Archive for October, 2010

Pleurectomy and Pneumonectomy Surgery

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

There are a couple mesothelioma surgery options available to many who are afflicted with the cancer.  There’s a helpful mesothelioma surgery article on that does a good job of explaining the difference between the two procedures.

Culled from an article that originally appeared in the New York Daily News, Dr. Raja Flores delineates the two procedures available for patients with pleural mesothelioma.  The two surgical options are a pneumonectomy, which involves removal of the lung with mesothelioma in it, and a pleurectomy (or decortications), which does not.

The goal of most surgeries is to provide the patient with the best possible outcome.  Pneumonectomies are more drastic than pleurectomies, but opting for one over the other depends on a host of factors beyond simple invasiveness.  The location, size, and mass of the tumors all play into a surgeon’s decision to go with one selection over another.  Oftentimes, according to Dr. Flores, a surgeon might not even know which route he chooses to take until surgery is already underway.  That’s because seeing the patient’s condition in-person often provides clues as to the state of the lungs that imaging scans or tests, such as a CT scan, may not provide.

Overall, most doctors want a surgery to be successful.  In the case of surgeries as a treatment option of mesothelioma, a successful surgery might mean an increased quality of life for the patient or a longer life expectancy.

Whatever the outcome may be, surgery can be an invasive and potentially risky procedure.  These facts may factor into why it’s not a universally lauded option when it comes to mesothelioma treatment.  Indeed, some doctors tend to favor options other than surgery as a best option for treatment.  As with many things regarding this disease, there is no consensus on the best route to take.

New Tomudex and Cisplatin Treatment

Monday, October 25th, 2010

A new mesothelioma treatment, which consists of a combination of existing, generally accepted treatments, may hold promising benefits for victims of this devastating and lethal disease.

According to a mesothelioma article found on, the combination has been used favorably in a number of studies, including ones conducted by the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer, the Netherlands Cancer Institute, the National Cancer Institute of Canada, and the Lung Cancer Group.

The new treatment consists of combining Tomudex (generically known as raltorexed) and cisplatin, a chemotherapy drug.  These two drugs, used in tandem, may appear to increase the rate of survival for those suffering with this malignant cancer.

Should these studies translate to the real world, this could be very good news for the scientists and clinicians involved in the fight against mesothelioma, not to mention mesothelioma sufferers themselves.  Mesothelioma, after all, is a highly lethal cancer.  Even though it affects a relatively small number of people (somewhere between 7 and 40 people per million in the United States, for example), it is still a dangerous killer.  Indeed, its rather small rate of incidence contributes to its viciousness, since there isn’t as much research money available for studies about the disease as there is for more common ailments.

Mesothelioma is often caused by asbestos, a mineral that used to be mined in large quantities the world over.  Even today, mines for asbestos exist.  The mineral used to be used much more commonly, as it exhibited many properties that made it highly valued within the shipbuilding and construction industries.  For example, it was extremely lightweight.  That meant it could be added to concrete to lighten it, which saved on transportation and construction costs.  It was also a flame retardant, which meant it could be used to insulate pipes and boilers on ships, places where fires could not break out and where the weight of objects really mattered.

Steve McQueen’s Mesothelioma Battle

Friday, October 15th, 2010

Steve McQueen, famed American countercultural actor known for his anti-hero star turns in films like Bullitt, The Magnificent Seven, and The Great Escape, died nearly 30 years ago from complications due to mesothelioma.  According to an article posted on, his family will release a book in honor of the legendary star known as “the king of cool.”  Appropriately, the book is titled Steve McQueen: A Tribute to the King of Cool. It features hundreds of photos and around 200 passages which chronicle McQueen’s life and interests, which include vehicles like motorcycles and vintage cars.

According to the article, it also touches on his tragic death, which was caused by mesothelioma.  Mesothelioma is an exceedingly rare but exceedingly deadly form of cancer that affects somewhere between seven and 40 people per 1,000,000 in the United States.  It can attack the soft lining around the stomach and the lungs, advancing rapidly once it manifests itself.  Indeed, mesothelioma’s damage is wrought so rapidly that the life expectancy of a victim diagnosed with the cancer is often measured in mere months.

Steve McQueen was famous for doing many of his own stunts, often wearing protective helmets and fire-resistant clothing which may have contained asbestos.  He also helped remove asbestos from pipes while he was in the Marines.  These incidents are significant because asbestos exposure is strongly associated with mesothelioma, and it’s conceivable that either of these events led to him contracting the disease.

When asbestos fibers are disturbed and become airborne, they can be inhaled.  Once inhaled, the fibers embed themselves in the lungs and remain dormant for a very long period of time which can range from 10 to 50 years.  This large window, combined with the extended latency period, means it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where McQueen contracted his mesothelioma.  However, either incident might have contributed to his tragic end.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Treatment

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Mesothelioma is a devastating disease that targets the linings of the lungs and the stomach.  It is fatal, and though there are treatment options available, there is no cure.  What’s more, mesothelioma advances rapidly, which means sufferers of this rare, malignant cancer often have life expectancies measured in months.  Mesothelioma is a very rare disease, afflicting somewhere between seven and 40 people per million in the United States.  And yet it’s precisely this relative rarity that makes it difficult to conduct effective studies and undergo major treatment testing.

However, despite the often dire facts surrounding this disease, there are advances made along the treatment front all the time.  Recently, treatments for peritoneal mesothelioma, the form of this disease that attacks the peritoneum in the abdomen, have shown promise.  (Peritoneal mesothelioma, for the record, contrasts with pleural mesothelioma, the form this disease takes when it attacks the pleural lining.)

According to an article about peritoneal mesothelioma treatment on, what is referred to as a “multimodal” approach to treatment seems to have benefits.  This multimodal approach has parallels in the treatment of other cancers.  Its name fairly self-explanatory, as it refers to the employment of multiple treatments undergone at the same time.  Treatments that are often bundled together include surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy.  Though this approach might result in increased treatment efficacy, it nevertheless cannot be used for a majority of mesothelioma patients, because it only has value to those who have a chance to beat the disease.

When this multimodal approach is used, it can manifest itself in several ways.  One way is referred to as HIPEC, or heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy.  In this method, a heated chemotherapy solution is circulated in the abdominal cavity after surgery.  It has been found that heating the solution an increased benefit.

Though doctors are still a long way off from providing concrete solutions for mesothelioma, there certainly is hope on the horizon.

The Friable Asbestos Tragedy

Friday, October 1st, 2010

Today, asbestos is inextricably linked with mesothelioma.  However, for centuries (or even millennia), this mineral was widely used and considered profoundly valuable.  The change has to do with mesothelioma’s ravages.

Mesothelioma is an insidious and devastating cancer that afflicts the delicate lining around the stomach and the lungs.  (This lining is known as the mesothelium, which is how this disease gets its name.)  Mesothelioma can be caused by asbestos exposure, and that’s how the majority of mesothelioma cases in America are caused.  (The natural occurrence for mesothelioma is about 1 in 1,000,000, whereas the current rate in the United States is somewhere between 7 and 40 per 1,000,000 citizens.)

Asbestos exposure can happen for many reasons.  One primary cause is working with asbestos.  Although this mineral is rarely used anymore, it used to be employed with great regularity in many industries, specifically the construction and shipbuilding ones.  Asbestos was used so widely because it possessed many properties that were prized in construction and shipbuilding.  For example, when mixed with concrete, it made the concrete simultaneously less dense and lighter.  This meant that builders could ship smaller amounts and needed smaller volumes to achieve the same results, which cut down on both labor and transportation costs.  Since asbestos is so light and feathery, it is an excellent insulator and fire retardant, so it was used for those purposes as well.  In the shipbuilding industry, its extremely low density and efficiency as an insulator led to its widespread use in an area where every extra pound of weight counts.

Unfortunately, despite its many positive uses, asbestos, when inhaled in the lungs, can cause mesothelioma.  After being inhaled, it lays dormant for anywhere from 10 to 50 years.  Once it actively begins causing mesothelioma, victims of this mineral’s insidiousness begin to worsen rapidly.  The life expectancy of someone afflicted with mesothelioma is often measured in mere months.