Mesothelioma Treatments

Mesothelioma Questions for Your Doctor

When a patient is diagnosed with mesothelioma, numerous questions often come to mind. Since mesothelioma is very rare and relatively unknown, patients may also experience an influx of questions from loved ones once they are informed of the diagnosis.

Gaining knowledge about mesothelioma often helps patients understand the disease and how it's affecting their body. Learning about treatment options may ease some of the anxiety. Many doctors encourage patients to learn about mesothelioma and various treatment options. Typically patients will find that learning everything they can about the cancer brings questions for their doctors to the surface which inevitably further expands their knowledge of mesothelioma.

Several excellent books about mesothelioma exist to aid patients and their loved ones in their quest for knowledge. offers complimentary books with information about mesotheliom to help answer questions and bring new questions to light. To receive a complimentary copy of book on mesothelioma, click here.

As a patient and their loved ones begin to try to understand what a mesothelioma diagnosis means, a great place to start is by questioning the medical professionals that a patient will work with in the coming months: the treatment team, primary care physician, oncologist, radiation therapist and surgeon. Below is a list of topics patients may wish to discuss with these professionals.

How did this happen?

Mesothelioma is caused almost exclusively by asbestos exposure. Where exactly this exposure occurred varies from patient to patient. Many patients were exposed to the toxic mineral on the job or in the Unites States Navy since asbestos was widely used in construction and the creation of ships and vessels.

A patient's doctor can explain the process of how asbestos fibers interact with the body's cells, causing them to become malignant asbestos. The doctor may be able to help determine if a patient's exposure to asbestos was primary (direct) or secondary (indirect), and even pinpoint where, when and how a patient was exposed.

What is my stage of development?

All cancers have stages. The systems used to determine the stage of the disease are the Butchart System, the TNM System and the Brigham System. All stages use a four-stage classification with the level of the cancer's progression increasing with each stage.

Traditionally, doctors have used the Butchart System, which is based on the mass of the tumor. At Stage I, the tumor is relatively small and localized where as a patient in Stage IV has experienced spreading of the cancer to other parts of the body.

Recently, a new system that is more applicable to mesothelioma specifically has been developed. This is called the TNM System for Tumor, Node and Metastasis. Like the Butchart system, it also has four stages.

The most recent method of staging however is the Brigham System. This type of staging considers how operable the cancer is and whether or not it has spread into the lymphatic system.

A patient's doctor should be familiar with all of these stages and will be able to provide additional insight as to a patient's specific stage of development. Further information about these staging systems is available in our comprehensive mesothelioma packet. To receive this informative packet, simply fill out the form on this page.

Where is the cancer located?

Although mesothelioma of the pleural lining (affecting the lungs) is the most common, it can also affect the pericardium (surrounding the heart) and the peritoneal lining (gastrointestinal tract) as well. In many cases, this is not obvious to the patient and a doctor will be able to detail what part of a patient's body has been affected.

What are my treatment options?

A patient's oncologist will advise the patient on the best course of treatment. Since every case of mesothelioma is unique, a treatment team will devise the best treatment option available for each patient's particular situation, based on the stage and location of the disease. Typical treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

Among these treatment options may be the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial. As the number of mesothelioma cases increases, more treatments and new drugs are being tested. It can be difficult to get into such clinical trials, but if a patient's doctor feels that they are good candidate for a study, they can help facilitate your participation.

Patients may also be interested in alternative treatments. Increasing numbers of medical professionals are acknowledging the effectiveness of diet, meditation, acupuncture, nutrient supplements and more. A patient may wish to ask their doctor about alternative treatment options that may increase the quality of life throughout a patient's journey with mesothelioma.

What is my prognosis?

This can be the most difficult subject for a patient to discuss with their doctor. The good news is that earlier diagnoses and newer, more effective treatments are greatly extending the life expectancy of mesothelioma patients. Many factors contribute to a patient's prognosis and a doctor will be able to explain the specific influence these factors have on a patient's outlook.

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