Asbestos is a substance found in nature with heat-resistant properties, which is why some industries in Pennsylvania still use it. However, asbestos has been linked to mesothelioma, a cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, heart or stomach. A patient may qualify for some surgeries that help improve survival rates or ease the symptoms of this cancer.
Pleural mesothelioma surgery
Pleural mesothelioma, the most common type making up 75% of cases, occurs in the lung lining. Some symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, trouble swallowing, weight loss and painful coughing. A pleurectomy involves removing the lung lining along with decortication, or removing visible tumors in early stages.
Debulking removes as much of the infected lining as possible in most mesothelioma types. If the cancer hasn’t spread to both lungs, a patient could qualify for a pneumonectomy, which removes the whole lung. In later stages, thoracentesis can reduce the fluid on the lungs to help the patient breathe better.
Peritoneal mesothelioma surgery
Peritoneal mesothelioma, the second common mesothelioma type, occurs in the lining of the stomach. Common symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include stomach swelling, diarrhea or constipation, night sweats and fatigue. Peritonectomy attempts to remove as much of the infected lining as possible, and cytoreductive surgery removes the tumors.
Paracentesis drains the fluid that has built on the abdomen to ease symptoms. In some cases, the doctor may advise a catheter to help the patient drain as needed.
Pericardial mesothelioma affects the lining of the heart, or pericardium, and it is the least common type, making up 1-2% of cases. Since pericardial mesothelioma is rare, it has fewer treatment options. Common symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma include trouble breathing even when resting, low appetite, heart murmurs, cough, chest pain, fatigue and fever.
A pericardiectomy removes some or all of the pericardium, and tumor resection removes tumors without removing the pericardium. Similar to thoracentesis and paracentesis, pericardiocentesis drains fluids from the heart to improve comfort.
Patients with asbestos-related mesothelioma often have to miss work and live a lower quality of life. If they think that their job caused the cancer, they may want to seek compensation with the help of an attorney.