Treatment > Mesothelioma
Traditional treatments are not for everyone. Because of advancing age, other health problems, or already wide spread disease at the time of diagnosis, some mesothelioma patients choose only symptom control. This is a viable option, and should be supported as an alternative to aggressive treatment.
Communicating openly with your doctor about symptoms such as pain, fatigue, or loss of appetite, is a key factor in obtaining the best quality of life possible. This section talks about immunotherapy - a mesothelioma treatment that focuses on building the immune system - and palliative care - treatments for mesothelioma designed to relieve or sooth the symptoms without effecting a cure.
Immunotherapy sometimes called biological therapy, uses the body's own immune system to protect itself against disease. Researchers have found that the immune system may be able to recognize the difference between healthy cells and cancer cells, and eliminate those that become cancerous. Immunotherapy is intended to repair, stimulate, or enhance the immune system's natural anticancer function. Research into immunotherapy for mesothelioma treatment is ongoing.
Substances used in immunotherapy, called biological response modifiers (BRMs) alter the interaction between the body's immune defenses and cancer, thereby improving the body's ability to fight disease. Some BRMs, such as cytokines and antibodies, occur naturally in the body, however, it is now possible to make BRMs in the laboratory that can imitate or influence natural immune response agents. These BRMs may:
- Enhance the immune system to fight cancer cell growth.
- Eliminate, regulate, or suppress body responses that permit cancer growth.
- Make cancer cells more susceptible to destruction by the immune system.
- Alter cancer cell's growth patterns to behave like normal cells.
- Block or reverse the process that changes a normal cell into a cancer cell.
- Prevent a cancer cell from spreading to other sites.
Many BRMs are currently being used in cancer treatment, including interferons, interleukins, tumor necrosis factor, colony-stimulating factors, monoclonal antibodies, and cancer vaccines. More on immunotherapy for mesothelioma.
Palliative care is comprehensive care for people with life-limiting illness, and may prove of value at any time during a serious illness. The palliative care movement stresses mesothelioma pain management and symptom relief, and also addresses physical, psychological, and spiritual issues, knowing that serious illness can have many aspects. Palliative care professionals realize that even though a patient can not be cured, many are healed.
Palliative care is usually a joint project between medical professionals and the patient's family and friends. Care given with affection by the patient’s family can not be duplicated. Tips on creating a comfortable enviroment for patients can be found here. Hospices specialize in palliative care. Click here for information on hospices. Mesothelioma Aid also has a separate page on pain management for mesothelioma patients. Also, you may be interested in the definition of advanced cancer, as advanced cancer patients are frequently treated with palliative care. Many patients find massage therapy useful.
Palliative Care Dialogue With Your Doctor
- Just as you need information from your doctor, your doctor needs information from you. Following are some suggestions to help open a dialogue if you have chosen palliative over aggressive care.
- Tell your doctor everything you already know about your illness. What have you learned from other physicians involved with your case, from family and/or friends, from research in the library, or on the Internet? Exchanging information is important so that the patient and doctor can agree on a specific course of action.
- Tell your doctor how much you want to know about your illness. Do you want only general information, or do you want to know all the details of your case? Do you want to make decisions on your own, or do you want a family member or friend to help make decisions for you?
- Make certain the diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, and/or comfort options have been explained in a manner that is understandable to you and your family. Is there anything you need further clarified? Remember, no question is too trivial or too foolish to ask.
- In evaluating your aggressive treatment vs. palliative care options, it is important for your doctor to have a complete understanding of what is important to you. What conditions would you not want to deal with? What do you still hope to accomplish? What are your quality of life standards? Click here for more on coping with mesothelioma.
You should never feel alone or neglected at any point during your illness. If you have chosen palliative care over aggressive treatment, is your doctor agreeable to help you on this course? Patients and their family members need to be comfortable that their doctor will be present and supportive for the duration of a patient’s illness.
Benign mesothelioma is a non-cancerous form of the tumor. Click here for more.
Side Effects of Chemotherapy
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