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Treatment Options - Mesothelioma

Treatments for mesothelioma can be either curative (intended to remove cancerous tissue), or palliative (to reduce symptoms). Currently, there is no mesothelioma treatment with a consistent record of totally eliminating the cancer.

Most treatment is multimodal--a combination of surgery and chemotherapy or radiation.

Every situation and physician is different. As there is no standard protocol for mesothelioma treatment, your doctor may recommend less common drugs or different courses of treatment. It is important to explore your options and become an informed and active participant in your care planning.

Surgery is performed when the cancer has not spread and the doctor thinks the cancerous tissue can be completely removed. It involves removing the entire affected lung, the pleura, the diaphragm and the pericardium. The diaphragm and pericardium are then replaced with man-made materials.

Chemotherapy can decrease the size of tumors, reduce painful symptoms, reduce fluid buildup and decrease shortness of breath. It is rarely the only treatment given, as it is maximally effective in combination with surgery and/or radiation.

Among chemotherapy drugs, Alimta (Pemetrexed) has been shown to have the greatest effect against pleural mesotheliomas when tumors cannot be removed surgically. It is often used in combination with Cisplatin.

Radiation is used to kill cancerous cells or keep them from dividing. It is applied directly to the tumor site, and the procedure is generally painless however, this method is not commonly used to treat mesothelioma. Because mesothelioma is a soft-tissue cancer, meaning there is no specific tumor site, it is difficult to target radiation to the affected areas.


Fluid removal (paracentesis, pericardiocentesis, or thoracentesis ) relieves pressure, pain and shortness of breath caused by excess fluid in the body cavity. Pleurodesis is a way to prevent the buildup of fluid. Catheter placement is an option to consider if pleurodesis is ineffective.

Clinical Trials

Research continues to improve treatments, quality of life, and outlook for patients suffering from asbestos related disease. Doctors may recommend that a patient participate in a clinical trial for one of two reasons. Either the experimental treatment is medically sound and appears hopeful, or because all other options have been exhausted.

If your doctor thinks you might be a good candidate for a clinical trial, your eligibility will be determined. Eligibility is based on a number of factors, including but not limited to age, disease type, cancer stage, prior treatments, and health status. If you are determined to be eligible, be sure to talk to your doctor and try to get as much information as possible about the risks and benefits of the experimental treatment as well as alternatives to the experimental treatment.

Alternative Therapies

CanSAV member and mesothelioma survivor, Dirk Jasma, Electrician: Local 213, requested we share this therapy. It is called the Budwig diet, part of a protocol developed by Ty Bollinger based on controlling the body’s pH balance to become more alkaline in order to fight the cancer. An overview can be found here.

Turning to alternative therapies after feeling that both the Canadian (he is a citizen) and US (he is a resident) medical systems failed him, Dirk was eager to share this personal experience with us. He recalls a time about two weeks after being on the Budwigs diet when he broke out in an aggressive and severe body rash that lasted for two weeks. Initially, he and his wife Lucy prepared for disappointment, but upon further investigation, they found that the body was naturally eliminating dead cancer cells from his body.

Originally diagnosed with Stage IV mesothelioma and prescribed an aggressive chemotherapy regimen, Dirk waited, opting instead for a second opinion by a Johns Hopkins oncologist. There, he was diagnosed with Stage II mesothelioma. His symptoms were treated with a Thoracotomy, which strips affected membranes from the damaged lung.

He is currently refusing chemo and radiation treatment and instead he is surviving well, albeit a bit short of breath, on Budwigs.

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