Surgery is one of the most common treatments for mesothelioma. It works best when symptoms of mesothelioma are caught early, making it easier for doctors to provide a diagnosis in the disease’ s beginning stages.
However, even then, physicians must first determine if surgery is the most viable option. Surgery for mesothelioma is broken into different categories, and the type of surgery performed will depend upon the patient’s situation, including general health, weight, age, stage of the disease, and more.
The most widely-used surgeries for mesothelioma include potentially curative surgery, palliative surgery, and diagnostic surgery.
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Potentially Curative Surgery
Potentially curative surgery is the most extensive type of surgery available mesothelioma patient. Qualifications for this type of surgery are stricter than other surgeries.
Since its a major surgery, mesothelioma patients must be in generally good physical shape and in good health in order to be able to successfully recover from such an invasive procedure.
A potentially curative surgery procedures generally entails two different types of surgeries:
Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP)
This form of surgery has the most successful rate of removing cancer completely, but candidates are those whose cancer has not spread too far. The procedure itself is quite extensive, so the patient must also be in optimal health.
The operation consists of removing the lining of the lungs, part of the diaphragm, closeby lymph nodes, the pericardium, and the lung that houses the tumor. Once the procedure is completed, an artificial diaphragm and pericardium are inserted into the patient’s body.
Pleurectomy/decortication is not as invasive as an EPP as only the pleural lining of the chest and pleural coating on the infected lung are removed. This form of surgery can be used to remove certain types of cancers, but it’s also used as palliative surgery as well ( see Palliative Surgery below for more information).
The side effects of these types of surgery will differ depending upon the patient. The common side effects include:
- Blood clots and/or bleeding
- Lung Malfunction
Palliative surgery is less intrusive than potentially curative surgery. This form of surgery involves draining excess fluids from the lungs and taking out cancerous cells.
Keep in mind that like other forms of surgery, palliative surgery is not a cure, nor does it completely remove cancer. Undergoing this type of surgery helps patients live easier lives with less pain and symptoms.
There are different types of popular palliative surgery options for mesothelioma patients:
Pleurodesis is a form of palliative surgery that is used to help remove the fluid buildup in the lungs. A tiny incision is made on the patient’s chest wall, then a hollow chest tube is inserted into the chest. The chest tube allows the harmful fluid to drain out.
Next, physicians insert a talc-like substance into the chest area, which helps to seal the lungs so that fluid buildup can be prevented. The chest tube is then left in the chest area for a few days to drain any leftover fluid.
This form of palliative surgery is similar to pleurodesis as it’s used to drain fluid buildup from the chest. The difference is that a needle or catheter is placed into the chest as opposed to a chest tube.
Talc is also not injected into the chest during thoracentesis surgery. The procedure is typically quick and can be repeated several times.
Paracentesis is a surgery performed on patients who have fluid buildup in the pericardium (sac area around the heart) A small needle is inserted into the pericardium area in order to remove the fluid buildup.
Typically performed with biopsies, physicians perform diagnostic surgery in order to make sure of the location and presence of cancer. Once cancer has been determined, the harmful tissues are removed with a hollow biopsy needle or other instruments.
Diagnostic surgery is used to remove a small portion of the cancer in order to evaluate it and determine the next steps in the patient’s treatment plan. Sometimes, entire organs are removed for evaluation.
Biopsies can be performed in several different ways. Your physician will ultimately decide which way works best for you:
Incisional Biopsy: A fragment of the cancerous tissue is removed and sent to diagnostics for testing.
- Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy: Also known as needle biopsy, this method is used to remove samples of fluids and tissues via a fine needle that’s inserted into the affected area.
Excisional Biopsy: The entire cancerous tissues, or a large portion of the tissue is removed and sent to diagnostics for testing.
- Core Biopsy: A core biopsy is similar to a fine needle aspiration biopsy as both procedures use needles to remove samples from the body. The difference, however, is that a core biopsy entails using a much larger needle so that the actual tissue is removed as opposed to just samples.
Endoscopic Biopsy is another option. An endoscope is inserted into the area of the body that’s infected, which allows physicians to view the cancerous cells.
The type of biopsy performed will depend upon a number of factors, including:
- The shape, size, and location of the tumor
- Patient preference (if applicable)
- Patient medical history
- The experience and training of the performing physician
- The number of tumors/cancerous cells present
- The stage of the cancer
Doctors will weigh in a variety of factors before determining which type of surgery is most suitable. In some cases, surgery is not suitable at all and doctors will move on to other treatment plans.
Almost all malignant mesothelioma surgery patients use a combination of different treatments in order to get the maximum benefits while battling mesothelioma.
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Page Reviewed and Edited by Mesothelioma Attorney Paul Danziger
Paul Danziger grew up in Houston, Texas and earned a law degree from Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago. For over 25 years years he has focused on representing mesothelioma cancer victims and others hurt by asbestos exposure. Paul and his law firm have represented thousands of people diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer, recovering significant compensation for injured clients. Every client is extremely important to Paul and he will take every call from clients who want to speak with him. Paul and his law firm handle mesothelioma cases throughout the United States.