Malignant Mesothelioma Surgery - Pericardial Mesothelioma

Potentially Curative Malignant Mesothelioma Surgery

Malignant mesothelioma surgery has had limited success in treating this rare type of cancer. Malignant mesothelioma affects the mesothelial tissue of three large body cavities and is responsible for an estimated 200,000 deaths worldwide. A positive malignant mesothelioma diagnosis will yield one of three distinct types of the disease: pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma or pericardial mesothelioma.

Malignant mesothelioma surgery is one of three traditional mesothelioma treatments; chemotherapy and radiotherapy are the other two. Mesothelioma surgery is the most proactive of the treatments because it involves the physical removal of a cancerous mass from the body.

There are three mesothelioma surgery categories:

  1. Diagnostic surgery: used to validate a mesothelioma diagnosis.
  2. Palliative surgery: used to treat the symptoms of a disease as opposed to the disease itself.
  3. Potentially curative surgery: administered with "curative intent" and often highly invasive.

Mesothelioma Surgery -- Pleurectomy

A pleurectomy decortication is the less invasive of the two types of potentially curative mesothelioma surgery. In short, a pleurectomy is a mesothelioma surgery through which the pleura (mesothelial tissue lining the lung cavity) is removed. Pleural mesothelioma causes cancerous cellular growth in the pleura and can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Pleurectomy decortication surgery is an option only for early-stage pleural mesothelioma patients whose tumor has not yet invaded the lung tissue itself.

Though potentially curative, pleurectomy decortication mesothelioma surgery is also used palliatively to treat some of the nagging symptoms associated with pleural mesothelioma. The procedure can help to reduce pain caused by pleural tumor mass or serve as a preventative measure against fluid build-up in the chest (pleural effusion), a common symptom of pleural mesothelioma.

Extrapleural Pneumonectomy

An extrapleural pneumonectomy is the more extensive and invasive of the two types of potentially curative mesothelioma surgery. An extrapleural pneumonectomy involves the removal of sections of the diaphragm and pericardium in addition to removal of the pleura and lung most affected by the cancer.

An extrapleural pneumonectomy can require a hospital stay of five to ten days, during which patients will receive a variety of postoperative treatments designed to manage pain and rehabilitate affected organs (most notably the heart). Though an extreme measure, extrapleural pneumonectomy mesothelioma surgery has the potential to increase pleural mesothelioma patients' survival time by as much as five years.

Pneumonectomy surgery is used to treat certain types of lung cancer, including asbestos lung cancer; however, a pneumonectomy strictly involves the removal of the diseased lung.

Combination Therapy

Mesothelioma surgery is typically used in conjunction with one or more additional mesothelioma treatments. Each mesothelioma treatment has its own technique for combating malignant mesothelioma cancer cells. It is believed that a combination of these various techniques provides a greater chance for treatment success.

For example, chemotherapy treatment is often administered for several weeks to slow the spread of malignant mesothelioma cancer cells prior to surgical treatment. This is done with the intention of providing a certain degree of containment around the cancerous mass before removal. Radiation therapy is often used postoperatively to kill any lingering tumor cells. A three-pronged approach is more effective than removal of the tumor alone.

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