The goal of palliative treatment is to palliate, or improve, a mesothelioma patient’s quality of life. It’s often combined with curative surgery for patients with early-stage mesothelioma.
Benefits of Palliative Surgery
Patient Comfort: The greatest and most obvious benefit of palliative treatment is the comfort of the patient. Mesothelioma can be painful, especially in later stages. Relieving symptoms and pain reduces patient suffering and stress.
Potential Survival Benefit: Some studies have shown that palliative treatment for cancer patients can extend the patient’s survival time. Patients who are more comfortable are more capable of receiving aggressive treatment.
Palliative treatments play an even bigger role for patients diagnosed with advanced-stage mesothelioma, most of whom do not typically qualify for curative surgery. It improves their quality of life by easing discomfort and alleviating pain caused by the symptoms of advanced mesothelioma.
The Role of Palliative Treatment
Palliative treatment plays an important role in mesothelioma care, because, unlike curative surgery, it’s used for patients diagnosed with any stage of mesothelioma. When mesothelioma reaches an advanced stage, it is unresectable – meaning surgeons can no longer remove the tumor because it has spread too far throughout the body.
Palliative treatment benefits patients with advanced stage mesothelioma by relieving the pain and discomfort associated with mesothelioma symptoms. Easing symptoms allows patients to focus on living well and getting better.
Types of Palliative Treatment
The type of palliative treatment a mesothelioma specialist chooses to give a patient depends on the location of the tumor and its cancer stage. If the tumor is located in the protective lining of the lungs (the pleura), a mesothelioma specialist may suggest one or more of the following palliative treatments:
Pleurodesis: A pleurodesis helps patients suffering from the pain and discomfort of recurrent pleural effusions, the buildup of fluid between the inner and outer pleura of the lung. During the procedure, excess fluid is drained and the space between the inner and outer pleura is closed with a chemical adhesive. The adhesive is inserted into the space between the layers of the pleura, sealing it so that fluid buildups do not return.
Thoracentesis: A thoracentesis is less invasive than a pleurodesis. A surgeon inserts a needle into the space between the inner and outer pleura and drains fluid buildup. Draining fluid releases the pressure that caused the patient pain and discomfort. Though it may not guarantee that the pleural effusions do not return, a thoracentesis is a better procedure for patients who are not healthy enough to endure an invasive procedure.
Paracentesis: A paracentesis is a palliative treatment used for patients with peritoneal mesothelioma. Patients with peritoneal mesothelioma experience fluid buildups similar to the effusions suffered by pleural mesothelioma patients. These buildups occur in the peritoneal cavity – the space between the inner and outer peritoneum – and are called ascites. During a paracentesis, a needle is inserted into the abdominal cavity and the ascites is drained.
Pericardiocentesis: A pericardiocentesis drains the buildup of fluid from the pericardium, the lining of the heart. This procedure relieves the uncomfortable pressure and chest pains caused by the fluid buildup.
The Right Treatment
A patient and their mesothelioma specialist will both decide which palliative treatment will work best within their treatment plan. Because palliative treatments factor into every mesothelioma patient’s care, regardless of diagnosis, choosing the right treatment center and specialist is important.
Regardless of the which treatment option a patient receives, palliative treatments can help mesothelioma patients improve their quality of life and regain focus on enjoying time with family and friends.