Personal & Financial Mesothelioma Assistance
Mesothelioma is rare cancer that affects the lungs and chest cavity lining, but it can often be treated and controlled if caught early enough. It usually develops after prolonged exposure to asbestos, widely used as an insulator in residential and commercial buildings until around 1989, when the EPA banned it due to its carcinogenic properties.
The disease doesn't discriminate between men and women, nor does it hold back on anyone based on their age or income level. It can affect anyone from all walks of life, which means that anyone can potentially need financial assistance to help them get the treatment they need to fight this awful disease.
For many patients, some of the most pressing questions following an initial diagnosis of mesothelioma are how to get personal aid and pay for expensive treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation. This article will cover both emotional and financial aspects of mesothelioma, including information on how you can help yourself and others who might be going through this ordeal with you.
Understanding Your Mesothelioma Diagnosis and Treatment Plan
Mesothelioma can spread rapidly and become fatal in as little as 12 months if left untreated. It typically develops in the lungs, but it can also affect other body parts, including the abdomen, chest cavity, and heart. When you're diagnosed with mesothelioma, you'll receive treatment from an oncologist specializing in this type of cancer. Read on to understand your diagnosis and treatment plan to make the right choices for your health.
Causes of Mesothelioma
Two common culprits include asbestos exposure, which occurs when a person inhales asbestos fibers or has direct contact with products that contain asbestos, such as building materials. Long-term exposure to asbestos causes mesothelioma and other severe conditions like lung cancer and gastrointestinal cancers.
Symptoms of Mesothelioma
The symptoms of mesothelioma may differ from patient to patient. They typically include shortness of breath, chest pain or pressure, fatigue, pleural effusion (fluid buildup around a lung), leg swelling, fever, or weight loss. Pleural effusion is one of the most common symptoms present in at least 85 percent of diagnosed patients.
When to See a Doctor
The best time to see a doctor about an asbestos-related illness is as soon as you suspect something might be wrong. Even if it turns out that nothing is wrong, seeing a doctor will allow them to refer you to necessary screenings or help in identifying any long-term risks of working with asbestos. You should also make an appointment immediately if exposed to asbestos.
How is Mesothelioma Diagnosed?
In most cases, mesothelioma is only discovered after a patient experiences symptoms, especially shortness of breath or chest pain. When diagnosing mesothelioma, doctors will first rule out other potential causes of your symptoms. This is done through a physical exam, a chest X-ray, and sometimes an MRI or CT scan. Chest X-rays are the most utilized diagnostic methods to detect early mesothelioma signs. Once there's no evidence of another condition, you may be diagnosed with malignant or pleural mesothelioma.
Types of Treatment Available
The different types of treatment for mesothelioma include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, or a combination of all. Surgery is rarely used to treat mesothelioma because tumors are located in areas that can't be reached surgically. On the other hand, chemotherapy alone has little effect on many patients with mesothelioma. Researchers continue to look for different approaches to improving treatment results.
The type of treatment you choose will depend on your doctor's diagnosis, overall health, and the advancement of your disease. If possible, it's best to consult an oncologist who specializes in treating cancers like mesothelioma. This way, you can get answers to all of your questions and begin planning out your treatment plan.
The Latest Multi-Modality Treatment Options for Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer that affects the thin layer of tissue that covers most of the internal organs, has been challenging to treat successfully. This is because tumors and cells can migrate throughout the body quickly, making it difficult to locate and destroy them all. However, due to the growing advancement of new technologies and treatment options, people with mesothelioma can now experience better prognoses.
A multimodal approach to treating mesothelioma refers to using several treatments that affect cancer cells in different ways at the same time. This helps to increase the chances of successful cancer treatment because even if one therapy doesn't work, the others can make up for it by working together.
Mesothelioma treatment options are constantly evolving, and it's essential to keep up with the latest developments to find the right combination of treatments that will work best for your unique case. Here are some of the latest multi-modality treatment options for mesothelioma.
One of several standard treatment options for mesothelioma is chemotherapy which uses chemicals to kill cancer cells. It kills cancer cells, but it's also often used as a palliative measure or a way to reduce some of the symptoms of cancer. There are several chemotherapy drugs available to treat mesothelioma. The combination of pemetrexed and cisplatin can improve response rate and progression-free survival.
While chemotherapy drugs can help treat your cancer, they aren't a definite cure. Because mesothelioma is typically difficult to diagnose early on, chemotherapy may be administered earlier than it would otherwise be given. Unfortunately, chemotherapy's effectiveness isn't as clear-cut as doctors would like. Some patients experience long periods of remission, and others have quick reoccurrences.
As an option for mesothelioma patients whose cancer has not responded to other forms of treatment, immunotherapy is a non-invasive way to boost one's immune system and attack cancerous cells. This type of treatment works by providing a specific signal that tells your body to start producing tumor-fighting antibodies.
There are two significant types of immunotherapy drugs—checkpoint inhibitors and antibody drugs. Checkpoint inhibitors attack proteins found on T cells to help them recognize cancer cells. Antibody drugs release substances that slow down or stop cancer growth. Researchers are currently studying whether combining these therapies will be more effective than using one. Although research is still being conducted, it appears promising for certain patients with certain mesothelioma types.
Combining immunotherapy drugs with standard treatment regimens can accelerate tumor shrinkage, boost the quality of life and extend patient survival. Current targets for combination treatment include CTLA4, PD1, PDL1, and GITR. Many combinations are being tested, including PD-1 inhibitors combined with chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
Certain types of mesothelioma respond better to surgery alone than to other treatments. If you have mesothelioma, your doctor may suggest beginning with surgery alone and then seeing how you respond before moving on to other treatments like chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
When your doctor recommends surgery, you'll typically have one of two options. The first is a pleurectomy, where your surgeon cuts away part of or all of the lining surrounding your lung. The second is called extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP). Your surgeon removes everything but a thin layer of lung tissue and surrounding blood vessels, effectively removing any chance of cancer cells spreading to other parts of your body.
If your doctor discovers a small area of mesothelioma suitable for surgery, they may also perform a mesothelioma biopsy. In most cases, this type of excisional biopsy removes the entire cancerous tissue during surgery. Surgeons may need to take out lymph nodes near or surrounding the cancerous tumor to ensure all areas are free of disease.
These mesothelioma treatments are more targeted and treat specific cell functions rather than attacking cancer cells. The treatments target and destroy only cancer cells while leaving healthy cells untouched. By destroying only cancerous cells, targeted therapies help ensure that any side effects are minimized. Radiation therapy is a common example of a targeted treatment that concentrates radiation on small areas to destroy cancer cells. Another example is cryosurgery (the use of extreme cold to kill cancer cells).
Targeted treatment options, such as those that inhibit growth factors or angiogenesis, have also been approved for patients with mesothelioma. These include bevacizumab (Avastin), everolimus (Afinitor), imatinib mesylate (Gleevec), and sorafenib tosylate (Nexavar). Combining targeted treatments with chemotherapy drugs may improve clinical outcomes for some patients.
With four-modality treatment for mesothelioma, you can expect to receive four treatments, including brachytherapy, surgery, chemo, radiation, and immunotherapy, as part of your multi-modality approach. This is especially useful if you experience recurrent cancer, which occurs in about one-third of all cases. The theory behind using multiple treatment modalities comes from evaluating how tumors respond differently to each form of radiation used.
Researchers have found that mesothelioma patients live longer by combining four treatment modalities. Some patients who receive a multimodal approach can potentially survive for more than five years after diagnosis. That is an impressive statistic and significantly longer than most cancer therapies can offer.
Radiation and Tumor Treating Fields
Radiotherapy with tumors or other cancers is one of two main types of radiation, which can be effective on cancerous cells but sometimes can cause damage to healthy tissue. Getting radiation therapy is one of many treatment options for mesothelioma, but it's not considered a cure, but it can slow down tumor growth and help patients live longer. Radiation uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells, which can often be valuable to your treatment plan. Radiation may be recommended when surgery isn't an option and if you have any cancer recurrence.
You may have better survival chances if an advanced type of radiation, called Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), is used immediately after surgery. IMRT aims to decrease damage to surrounding healthy tissue while delivering radiation directly to tumors. This is done by controlling individual radiation beams, allowing them to focus more accurately on tumors. This method can spare up to 50% of healthy tissue and has been shown to help patients recover faster.
Tumor Treating Fields (TTFields) is a non-invasive treatment for tumors that use electric fields to kill tumor cells. With TTFields, electrodes are placed over your tumor site, delivering precisely controlled electromagnetic fields that cause your cancer cells to self-destruct before they spread.
While traditionally associated with tumors, photodynamic therapy is also being used to treat certain types of mesothelioma. The PDT, a photosensitizing agent (a light-sensitive drug), is injected into your bloodstream and then exposed to UV light. Cancer cells then absorb this drug, which makes up part of your body's immune system. When exposed to UV light, these drugs cause targeted cancer cells to die off rapidly.
PDT works by injecting a light-sensitive drug into a patient. Combining these two light-sensitive drugs and UV light creates toxic-free radicals that induce a type of cell death called apoptosis, which is characterized by distinctive changes in cells. Cancerous cells respond differently to PDT than healthy cells, causing them to undergo apoptosis faster than normal cells. Some experts consider PDT to be a viable alternative to surgery and chemotherapy.
How Mesothelioma Treatment Teams Pick the Suitable Multimodal Therapy
When deciding how to treat mesothelioma, the treatment team's goal (such as the doctor, nurse, and other specialists) is to balance the benefits of treating mesothelioma with the side effects of the treatment chosen. They also focus on treating every stage of mesothelioma, prolonging your life, and enhancing your quality of life while on your journey to recovery.
However, when dealing with mesothelioma, there are many different ways treatment teams choose how to combine these therapies to achieve the best possible outcome for each patient in question. To decide on a multimodal treatment, medical teams often look at these crucial factors:
- Overall health
- Your preference
- The location of the tumor and cell type
- The stage of your cancer and metastasis
Financial Assistance Programs for Mesothelioma Patients
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, learning about financial assistance programs can be incredibly helpful. It can be challenging to deal with treatment expenses and the daily costs of living. Fortunately, several financial assistance programs are available to help mesothelioma patients and their families pay for treatment, living expenses, or other needs during this challenging time in your life.
Besides filing a VA asbestos claim, or suing responsible parties to compensate you, here are more types of financial assistance programs that may be available to you based on your situation and where you live:
- Cancer Care
- American Cancer Society
- National Cancer Institute
- Cancer Research Institute
- Pacific Mesothelioma Center
- Cancer Support Community
- American Society of Clinical Oncology
- Cancer Financial Assistance Coalition
Contact your doctor or healthcare provider if you want to know more about these resources or how they can help you. You can also contact an attorney specializing in mesothelioma claims if you have questions about your specific situation. Most importantly, remember that you don't have to fight cancer alone. You deserve access to medical care, treatments, and ideal quality of life because of your diagnosis.
Dealing with Mesothelioma During the COVID-19 Pandemic
You may be wondering how the current COVID-19 pandemic will affect Mesothelioma diagnosis. If you're dealing with mesothelioma or any other kind of lung cancer as the COVID-19 pandemic descends worldwide, it can be challenging to know how to take care of yourself. Unfortunately, those with mesothelioma are particularly susceptible to respiratory infections during the pandemic, and their chances to contact COVID-19 may be higher.
However, there are many things you can do to increase your chances of recovery while reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19. With preparation and knowledge, you can make it through this time. Here are some quick tips to keep in mind as you navigate your treatment options and come to terms with your diagnosis of mesothelioma during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Stay informed about treatment updates.
- Talk to your doctor
- Get support from family and friends.
- Follow the COVID-19 guidelines to stay safe
Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer that develops from the protective lining covering many of the body's internal organs, including the lungs, heart, and abdomen. It typically affects people between the ages of 40 and 75, though it can also occur in younger or older people. The most common way this type of cancer develops is by exposure to asbestos fibers.
While mesothelioma doesn't have a definite cure, some treatments can help ease symptoms and improve your quality of life as you go through treatment. The good news is that there are plenty of resources available to help you with your finances and personal needs while also assisting you to get through treatment.
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