Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer that affects the mesothelial cells, which are the protective lining of the lungs, abdomen, and heart. The primary cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral that was widely used in construction, shipbuilding, and other industries until the 1970s. Unfortunately, mesothelioma is often diagnosed at an advanced stage, which makes it difficult to treat. Surgery is one of the treatment options for mesothelioma, and it can help in several ways.
First, surgery can be used to diagnose mesothelioma. If a patient has symptoms that suggest mesothelioma, such as persistent cough, chest pain, or shortness of breath, a doctor may perform a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. During a biopsy, a small piece of tissue is removed from the affected area and examined under a microscope. If mesothelioma is confirmed, the doctor may recommend surgery to remove as much of the cancer as possible.
Second, surgery can be used to remove the tumor or tumors. Mesothelioma tumors can grow in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart, and they can be difficult to remove completely. However, surgery can be an effective way to remove as much of the tumor as possible and reduce the symptoms of mesothelioma. There are several types of surgery that can be used to remove mesothelioma tumors, including:
Pleurectomy/decortication (P/D): This surgery is used to remove the lining of the lungs (pleura) and any visible mesothelioma tumors. During the procedure, the surgeon will make several small incisions in the chest and use a camera and special tools to remove the affected tissue.
Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP): This surgery is used to remove the entire affected lung, as well as the lining of the chest wall and heart. This is a more invasive procedure than P/D and is typically only used for patients with early-stage mesothelioma who are otherwise healthy.
Cytoreductive surgery with heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC): This surgery is used to remove mesothelioma tumors from the lining of the abdomen (peritoneum). During the procedure, the surgeon will remove as much of the visible tumor as possible, and then a heated chemotherapy solution will be circulated in the abdomen to kill any remaining cancer cells.
Third, surgery can be used as part of a multimodal treatment approach. Mesothelioma is often treated with a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. This is known as multimodal treatment, and it can be more effective than any one treatment alone. For example, a patient with mesothelioma may undergo surgery to remove the tumor, followed by chemotherapy to kill any remaining cancer cells, and then radiation therapy to prevent the cancer from coming back.
Finally, surgery can improve quality of life for mesothelioma patients. Even if the surgery cannot remove all of the cancer, it can still help to reduce symptoms such as pain and difficulty breathing. For example, a patient with mesothelioma may undergo surgery to remove part of a tumor that is causing chest pain, which can improve their overall quality of life.
However, it is important to note that surgery is not always an option for mesothelioma patients. The decision to undergo surgery will depend on several factors, including the location and stage of the cancer, the patient’s overall health, and their preferences and goals for treatment. Additionally, surgery can be a risky and invasive procedure, and there is a risk of complications such as bleeding, infection, and damage to nearby organs.
In conclusion, surgery can be an effective treatment option for mesothelioma, and it can help in several ways, including diagnosis, tumor removal, multimodal treatment, and symptom management. However, the decision to undergo surgery should be made in consultation with a mesothelioma specialist who can evaluate the risks and benefits of the procedure for each individual patient.