Radiation before surgery may improve survival rate for mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that can be caused by living or working near asbestos. This type of cancer can be identified by the small cancer cells that will line the layer of tissue in the chest cavity where the lungs are contained. Some of the signs of mesothelioma include difficulty breathing, pain under the rib cage, weight loss for no reason, pain or swelling in the abdomen and lumps in the abdomen.

Treating this rare disease

Unfortunately, while there are many treatments available to mesothelioma sufferers, a cure is not always possible. Usually, when a person suspects they have this disease, they will go through a series of tests to identify whether or not the cancer is present which may include tests like a physical exam, chest X-ray, CT scan and a biopsy. The type of treatment the doctor recommends to their patient may be based on:

  • The stage of the cancer and the size of the tumor.
  • Whether or not the tumor can be removed with a surgical procedure.
  • The amount of fluid present in the person's chest or abdomen.
  • The general health of the patient, age and their lung and heart health.
  • Whether the cancer was recently diagnosed or if it has come back after a period of remission.

While not every type of treatment is successful for those with mesothelioma, a new study indicates that radiation before surgery may improve mesothelioma sufferers' chances of survival.

New study provides hope

According to a new study headed by a radiation oncologist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Center in Toronto, those who went through radiation before surgery to remove mesothelioma instead of after were more likely to survive, needed a shorter treatment period, had fewer complications and a speedier recovery.

This study was small, surveying only 25 patients, many of which had been exposed to asbestos before developing the cancer. Each patient underwent five days of radiation treatment and then had surgery the following week. Not only were the patients involved in this study able to heal faster, but their chances for survival increased from 32 percent to 72 percent.

One reason why radiation before surgery may be an effective option for mesothelioma sufferers is because this process almost eliminates the cancer's ability to spread throughout the patient's body during surgery. However, despite the findings of this study, a completely successful treatment option for this disease has not been found. If you or a family member has developed mesothelioma after exposure to asbestos, speak with an attorney that can guide you through the legal process.