Surgery is a versatile mesothelioma treatment method, as it can often be performed during various stages of the condition and for different reasons. As a result, it is often used to treat mesothelioma whenever the disease stage allows.
If your doctor suspects you have mesothelioma, he or she will perform various tests, which might include diagnostic surgery. Your doctor will likely perform a biopsy(, which involves removing a small amount of tissue and analyzing it. This procedure will be completed one of the following three ways:
- Fine needle aspiration – This method uses a hollow needle to collect a tissue sample.
- Thoracentesis - This technique works for people suspected of having pleural mesothelioma and involves removing fluid from the lungs through a thin tube.
- Thoracoscopy – Also used to detect pleural mesothelioma, this option involves making a small incision in the chest, through which a tube is placed into the chest to remove tissue.
After a diagnosis of mesothelioma has been confirmed, you and your doctor can discuss the treatment options that will work for you. If caught early enough, surgeons can perform curative surgery to remove cancerous cells before they spread. If not caught early, surgeons can still remove as much of the tumors as possible, using radiation and chemotherapy treatments as well.
You may be a good candidate for curative surgery if you are otherwise in good health. If so, you may be able to extend your life expectancy and undergo one of the following types of surgery, depending on your type of mesothelioma:
- Debulking – During this procedure, the surgeon makes an incision and removes all or much of the tumors.
- Pneumonectomy – This technique involves the removal of the entire lung. This lengthy, complex surgery involves administering anesthesia, deflating the lung, and removing it (and possibly a rib) through an incision.
- Extrapleural Pneumonectomy – This surgery is more involved than a pneumonectomy, as in addition to removing the lung, the surrounding areas are extracted. The diaphragm and pericardium are reconstructed and replaced.
- Pleurectomy/Peritonectomy – For this operation, the surgeon takes out the inner and outer linings of the lung (pleurectomy) or abdominal cavity (peritonectomy), similar to how he or she removes an entire lung.
If mesothelioma is caught later, or if you aren’t strong enough to undergo curative surgery, you still have effective surgical options. These palliative surgeries won’t rid you of mesothelioma, but they will lessen the severity of your symptoms, resulting in a potentially longer life span and an increased quality of life. Such options include:
- Pleurocentesis/parecentesis – This operation alleviates pain and breathing problems by removing built-up fluid in the lungs (pleurocentesis) or abdomen (parecentesis).
- Pleurodesis/Catheter placement – Used to prevent fluid buildup, a pleurodesis involves placing a tube within the pleural cavity. Through this tube, surgeons spray talc, which causes the lining of the lungs to adhere. For a catheter placement, surgeons place a tube through which fluid can drain.