What to expect after a mesothelioma diagnosis

Getting a cancer diagnosis is never good news. Mesothelioma is a rare cancer with only 2,000- 3,000 new cases diagnosed in the US each year and most cases can be traced to occupational asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma is considered incurable, but in recent years doctors have learned how to better treat and diagnose this particular cancer. After diagnosis, the next step a doctor will generally do is determine the stage of the cancer. Staging is very important because it determines which treatments will be the most effective. Treatment also depends on the age and general health of the patient and type of mesothelioma. Ask the doctor the goal of treatments and what to expect.

If the cancer is in an early stage, surgery may be a good option. Mesothelioma is characterized by several small tumors spread throughout the tissue as opposed to one large tumor. When the cancer is advanced, removing the damaged tissue may not be possible. Chemotherapy is often used to shrink the tumors before surgery and after surgery to kill remaining cancer cells. Chemotherapy can also be an excellent palliative treatment for patients that do not have surgery. Since the drugs administered interrupt the life cycle of healthy cells as well as cancer cells, there may be some side effects. Radiation therapy is an effective treatment to reduce symptoms and can be used in conjunction with other treatments. Radiation therapy is easier to direct at only cancer cells and therefore has fewer side effects than chemotherapy. .