy cells may be destroyed in the process, causing painful symptoms.
HIPEC involves a more targeted delivery of chemotherapy drugs. In peritoneal mesothelioma patients, tumors develop in the peritoneum, or the lining of the stomach and abdomen. The abdomen is opened and a heated chemotherapy solution is inserted, washing the area and killing cancer cells. HIPEC has multiple advantages. Because it is so targeted, it limits the damage done to other areas of the body, and a higher dose of chemotherapy drugs can be used.
HIPEC and Cytoreductive Surgery
HIPEC is typically used with cytoreductive surgery. Peritoneal mesothelioma patients undergo cytoreductive surgery to remove as much of the cancerous tissue as possible. It is difficult for chemotherapy to reach all the way into the center of tumors, so removing any accessible tumors surgically is an important first step. The heated chemotherapy solution is used to rinse the area afterward to kill any remaining cancer cells. The patient remains unconscious for this part of the process, which typically takes a couple of hours.
Because the drugs do not remain in the body, the side effects from the treatment are minimal; most patients experience fatigue for a few months following the procedure. There are some risks associated with chemotherapy in general that patients could experience, including increased risk of infection, lung or kidney issues, or suppressed bone marrow. For many HIPEC patients, however, most potential complications after the procedure are related to the surgery, which can involve the removal of significant portions of tissue.
Cytoreductive surgery and HIPEC (collectively known as CRS-HIPEC) are not for everyone. The procedure can take up to 14 hours in its entirety and impact multiple internal organs, depending on where the tumors have spread. Patients must be in good overall health in order to undergo the procedure and minimize complications afterward.
Effectiveness of CRS-HIPEC
A recent study published in the Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery shows the importance of getting the procedure sooner rather than later. Researchers compared patient data to map life expectancies for patients who received treatment within four weeks of their diagnosis, between four and 12 weeks from diagnosis, 13 to 24 weeks from diagnosis, and those who did not get treatment at all. Those who received CRS-HIPEC within four weeks had an average life expectancy of 4.8 years. Delayed treatment resulted in an average life expectancy of 4.37 years, and patients who were not treated had an average of only 2.1 years. Researchers believe that there are many patients eligible for CRS-HIPEC that do not receive it, partly due to limited expertise in mesothelioma across the medical field.
The CRS-HIPEC combination has proven effective for those who do receive it, including mesothelioma patients and those with other types of abdominal cancer. There have been multiple studies showing the positive outcomes of CRS-HIPEC. One study of more than 400 patients showed an average survival rate between four and five years.
Philadelphia Mesothelioma Attorneys at Shein Law Provide Comprehensive Legal Representation to Mesothelioma Patients
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer, or another asbestos disease, speak with our Philadelphia mesothelioma attorneys at Shein Law. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we help mesothelioma patients and their families throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Call 877-743-4652 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.