Following verification of insurance and the setting of an appointment date, information is exchanged about your condition. Experts almost always require full copies of your record involving medical treatment you’ve received and scans, pathology reports, and slides of tissue samples.
Often, it’s a good idea to follow up with a medical provider’s office several days in advance of an appointment. This way you can confirm that the various information and specimens requested by the medical offices have been received. You might still have time to physically bring anything that was not sent in anticipation of your appointment. In most cases, the consultation includes extensive physical examinations in addition to an examination of a person’s past as well as current medical history.
Address Any Misconceptions You Have About Mesothelioma
Many people who find themselves in this situation have already undergone a series of scans and x-rays. These diagnostics will be examined by both a medical expert as well as that expert’s team. After reviewing your scans, medical experts will often ask whether you’re aware of your diagnosis. Medical professionals ask this question so people have a chance to address any misconceptions that you might have about the disease. Consider some of the following myths (as well as realities) about treatment for mesothelioma:
- Misconception # 1 – No good options exist to treat mesothelioma. In reality, researchers throughout the country have been advancing the methods used to treat mesothelioma. Based on the type of mesothelioma a person has, various treatment options including chemotherapy like HIPEC and surgery exist that offer promising outlooks.
- Misconception # 1 – Chemotherapy is the only way to treat mesothelioma. While chemotherapy is a standard method of treating mesothelioma, it’s far from the only option for treatment. Besides chemotherapy, some treatment options for mesothelioma include cryotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, and surgery.
- Misconception # 3 – Alternative treatment options cannot help treat mesothelioma. Alternative treatment has not proven to be as effective in treating mesothelioma as primary treatment selections. Patients frequently utilize alternative therapy in combination with primary treatment. Research even suggests that alternative therapy can help to address side effects and improve a patient’s mood.
- Misconception # 4 – Medicare or Medicaid covers the entirety of treatment. Mesothelioma diagnosis often results in various unanticipated costs that are not fully covered by Medicare or Medicaid. Various options exist for patients to pay these unanticipated costs.
- Misconception # 5 – If you receive paracentesis or pleurocentesis, you will not need to receive it again. Pleurocentesis is a palliative option for pleural mesothelioma, while paracentesis is a treatment option for peritoneal mesothelioma. The procedures involve training excess fluid from a person’s body. These procedures are frequently recommended multiple times to lessen the symptoms a person experiences.
- Misconception # 6 – Becoming part of a clinical trial is difficult. Various medical centers throughout the world offer clinical trials for mesothelioma. While mesothelioma is considered a rare condition, many people with the condition can participate in trials. More trial participants are helpful because this helps medical professionals better understand treatment options.
Learn Some Important Mesothelioma Facts
You will then likely be informed about mesothelioma on a one-to-one basis. This will likely include reviewing important statistics and general information about mesothelioma. The American Cancer Society reports the following important facts about mesothelioma:
- Approximately 3,000 individuals in the United States are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year.
- Mesothelioma is more likely to occur in men than women in the United States.
- Mesothelioma is more common in Hispanic and white individuals than in African Americans or Asian Americans.
- The average age at which pleural mesothelioma is diagnosed is 72.
- In 2020, unfortunately, 26,278 people throughout the world died from mesothelioma
- If found early, the five-year survival rate for individuals with mesothelioma is 18%
- If mesothelioma spreads to nearby areas, the five-year survival rate for the illness is 12%
- The survival rate for late-stage mesothelioma is 7%
- The younger a person is when diagnosed with mesothelioma, the longer that person is likely to live.
Recognize Mesothelioma Terminology
Your medical provider will also likely train you in becoming familiar with some of the medical wording involved with treating mesothelioma which will likely now become part of your daily life. Both what mesothelioma statistics apply to you as well as what is known about the medical condition will play a critical role in the treatment of your illness. Some critical terminology that you should know about mesothelioma includes
- Adjuvant therapy. This includes chemotherapy drugs that a patient takes after radiation and/or surgery to reduce the risk that cancer will return.
- Alveoli. These are the small structures located inside a person’s lungs that perform the exchange of pulmonary gasses.’
- Ascites. This condition involves the gathering of fluid in the peritoneal cavity and is found in people with mesothelioma.
- CAT scan. Computerized tomography is a type of medical test that relies on x-rays to build a three-dimensional body image.
- Decortication. This is a type of surgery that involves removing the membrane or outer layer of an organ. The procedure is routinely performed on people with mesothelioma if the patient’s lungs are constricted and unable to fully inflate.
- Dyspnea. This medical condition involves difficulty with breathing.
- Gene therapy. This experimental therapy involves modifying the genes that are responsible for disease development.
- Macrophages. These cells digest pathogens as well as cellular debris. When the body attempts to digest asbestos fibers, the fibers routinely split open and their fluids then damage the alveoli. Damage is then multiplied as macrophages attempt to digest the particles, which can lead to fibrosis.
- Mediastinoscopy. This surgical procedure involves an examination of the inside of the upper chest located between as well in front of a person’s lungs.
- Metastasis. The spread of cancer cells to distant locations in the body through either the bloodstream or lymph system.
- MRI. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a diagnostic test that relies on a medical test that relies on magnetic fields to establish a 3-dimensional image of body parts.
- Parenchyma. This is an organ’s functional parts.
- Peritoneum. This is the lining found in the abdominal organ and cavity.
- Pleura. This is the thin covering that both cushions and protects the chest cavity and lungs. Pleura is composed of two membranes separated by fluid.
- Pneumonitis. Inflamed lung tissue can result in life-lasting scars. This condition can be caused by inhaling asbestos.
After consulting with a medical expert, that medical professional will offer their extensive range of knowledge-based on treating patients who face medical conditions similar to yours. This real-life wisdom in combination with medical expertise will greatly influence how successful you are in combating the disease. Treatment options will be reviewed and the various benefits, as well as risks, should be distinguished.
Appreciate Your Treatment Options
The American Society of Clinical Oncology has certain recommendations for how mesothelioma should be treated. This organization is tasked with both reviewing and implementing evidence-based updates on a routine basis. Some of the options that exist for the treatment of mesothelioma include
- Complementary medicine. Some non-conventional cancer treatment options exist. Patients sometimes utilize these options in addition to cancer treatment to address symptoms. For example, TENS therapy is a small at-home option that relies on a low-voltage electrical device placed over the skin to reduce muscle pain. Another treatment option is acupuncture which utilizes needles to stimulate nerves and muscles to reduce pain. Medical marijuana is another complementary option that when used in combination with chemotherapy treats side effects.
- Chemotherapy. Medical professionals recommend chemotherapy to people diagnosed with mesothelioma who are not eligible for surgery. Chemotherapy also helps to increase a person’s chances of survival. In treating chemotherapy, medical professionals sometimes prescribe pemetrexed (Alimta) with cisplatin. If cancer returns, second-line options sometimes include gemcitabine or carboplatin.
- Emerging treatment options. Medical professionals routinely test emerging treatments in clinical trials. These treatment options focus on finding mesothelioma cures or improving a person’s life expectancy. These options might one day become conventional medical options. One emerging treatment option is cryotherapy, which involves freezing cancer cells to kill them. Patients sometimes receive this therapy before surgery to reduce tumors, after surgery to address recurrences, or to address symptoms. Another emerging option is gene therapy, which involves modifying cells and viruses to control cancer. Repairing defective tumor-suppressor genes often kills cancer cells before replication can occur. Virotherapy is another treatment option that utilizes viruses to locate and combat cancer cells.
- Immunotherapy. Bevacizumab is a commonly used type of mesothelioma drug that relies on antibodies to reduce the growth of tumors. Other types of immunotherapy utilized for treating mesothelioma include pembrolizumab, which helps the immune system locate and then kill cancer cells.
- Multimodal therapy. This treatment involves the combination of two or more conventional treatments to combat pleural and/or peritoneal mesothelioma. This type of therapy often better addresses the spread of cancer than using only one treatment option.
- Palliative care options. Palliative care is sometimes referred to as supportive care and is focused on tackling the symptoms associated with illness. Palliative care can greatly improve quality of life and help to lessen symptoms associated with cancer. Thoracentesis is one type of palliative care that involves placing a needle into the pleura and removing fluid that collects around the lungs. Medical professionals also sometimes place a pleural catheter which is a small drain utilized to avoid fluid collecting around the lungs. A more invasive procedure is pleurodesis which erases the space in the pleura where fluid collects.
- Radiation. This is a type of therapy used to address symptoms when surgery is not an available option. Radiation lessens the severity of symptoms including chest pain and can even lower the risk of local recurrence. One type of radiation is external beam radiation therapy (EBRT), which is the most common type of radiation utilized to treat mesothelioma. EBRT involves medical equipment that transmits X-rays to terminate cells at the cancer site. EBRT is utilized either before surgery or while surgery is occurring. Another type of surgery is brachytherapy, which is a type of radiation that is internal and utilizes a radioactive implant inside a person to terminate cancer cells. Both EBRT and brachytherapy are sometimes utilized to treat mesothelioma patients.
- Surgery. People diagnosed with early-stage mesothelioma often benefit from surgery, which provides the greatest chance of prolonging a patient’s life. Frequently performed in combination with chemotherapy, this procedure removes all visible tumors from a person’s chest area. One type of surgery option is an extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP), which involves removing the impacted lung section as well as all nearby spots in the body where mesothelioma has spread. These areas might include the chest, heart, or lymph nodes. Another type of surgery option is pleurectomy decortication or (P/D/), which removes cancerous parts of the chest wall lining, heart lining, and pleural lining. While P/D is less aggressive than EPP, both are still considered major types of surgery.
- Tumor treating fields. Sometimes referred to as TTFields, this treatment option utilizes alternating electrical fields to interfere with the growth of cancer cells. The therapy involves a portable battery device that delivers the treatment through the skin.
Recognize the Options for Clinical Trials
If you qualify for clinical trials, these options will be discussed as well as therapeutic options. The prognosis you receive will ultimately depend on how your body responds to surgery and treatment. During this time, a medical professional can review survival curves as well as expectations about how you should respond to treatment based on both reviews of medical studies as well as how previous patients have responded to situations. Fortunately, many people faced with mesothelioma end up exceeding scientific predictions about the response of patients. Some of the types of clinical trials that are available include
- Prevention trials. Trials involving cancer prevention consider methods to reduce the risk of cancer. Researchers work to determine if lifestyle alterations can help a person avoid the onset of certain types of cancer.
- Screening trials. These studies consider better methods of determining cancer earlier in patients. By improving the methods that are utilized to detect cancer, patients have increased treatment options.
- Treatment trials. Many studies test mesothelioma treatments or a unique combination of existing therapies to obtain better results. Treatment trials consider the effectiveness and safety of new cancer medications and procedures.
Your wishes regarding how your situation should also be discussed with your medical provider. In these situations, you might want to discuss these issues in private with your medical provider instead of including your team.
Know What Types of Mesothelioma Doctors Exist
You should also anticipate being introduced to each additional medical professional on the team that provides your healthcare. We advise taking a card from each of these individuals. Often, there will be a point person who you can contact to ask any questions that arise as well as to explain what steps are next in your treatment.
It can help to recognize what types of mesothelioma doctors will likely be on your team. Some of the various types of mesothelioma doctors include
- Medical oncologists. These physicians treat mesothelioma by utilizing chemotherapy as well as other medications.
- Radiation oncologists. Radiologists combat mesothelioma by utilizing radiation therapy.
- Surgical oncologists. Surgeons combat mesothelioma through surgery. Mesothelioma physicians often focus on treating one type of mesothelioma because cancer requires unique types of treatment based on where it originates. Physicians agree that people often have better cancer if mesothelioma can be diagnosed early because this is when the cancer is easiest to treat. The types of mesothelioma physicians include
- Pleural mesothelioma physicians. These doctors treat mesothelioma that begins in the pleura, or the lining of the lungs.
- Peritoneal mesothelioma physicians. These doctors combat cancer that starts in the peritoneum or the lining of the abdominal cavity. Mesothelioma can lead to numerous types of tumors inside a person’s abdomen.
- Other types of mesothelioma physicians. Most types of physicians focus on treating either peritoneal or pleural mesothelioma. Various rare types of the disease exist including pericardial mesothelioma which begins in the lining of the heart and testicular mesothelioma which begins in the lining of the testicle. Both these types of mesothelioma are rare and a small number of physicians focus on treating patients diagnosed with the condition.
- Pericardial mesothelioma. This condition is rare and represents only 1% of the 3,000 mesothelioma cases that are diagnosed each year. Physicians treat pericardial mesothelioma by surgically removing tumors from the pericardium, which is the lining of the heart. Many patients with pericardial mesothelioma are not promptly diagnosed.
Obtaining a medical card from each member of your team can prove a great help. If you have particular worries or questions about a certain test or procedure, these cards can provide you with the details about who you should contact. Unfortunately, navigating the medical industry sometimes proves challenging because many medical providers can be involved. Understanding in advance who to contact can save a substantial amount of time. Remember to ask your medical provider what their role is in providing care and what the best method is to contact them.