Posts Tagged ‘mesothelioma treatment’

Caring for Someone With Mesothelioma

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

When a loved one chooses to be a caregiver for another member of the family who is ill, it is often with great love and commitment that they make that choice. But providing care for someone who has mesothelioma can be a very challenging role to play. In addition to taking on activities such as scheduling mesothelioma treatment appointments, managing medications, and assisting with daily routines, you may also be needed as a source of comfort and listening, even when the victim is experiencing grief and anger. Many caregivers report experiencing overwhelm and even burnout. If you are planning to be a primary caregiver for someone who has mesothelioma, here are a few suggestions that may make your experience more manageable.

First, keep in mind that maintaining your own health is critical to providing consistent and thoughtful care to someone who has mesothelioma. Setting up your schedule to include regular meals, quality sleep, and sufficient breaks can help alleviate stress. Stress-reducing activities such as exercise, reading or prayer and meditation may also prove to be very helpful. Planning for these activities may involve hiring outside help, but the benefits of renewed energy and a refreshed outlook will make the expense well worth it.

On the subject of getting help, you may want to consider lining up one or more backup caregiver. It’s very helpful to have someone who can step in the case that you are sick or have an urgent personal matter to attend to. It also makes a difference to have someone else take over for extended periods of time so that you can have time to restore and to handle personal matters that can fall to the wayside when caring for another.

While caring for your loved one, you may have questions about mesothelioma or mesothelioma victims rights. With the combined effects of lost income, the cost of treatment, and other expenses, caring for someone with mesothelioma can become a financial burden for many families. You may want to find out whether you qualify for certain programs. For example, some insurance companies reimburse caregivers and even such things as housecleaning or other assistance. Joining a support group may also be very helpful. Taking the time to explore these resources can save time and money, as well as help maintain your health and well-being.

Diagnosed with Mesothelioma?

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Most people who are diagnosed with mesothelioma have gone to the doctor because of troubling or persistant symptoms. If the doctor suspects that a patient has mesothelioma, he or she will use certain tests to determine with certainty whether mesothelioma is actually present.

Symptoms of mesothelioma can easily be mistaken for symptoms of other illnesses, especially early on. As a result, many people are not diagnosed until symptoms have persisted for several months or have gotten noticeably worse. Symptoms of mesothelioma depend on the type of mesothelioma and vary from individual to individual. According to current medical knowledge, peritoneal mesothelioma, which takes place in the lining of the abdominal cavity, may include swelling and or pain in the abdomen, weight loss, vomiting and nausea. Pleural mesothelioma, which develops in the lining of the lungs, on the other hand, is more likely to cause symptoms such as shortness of breath, fever, sweating, isolated pain, muscle weakness, persistant cough, and fatigue. These symptoms may not all present at the same time, and are much more likely to the result of other problems. Only a series of exams can allow a doctor to determine the presence of mesothelioma.

In addition to a physical exam, your doctor may want to conduct one or more other tests. Imaging tests, such as tomography scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), make it possible to look inside the body and identify cancerous masses. Blood tests can identify if certain substances are at characteristically elevated levels. Buildup of fluid in certain areas of the body can also be an indicator of mesothlioma. Removing and testing the fluid can show the presence of cancer cells. Finally, biopsies can also reveal the presence of mesothelioma. After a diagnosis is made and the extent of the disease is established, a course of mesothelioma treatment and mesothelioma therapy will be recommended.

 

Mesothelioma: New Vaccine Offers New Hope

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Last week the Mayo Clinic published a press release about potentially groundbreaking cancer research that may eventually have a real impact on those suffering with mesothelioma. According to the press release, researchers in partnership at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona and the University of Georgia have successfully tested a vaccine in mice that dramatically reduces the type tumors that make up the majority of cancer cases.

Vaccines are not typically used to treat cancers such as mesothelioma because most vaccines work by stimulating the body’s immune system. Because tumors grow from the body’s own cells, the immune system does not recognize these cells as “foreign,” and essentially ignores them. This vaccine, however, is different, as it can target cancerous cells based on a carbohydrate signature present in the proteins on the surface of the cell. When cancer forms at the cellular level, the surface proteins on the cell membranes change. Specifically, a carbohydrate sequence within the protein changes in a distinct way. For many years researchers have been attempting, with no success, to stimulate the immune system to recognize that difference. This new vaccine may do just that.

The tumors studied in these mice, like most tumors in humans, overproduce a protein known as MUC1 on the cellular surface that contains the type of carbohydrate sequence that changes when the cell becomes cancerous. This new vaccine, for the very first time, targets this carbohydrate sequence and steers the immune system to attack cells that carry that sequence. The vaccine operates in three-part harmony, so to speak, each of which is critical to the success of the vaccine. One aspect of the vaccine helps the body’s immune system to mis-identify the carbohydrate sequence as foreign, while the other two aspects stimulate the antibody and lymphocyte responses. The result is astonishing.

What’s more, not only does this particular vaccine tend to cause a very strong immune response, but also the MUC1 sequence it targets is found in a large majority of cancers that kill, including breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and the historically aggressive pancreatic cancer. The vaccine could potentially be used as a prophylactic treatment for high-risk patients or as an alternative when, in cases like pancreatic cancer, surgery is not an option. According to the study’s co-author Geert-Jan Boons, Ph.D., Franklin Professor of Chemistry and a researcher in the UGA Cancer Center, MUC1 is “overexpressed” in 90 percent of patients who have so-called “triple negative” tumors, in which the tumors are not responsive to drugs or hormone therapy and are therefore very aggressive and difficult to treat.

You may be wondering where mesothelioma fits into this picture. Well, according to a research study published in 2008 by an Australian research team, malignant mesothelioma does result in the overexpression of the MUC1 carbohydrate chain. What this means in the long run for mesothelioma treatment is yet uncertain, but the results of the Mayo Clinic study show great promise for the future. According to last weeks’ press release, the research team is now conducting the preliminary research needed to launch a human trial, and if this stage goes well, human trials could begin as early as 2013.

Mesothelioma Treatment: Nutrition

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

When undergoing treatment for mesothelioma, nutrition can play a vital role in the outcome of and the quality of life during treatment. Eating foods high in protein, along with fruits, vegetables and whole grains can help prepare the body for the stress of treatments. Unfortunately, mesothelioma patients commonly experience a loss of appetite during mesothelioma treatment due to effects of chemotherapy or the disease itself.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), certain practices can aid in this process. Because tastebuds often change during chemotherapy, foods may lose their former appeal or even become unpleasant. To avoid a loss of nutrients, the ACS suggests trying alternative foods such as plant-based foods like peas and beans that may be more palatable. Limiting certain foods and beverages, such as alcohol and pickled and cured foods, can help as well. The ACS also recommends eating five colorful servings of fruits and vegetables each day, including dark green and deep yellow vegetables, as these contain phytochemicals that are very beneficial nutrients. In addition, maintaining as much physical acidity as possible will aid in overall health and well-being. Finally, cooking large meals and storing plenty of food in the pantry and freezer will help reduce overall work and stress sometimes involved in meal preparation.

Seeking support can also make a big difference. Among the various mesothelioma and asbestos resources, nutritionists can be very helpful for patients who are going through mesothelioma therapy. Nutritionists can help design a specific plan to help prevent malnutrition and muscle and bone wasting. A good nutrition plan may also help patients handle aggressive treatments, fight infection, and maintain the strength and energy needed for a better quality of life during and after treatment. Finally, a support structure of friends and neighbors can be vital to implementing a nutrition plan. If you or someone you love has mesothelioma, don’t be afraid to ask for support for assistance with tasks like shopping and meal preparation. This can provide a way for people who care to offer much needed support.

 

Complementary or Alternative Therapy

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

When diagnosed with mesothelioma, many patients are faced with a difficult prognosis. Because mesothelioma remains latent for many years, by the time symptoms are clear enough to warrant a diagnosis, the patient’s life expectancy is, in many cases, less than a year. While mesothelioma therapy and treatment may help, to date there are no known cures for mesothelioma. In the process of dealing with mesothelioma and its symptoms, many patients look for alternatives to mainstream mesothelioma treatment. To avoid costly and even harmful effects, it is important for people to understand more about complementary and alternative therapies.

Complementary therapies refer to methods that are used along with current medical care. They are not represented as cures, but instead are used to help alleviate symptoms. Some of the complementary therapies available are safe and can be quite helpful. Some people report that acupuncture can help reduce the experience of pain, and that certain teas can counteract nausea. According to the Mayo Clinic, several such therapies, including acupuncture, breath training, relaxation and meditation techniques have all shown promise in helping to relieve patients’ experience of breathlessness that is common to the disease. They also advise that sitting next to a fan can also help reduce the experience of breathlessness.

Alternative treatments refer to those that would replace mainstream or traditional therapies and treatments. While the idea of an alternative treatment can be very appealing to someone who has a debilitating disease like mesothelioma, there are currently no known treatments that cure mesothelioma. What’s more, many of the alternative treatments available have not been clinically tested for effectiveness or safety. Using these treatments in place of standard care can have many unfortunate consequences. Delaying standard treatment may have in impact on insurance coverage, while at the same time allowing the cancer to grow more quickly and become harder to treat.

The American Cancer Society recommends that anyone considering complementary or alternative mesothelioma treatments take certain steps to ensure that they are well informed of the known benefits and risks. Be aware of the possibility of fraudulent claims, and carefully research any products or therapies you are considering. Be sure to discuss these options with your medical professional, as they may have more information that could be critical to your health and well being.

The National Cancer Institute offers a online guide for people considering Complementary or Alternative medicine. The guide reviews several types of therapies, with examples of each, and offers links to several useful resources.

 

Possible New Mesothelioma Treatment

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

In June of 2011, the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Medicine published the results of promising new research in the treatment of mesothelioma. The study, involving 28 patients, compared the traditional method of extrapleural pnumonectomy (EPP), which involves the removal of a lung, and a unique combination of lung-sparing surgery and photodynamic therapy (PDT). To the surprise of the researchers, the patients who received PDT and lung-sparing surgery have, as a group, shown an unusually long survival rate.

Mesothelioma is a very aggressive form of cancer that usually develops in the lining of the lungs called the pleura. Initially, mesothelioma tends to develop slowly, usually developing 10 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos. Because mesothelioma presents few symptoms until it reaches an advanced stage, the large majority of patients are given less than a year to live.

In this study, 14 of the 28 patients studied received a traditional course of mesothelioma treatment. Because the malignant cells can envelope the entire lung, the traditional EPP method of treatment involves a combination of lung removal, chemotherapy and radiation. After treatment, this group had an average survival rate of 8.4 months, which is consistent with historical results from this type of treatment. The results of the PDT group, however, surprised researchers.

The 14 patients who received the alternative treatment underwent a less extensive “lung sparing” surgical procedure, which involved the removal of a limited amount of lung tissue. This procedure was combined with PDT, which uses light both to diminish the disease and to stimulate the immune system. PDT, which stops at the tissue itself, is also much less invasive than radiation, which penetrates the entire body. The results of this approach far exceeded the expectations of researchers. In fact, two years after the study began, the median survival rate of this group of patients has not been reached.

The Penn Mesothelioma and Pleural Program continues to study these and other methods, offering a truly multidisciplinary approach to the study of mesothelioma, mesothelioma treatment and mesothelioma therapy.

 

Palliative Care for Mesothelioma

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Victims of mesothelioma face a number of challenging symptoms that can make an already difficult process even more stressful. Fortunately, good quality palliative care may help relieve or at least manage many of these symptoms. Palliative care is care designed to make patients as comfortable as possible.

Dealing with pain is often an unfortunate part of mesothelioma. However, pain can sometimes be successfully managed with pharmacological therapy that follows the World Health Organization’s pain ladder, a stepped approach to pain medication that is based on the severity of pain and the source of the pain. A good pain management plan is an important part of mesothelioma therapy and should be designed by a pain management specialist.

Shortness of breath and fatigue are other common symptoms that can sometimes be helped through a variety of treatments. Medications and/or oxygen are sometimes used to treat shortness of breath. Relaxation, changes in position can also sometimes make a difference. Nutrition, stress management, or exercise may help alleviate fatigue, depending on the reasons behind the fatigue.

Mesothelioma patients sometimes develop dry mouth as a result of dehydration, medication or treatment side effects, depression, anxiety or dehydration. Whatever the cause, dry mouth can be relieved in a number of ways. When appropriate, increasing fluids can help. But sometimes, dry mouth persists. In that case, sucking on ice chips or Vitamin C tablets, chewing gum, or using an air humidifier can all help alleviate a dry mouth.

Loss of appetite is another common problem with patients suffering from mesothelioma. Nutrition is a big part of a mesothelioma patient’s overall well being. Loss of appetite can result in loss of weight, which can complicate and exacerbate some symptoms. Eating smaller, more frequent meals that are high in calories and protein can help maintain a patient’s balanced nutritional Intake.

Cancer patients can also encounter problems with their skin. Itchy or dry skin, rashes, sores and ulcers can all be part of a cancer patient’s reality. Drinking plenty of water and using adequate moisturizers can help dry skin. A bath filled with baking soda can sometimes reduce itching. Clean sheets and towels free from heavy detergents will help as well.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may want to spend some time reading our mesothelioma blog and mesothelioma articles. Being informed is one of the best strategies for planning quality palliative care.

 

MARF Mesothelioma Awareness Day

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

September 26th was National Mesothelioma Awareness Day, and all over the country, groups and organizations planned events to call attention to the disease mesothelioma and pay tribute to its victims. The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation started Mesothelioma Awareness Day in 2004.

According to Maja Belarmic, the foundation’s Director of Outreach, the disease is not getting the attention it deserves because of its rarity. The foundation hopes to raise money to fund research, develop better treatments, and hopefully a cure. Currently, the most effective approved mesothelioma treatment may extend life for an average of three months.

Not only have there been few breakthroughs in the early detection and treatment of mesothelioma, but also the likely cause of mesothelioma, asbestos, is still relatively widespread. According to the foundation, the nation is likely to see an increased rate of cases as a result of the September 2001 collapse of the Twin Towers, which released hundreds of tons of asbestos into the air. While asbestos presents little danger when left undisturbed, when asbestos fibers become friable (released into the air), they can then be inhaled into the lungs, where then can cause great damage depending on the type of asbestos, length and level of exposure and other factors.

While the last four decades have seen regulations with regard to the handling and uses of asbestos, asbestos is not banned in the United States, a fact that has been a point of debate.

In 2007, “Meso Awareness Day” raised over $4 million dollars toward research and treatment of the disease. The day has gained momentum every year since it’s beginning, so this years fundraising is likely to well exceed that amount.

In some cases, victims have developed mesothelioma as a result of working in industries affected by mesothelioma. In these cases, victims are sometimes awarded settlement to help compensate for expensive medical bills, as well the pain and suffering incurred by the victim and their loved ones. To find out more about possible compensation for victims of mesothelioma, visit our Mesothelioma Victim’s Rights page or fill out our online form, and we will be in contact with you as soon as possible.

Do Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma Differ?

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

A person who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, or know someone who is, may have trouble understanding the cancerous condition and how it is distinct from other forms of cancer—in particular, lung cancer. The two forms of cancer are actually quite different. So what, exactly are the differences and what impact do those differences have?

One important difference between lung cancer and mesothelioma is how the two forms of cancer develop. Mesothelioma develops as an interconnected network of many tumors over a large area of tissue. Over time, the boundaries between healthy and cancerous tissue become indistinguishable. The structure and growth pattern of this form of cancer may dramatically limit options for patients receiving mesothelioma treatment. In many cases, removing malignant tissue becomes very difficult, if not impossible, because of the number of masses and the size of the affected area. Radiation works best on smaller areas of tissue, limiting its effectiveness with mesothelioma. Unfortunately, in many cases chemotherapy may not be sufficient to treat the large number of tumors. Eventually, these networks of masses overtake the tissue, limiting the movement of that tissue. Unfortunately, they tend to develop long before they become noticeable to the victim. By the time symptoms from the tumors are noticed, it is often too late for effective treatment.

The structure and growth of lung cancer is very different from that of mesothelioma. With lung cancer, tumors grow as distinct, individual masses, and boundaries of these masses are very clear. This is true even when there are several masses. While these isolated tumors can become very large and just as life threatening as mesothelioma, treatment may be more effective. Because the masses are so distinct, when caught early enough, they can sometimes be surgically removed. Radiation and chemotherapy tend to work better in these cases as well.

Other differences between these two forms of cancer include their rarity and their causes. In general, the incidence of mesothelioma is much smaller than that of lung cancer. Likewise, the causes of lung cancer can vary and overlap (including exposure to pesticides, heavy metals, pollutants, radon, and/or smoking), while mesothelioma causes are generally linked to asbestos exposure.

While there are many differences between these two forms of cancer, the early warning signs (when detected) of lung cancer and mesothelioma may be very similar. If you or someone you know is experiencing unusual and persistent respiratory symptoms, contact a doctor, as early detection may have a very real impact on the effectiveness of treatment.

For more information on mesothelioma, visit our mesothelioma and asbestos FAQ page, or read some of our mesothelioma articles.

 

 

Global Trends in the Use of Asbestos

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

The history of asbestos regulation and enforcement varies around the world. In many places, dramatic and permanent changes have occurred. Elsewhere, asbestos is still mined and used without regulation. Still other places have adequate regulations but a lack of enforcement to ensure that regulations are followed.

Since the late 1960’s and 70’s, the United States government has created valuable regulations and enforcement policies. Sadly, for many naval ship workers, miners and factory workers, these changes came too late. To date, an estimated 100,000 people have either died or will die from asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma.

Trade of asbestos from South Africa ended in 2003, through the result of international negotiations. This has had an impact on use in other countries, as South Africa was a significant exporter up to that point.

Most European countries have taken a proactive approach, banning asbestos. Still, the United Kingdom’s Health and Safety Executive, who is responsible for tracking issues related to asbestos, says that construction workers in business prior to 2000 should be aware of the possibility of having been exposed to asbestos.

While regulated, asbestos is not banned in Canada. In fact, Canada is home to the infamous Jeffrey Mine, formerly the largest mine in the world, located in a town named, aptly, Asbestos. The mine is the subject of great controversy. Although the government has spent millions of dollars on asbestos abatement and monitoring industries affected by mesothelioma, some are pushing to reopen the mine and export the Chrysotile to places like Pakistan and India, where there are no such regulations.

Certain researchers predict that in the coming decades, Latin America will experience a rise in mesothelioma, since many Latin American countries have not put adequate enforcement in place. Due to a lack of accurate data, the impact of this trend is unknown. In the meantime, many workers are reportedly still exposed on a regular basis to harmful levels of asbestos.

Spencer Johnson said, “Change happens when the pain of holding on becomes greater than the fear of letting go.” Sadly, Australia’s mesothelioma prevention measures represent that kind of change. In 2003, Australia banned the use of asbestos as a result of the tragic exposure of its workers and citizens to the Wittenoom blue asbestos mine. The mine stayed in operation for years after the Western Australia Health Department issued warnings about the risk of exposure. Although the mine was closed in 1966, it was too late for many workers, visitors and nearby residents who were exposed to extremely high levels of the potentially lethal material. Currently, Western Australia has the highest death rate from mesothelioma in the world.

Some of the most significant producers of asbestos and asbestos products are Asian or Pacific Island countries. China consumes approximately 600,000 tons in any given year. Although some Asian countries have bans and regulations in place, the large majority of Asian countries do not restrict the uses of asbestos.

International agreement is lacking about how to handle asbestos mining and exporting/importing. Because some industries currently depend on this material, it may be a slow and complicated process. Hopefully in the coming years, progress will be made toward global safety regulations and enforcement policies that protect everyone.