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5 Steps to Take When Choosing Your Mesothelioma Treatment

Mesothelioma is a rare, yet aggressive malignancy caused by prior exposure to asbestos- hence it is often referred to as ‘asbestos cancer.’  Most patients and their family members will feel a great deal of overwhelm when a diagnosis of mesothelioma is first given.  There is so much to learn about the disease itself, as well as quickly having to decide which mesothelioma treatment option is best for their situation.

This article is intended to help you while working with your doctor to decide on the best treatment plan for your particular type and stage of mesothelioma.  

Step 1:  Choose How You Want Decisions to be Made and by Whom

For some patients, knowledge helps them to feel more at ease.  They want to know all the details of their cancer as well as treatment options and chances of survival.  For others, they would rather not know or would rather someone else close to them or the treating physician be in charge and make all the decisions.  And then there are those that fall in between these two categories, wanting to know but sometimes feeling overwhelmed by all the facts and needing someone else to help make the decisions.

When you are first diagnosed with mesothelioma, the doctor can tell you exactly what stage your cancer is in, what your chances of survival are, and what your treatment options are.  He will also tell you what the expected side effects and outcomes of the treatments are.  No matter what is recommended, you get to decide which treatments you want, weighing in the benefits of each against the probable side effects that come with them.

Having the support of loved ones and a doctor that you trust can really help this process.  You can also contact the American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, Hospice or cancer support groups to get further information about your choices and support in deciding what plan is best for you.  

Step 2:  Decide on Your Treatment Goal

Since mesothelioma does not have a cure, most treatment goals are focused on improving quality of life and extending survival times.  Mesothelioma treatments can slow the progression of the disease, which often helps to give symptom relief, such as difficulty breathing and fluid build-up in the lungs.  However some treatments come with unwanted and severe side effects.  Your doctor should be able to help you weigh the benefits of treatment against the side effects so you can decide if the treatment is worth it.  Some patients are more focused on treatments that extend survival times while others prefer treatments that help relieve pain and improve comfort levels.  Ideally, treatment would do both.

Step 3:  Know Your Options 

There are three standard types of treatment for mesothelioma:  surgery (when possible); chemotherapy; and radiation therapy.  Often, a combination of two or three of these modalities is used to treat mesothelioma.   In addition, there are many clinical trials investigating alternative treatments that you may be able to participate in.  Clapper Patti Schweizer & Mason provides a resource booklet that describes your treatment options more in depth, as well as listing helpful information on their website. 

Step 4:  Weigh Your Options, Make Your Decision

There are many factors to consider once you have informed yourself of all the different treatment options available.  One of the biggest is whether the treatment is worth it when weighed against any risk factors and degree of known side effects.  The side effects of many treatments are well known, as well as how it might compromise your health in other ways that could affect the quality of your life as well as chances of survival.  Some treatment procedures require travel, more time in the hospital, longer recoveries, and are more costly or not covered by insurance.    Consider all the aspects along with what your own personal goals of treatment, and once you make your choice, consult with your doctor. 

Step 5:  Keep in Good Communication with Your Doctor & Caregiver Team

It’s important to feel comfortable with your doctor and caregivers and to keep communication open and clear.  Find a doctor who will answer all your questions and provide explanations that make sense to you.  Work with your caregivers and loved ones to write down any questions you have, either before appointments or you can also email them.  It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the information given at appointments, so writing down what the doctor says is highly recommended as well as bringing someone with you to appointments. 

Final Thoughts: 

Remember this is a process, and as you learn more over time and with experience, you can always change the course of treatment.  Because mesothelioma is often diagnosed in late stages, there is a sense of urgency to start treatments right away, and there may be medical need to do so if you are suffering and in pain.  You always have the option of choosing not to accept any treatments; however it is highly recommended that you explore your options for palliative care so that you can be as comfortable and free from pain as possible.

There is no right or wrong treatment plan.  Each decision has to be made based upon what is the best fit for you and your loved ones.  If you would like more information, contact us today and we can refer you to the best treatment specialists in the nation.  If you would like to find out about how to get financial help to cover cost of mesothelioma treatment, call us at 1-800-440-4262 to speak with one of our expert asbestos attorneys.  We have successfully won millions of dollars in settlements, awards and bankruptcy claims to help thousands of clients over the last thirty years.  We can help you too.