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Understanding Inoperable Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that begins in the mesothelium, or lining of the lungs (pleura), abdomen (peritoneum), or heart (pericardia).   Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form and accounts for approximately 75% of all cases. Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos, which most often occurs occupationally, but can occur through second hand or environmental exposure as well.
The three standard front line therapies for advanced malignant mesothelioma are surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. However, depending on the stage of mesothelioma, as well as the location, type and health of the patient, surgery is not always an option. That is when the cancer is referred to as inoperable mesothelioma or inoperable non small cell lung cancer. Even when surgery is an option, it is not curative and only helps to extend survival times and improve quality of life.  
When surgery is not an option, it generally does mean that the prognosis is poorer and treatments be more palliative, focused on relieving symptoms and pain.  The most common types of surgery pleurectomy, peritonectomy or cytoreductive.  However sometimes surgeries may not be an appropriate treatment because:
  • Size of tumor is too large
  • Stage of cancer is too advance, Stage 3 or 4
  • Location of the tumor is too close to other vital organs, such as the heart
  • General health of the patient would make surgery too risky
  • Surgery could reduce lung function to dangerous levels 
When mesothelioma is inoperable, other treatments do exist. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, alternative targeted therapies, and clinical trials are all viable options that can help to slow progression of the disease as well as provide relief from pain and suffering.
If you have been told that your mesothelioma is inoperable, you should consider taking part in a clinical trial. Clinical trials are studies conducted by very qualified doctors and research scientists exploring new drugs or procedures that may have better success in treating or even curing mesothelioma. 
Speak to your oncologist or treating physician to see what clinical trials are currently accepting patients diagnosed with mesothelioma and if one of them might not be a good fit for you.