Palliative Care for Mesothelioma

Once mesothelioma has progressed to its final stages, physicians generally shift their treatment plans from curative to palliative. In some ways, this is not much of a shift. Most palliative procedures have some sort of curative component to them, but mesothelioma is an incurable cancer and once it reaches stage four it is ineligible for curative surgery. Though the best hope for a mesothelioma patient is extrapleural pneumonectomy surgery to remove portions of the lung, parietal pleura, pericardium, and diaphragm, the surgery is useless once the mesothelioma has formed metastatic tumors. Removing these organs constitutes radical surgery and at stage four, their removal can no longer constrain the cancer’s growth. Instead treatments like thoracentesis and paracentesis are put in place to help drain the fluid that is compressing the lungs, reducing pain and making breathing easier. Surgery to remove the tumors may still be performed, but it is no longer done with the hope of removing them completely. Instead it is used to reduce the pressure of the masses on the bodily systems. Treatments like chemotherapy and radiation are also still a possibility as they can greatly improve a patient’s quality of life by reducing their pain levels. There are treatments in place to help the patient cope with pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, dry mouth, loss of appetite, gastrointestinal problems, skin problems, and anxiety or depression.