Thousands of people across the country are exposed to asbestos every year, and thousands more begin showing symptoms of mesothelioma – a process that can take decades before patients become aware of the life-threatening cancer. Those exposed to the substance are at risk after ingesting or inhaling the fibers, which then become trapped in their lung’s pleural linings. Over time, these fibers cause the tissue to scar.
Catching mesothelioma early has always been the best way to give patients a chance at a longer life, and new and upcoming treatments may give doctors the chance to identify warning signs even sooner. For example, the CyTOF instrument allows medical professionals to detect the presence of asbestos fibers in a patient’s lungs with a greater degree of precision by analyzing individual cells. An early diagnosis could give doctors a greater range of treatment options, and allow them to perform less invasive surgeries.
Even with these advancements in detection and treatment, doctors don’t expect a cure to come any time soon. Dr. Christopher Lee, an oncologist researching whether or not these cancer cells can be kept under control with a combination of immunotherapy and chemotherapy, said that:
“I think it would be overly optimistic to say it’s going to be cured. I mean we can always dream.”
Dr. Lee’s study is currently under review and in a Phase 2 trial where he will try to find out if his treatment option will be effective against specific types of cancer like mesothelioma. The results aren’t expected to be released for another two years, but cancer centers in both Italy and Canada are hard at work running tests.
Doctors testing out another new technique, known as Surgery for Mesothelioma After Radiation Treatment, or SMART, claim that they have effectively doubled the expected survival rate of patients suffering from mesothelioma. More traditional operations remove parts of the affected organs before blasting any remaining cancer cells with radiation, while this technique flips the process – radiation treatment comes first before the affected sections of the lungs are removed.
Dr. Marc de Perrot, a thoracic surgeon and Dr. John Cho, a radiation oncologist at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto are championing this technique, but others, including Dr. Lee see issues that are likely to come up:
“It’s not growing as a grounded tumour. It’s growing as a thickening of the lining itself,” he commented. “It’s growing around the curved surface of the chest, internally around the lung and inside the chest wall. So where do you cut … to ensure you get a normal cuff of tissue?”
Even though a cure doesn’t appear to be on the horizon just yet, these constant improvements and expanding treatment options give patients suffering from mesothelioma more chances to fight back against this life-threatening cancer.
However, these treatments can still cost a considerable amount of money, and people exposed to asbestos should not be expected to cover these medical bills on their own. Our mesothelioma attorneys at Bailey Cowan Heckaman PLLC Cowan Heckaman have spent decades representing clients across the United States in order to secure them the compensation they deserve in order to cover any medical expenses or other damages they may have incurred. If you or someone you love was exposed to asbestos, call us to speak with a member of our firm or fill out our online form to request a free case consultation today.