Asbestos Treatment Options and Outlook
Asbestos-related diseases develop slowly, over several years. Herein lies the problem found in asbestos treatment and diagnosis. They may not show up as cancer until decades after the initial exposure occurred. While these manifestations can be treated, they cannot always be cured.
Asbestosis is an example of one asbestos-related disease that currently lacks a cure. Asbestosis results from inhaling asbestos fibers and involves scarring of the lung tissues, resulting in shortness of breath, chest pain, and cough, among other symptoms. Sufferers of this disease may be at increased risk for lung cancer; cessation of smoking is consequently included as part of the treatment regimen.
Asbestosis patients may receive several vaccinations and medicines in order to manage the disease. In particular, treatment includes an annual flu shot and regular vaccination again pneumonia, to which asbestosis sufferers may be more susceptible than most. Some asbestosis patients may be prescribed medications such as those designed to relieve symptoms of asthma, or antibiotics to fight against lung infections in more progressive situations. In all patients, clean surroundings and proper hygiene are crucial to avoiding serious complications and infections.
Mesothelioma, the most shared asbestos-related disease, affects the lining of the lungs and may be treated by surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy. Patients may also elect for a multi-modal approach that combines several treatment options in order to target the cancer. An example of this would be a patient who, after undergoing surgery to remove a tumor, then received chemotherapy to try to destroy any lingering cancer.
Treatment options vary depending on the stage of mesothelioma. A patient whose disease is in its early stages is more likely to opt for surgery. If the disease is caught in its very earliest stages, surgery may already cure the patient. However, most mesothelioma is diagnosed in later stages, when surgery is no longer a viable treatment.
Chemotherapy, wherein medications to kill cancer cells are administered intravenously, can help control cancer but is not always the first choice patients elect for, due to its side effects. These side effects arise because the chemotherapy targets and destroys any cells that are dividing rapidly, which includes some types of ordinary, non-cancerous cells.
Radiation therapy is similar to chemotherapy. It is designed to kill cancerous cells, but, unlike chemotherapy, may be administered externally, without the necessity of injecting anything into the patient. Newer forms of radiation therapy are administered internally, however, in the form of tiny rods that are implanted into a tumor to target it with a high measure of radiation. This therapy, in either form, is often partnered with surgery, but can be employed independently. While not a cure for the disease, radiation therapy is effective in relieving pain and symptoms associated with mesothelioma, at the minimum short term.
Aside from those shared treatments, experimental and less popular options do exist. These include photodynamic, gene, and immunotherapy. Additionally, some patients choose to rely on different therapies, which, though unconventional, may help control symptoms and enhance quality of life for sufferers. Therapies like acupuncture and massage can work to assistance the well being of patients, though these options will not cure the disease.
Researchers are aiming to find cures for asbestos-related diseases via clinical trials. Those who do not want to persevere the side effects of some treatments, or who have not seen any positive results from traditional treatments, may elect to enroll in a clinical trial of an experimental drug. These studies are highly useful in discovering the efficacy of new treatments for mesothelioma and other diseases, and may ultimately rule to a cure.