Mesothelioma treatments & costs

Treatment for mesothelioma should begin as soon as possible after diagnosis. Doing so can increase the odds for a more favorable prognosis.

There are numerous mesothelioma treatments available to fight the disease and win the battle for an improved prognosis. Research has demonstrated that the most effective mesothelioma treatments are those used in combination with one another.

Mesothelioma treatments fall into six basic categories. They are:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Experimental therapies
  • Complementary medicine

Insurance typically covers most costs involved in the delivery of mesothelioma treatments, but not all insurance plans cover all types of mesothelioma treatments. As a result, many mesothelioma patients and their loved ones are startled by the enormity of the out-of-pocket costs with which they can be hit (this is a major reason most patients and loved ones turn to the legal system for relief).

Mesothelioma Surgery
$10,000 to $40,000
per operation

Mesothelioma Chemo
$30,000 to $50,000
per course
Mesothelioma Radiation
$10,000 to $50,000
per course
The published medical costs of mesothelioma treatment do not include travel, lodging, and meals. Those extras—which result when one must go to a distant mesothelioma-specialized care facility—are rarely if ever covered by insurance.

Mesothelioma surgery

is customarily performed only when the cancer is in its early stages. One or more surgical methods are available for each type of mesothelioma.

For pleural mesothelioma surgery, there is extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP). In this procedure, surgeons remove the cancer-affected lung and its pleural lining. Taking out the diseased lung leaves a second lung and pleura that are cancer-free.

A less radical surgery for pleural mesothelioma is a pleurectomy/decortication (P/D). Here, only the cancerous pleura is removed while the lung remains intact. This leaves the patient with both lungs.

For peritoneal mesothelioma surgery, there is a procedure known as debulking. Surgeons attempt to the extent possible to cut out the tumor or tumors growing on the peritoneum and nearby sections of the intestines.

Another type of peritoneal mesothelioma surgery is called an omentectomy, wherein the omentum is removed. The omentum is a tissue layer that covers the liver and stomach.

For pericardial mesothelioma surgery, doctors offer a pericardectomy. In this procedure, the entirety of the heart’s lining is removed. A benefit of the pericardectomy is it relieves mesothelioma-induced pressure-buildup that endangers heart function.

Mesothelioma chemotherapy

involves loading cancer-killing drugs into the bloodstream.

This is usually accomplished by means of a drip device or an infusion pump that feeds the drugs from an overhead hanging bag through a slender tube attached to a needle inserted in the patient’s arm. It normally takes several hours for the contents of the bag to empty into the patient’s bloodstream.

A patient typically receives one or more such dosages over the span of up to three days, then is given a rest period of about three weeks before receiving additional dosages.

Chemotherapy can be given before, during, or after mesothelioma surgery, radiation therapy, and other treatments. This is done to make the other treatment or treatments work better and make it less likely any cancer cells will remain to reestablish the tumor.

There is a special during-surgery chemotherapy technique for treatment of peritoneal mesothelioma. It is called intraperitoneal chemotherapy. Once the tumor is removed, the surgeons will use this procedure to flood the abdominal cavity with a chemotherapy drug that kills remaining mesothelioma cells. The chemotherapy drug will be removed before the surgery site is closed.

A variant of intraperitoneal chemotherapy is called HIPEC, short for heated intraoperative chemotherapy. As the name implies, the chemotherapy drug is warmed prior to and during administration. This gives the drug enhanced cancer-cell knock-down power.

Chemotherapy can be used alone. It typically serves as the first-line choice of weapon against mesothelioma diagnosed at a later stage, one where surgery is unadvisable let alone possible. In later stages, chemotherapy is given not with the aim of curing but to slow the spread of the disease and reduce pain.

Chemotherapy can produce side effects that range from mildly discomforting to severely unpleasant. They include:

  • Vomiting
  • Loss of hair
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue

Medications are available to reduce, minimize, or eliminate these and other mesothelioma chemotherapy side effects.

Mesothelioma radiation therapy

involves the precision aiming of x-rays, protons, or other types of high-energy particles at cancer cells to cause their death.

To deliver mesothelioma radiation therapy, doctors first use diagnostic imaging tools such as PET, PET-CT, or MRI scanners to identify the exact borders of the tumor. Then, they begin beaming small, short blasts of radiation at the tumor while being exceptionally careful to avoid overshooting the borders (and so minimize harm to neighboring healthy cells).

A mesothelioma patient who receives radiation therapy typically travels to a cancer care center outfitted with the necessary equipment. The patient is taken to the treatment room and receives the tightly targeted a dose of radiation. Prior to this, the patient may be given a radiosensitizing drug to make the cancer cells more vulnerable to radiation.

The radiation dosing process is completed in 10 to 30 minutes. However, the patient must return to the center daily (or on a five-day-per-week schedule) for four to six weeks to receive the full course of doses.

Mesothelioma radiation therapy can be used alone as a curative or as a symptom-reliever. It can also be used together with chemotherapy. Typically, chemotherapy is given just before the start of radiation therapy and then again at the end of it.

And, like chemotherapy, radiation therapy can be administered before or after other mesothelioma treatments to enhance their effectiveness.

Mesothelioma radiation therapy can produce side effects that range from mildly discomforting to severely unpleasant. They include:

  • Skin burns and blistering at the radiation target site
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Appetite loss

Mesothelioma immunotherapy

seeks to kill cancer cells by increasing the strength of the body’s natural immune system.

The immune system is supposed to on its own detect the presence of cancer cells and then initiate a molecular response to attack and purge them. However, mesothelioma sends out signals that fool the immune system into mistaking the cancerous cells for healthy ones. As a result, the immune system fails to do its job and the tumors are free to grow undisturbed.

Mesothelioma immunotherapy drugs block those deception signals and enable the immune system to detect and respond to the presence of cancer cells.

There are a variety of mesothelioma immunotherapy drugs currently available. The most widely used include:

  • PD-1 inhibitors
  • CTLA-4 inhibitors
  • Immune checkpoint inhibitors
  • Cancer vaccines (these do not immunize against cancer; instead, they trigger an immune system response to cancer)

Mesothelioma immunotherapy can produce side effects that range from mildly discomforting to severely unpleasant. They include:

  • Aching joints
  • Rash
  • Itching
  • Appetite loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea

In 10 percent to 16 percent of cases, immunotherapy causes a side effect known as hyper-progression. Here, instead of shrinking tumors, the immunotherapy triggers their accelerated growth and must be discontinued.

Mesothelioma experimental therapies

are those that show promise but have not yet proven their worth.

One such experimental mesothelioma treatment is photodynamic therapy (PDT). This is a procedure in which cancer cells are made sensitive to light by a drug injected into the body. After mesothelioma cells have ingested the drug, an endoscopic-like device is surgically inserted in proximity to the tumor or tumors.

The device contains a special light-emitting tip. When the light is turned on, it activates the molecules of the sensitizing drug. This causes chemical changes in the composition of the cancer cells, killing them. Healthy cells are for the most part unaffected.

Side effects associated with mesothelioma photodynamic therapy are said to be few and generally mild.

Mesothelioma complementary therapies

are those that can help improve the quality of a patient’s life but that also lack an established medical or scientific basis for validity.

Complementary therapies are different from alternative therapies. Complementary therapies are used in tandem with standard, accepted mesothelioma therapies such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Alternative therapies, on the other hand, are used as a replacement for the standards of care (which nearly all doctors advise against).

Among the many mesothelioma complementary therapies are these:

  • Nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Herbal medicines
  • Emotional support
  • Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
  • Therapeutic and lymphatic massage

Consult a mesothelioma lawyer about your rights to compensation

As discussed above, mesothelioma treatment aimed at delivering a better prognosis can be extremely expensive.

Thus, it is not uncommon for patients and their loved ones to suffer financially while battling mesothelioma.

This is unjust—especially given that mesothelioma is a cancer caused by the negligence and even intentional actions of corporations that put profits above people.

Fortunately, mesothelioma patients have legal rights. One such right is potential eligibility for compensation from those held culpable.

The first step in seeking such compensation is to consult an attorney extensively experienced in mesothelioma litigations.

From this consultation will emerge the foundation for a potential lawsuit that could, if successfully prosecuted, yield compensation sufficient to pay non-covered medical bills and mesothelioma-related expenses in addition to making up for lost income and to salving the pain and suffering engendered by the ordeal of this cancer.

To talk to a mesothelioma lawyer.

Greg Sandifer

About the author…

Gregory Sandifer graduated from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and received his law degree from Western State University College of Law in Fullerton, California.

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