Surgery is often considered the primary treatment for malignant mesothelioma patients. While chemotherapy and radiotherapy play important supporting roles such as slowing tumor growth and battling tumor recurrence, surgery aims to physically remove the majority of the cancerous cells and drastically slow the progression of the disease. Surgery is often the most effective form of treatment, but it is also the most invasive.
Qualification for surgery varies widely, but generally relies on age, gender, medical history, presence of other ailments, lifestyle and other factors that play a role in determining the likelihood of recovery from operation. There are three major types of surgery known as diagnostic, palliative and curative.
Diagnostic surgery is a minimally invasive, relatively minor procedure used to determine the stage and development of the disease. In most cases diagnostic surgery aims to remove a tissue sample from an area where a tumor is thought to exist. The removed tissue sample is then investigated to determine the best coarse of action. Diagnostic surgery is not a form of treatment but a preliminary step used to further understand the disease and effectively prescribe treatment.
Palliative surgery’s primary aim is to improve the patient’s quality of life by alleviating painful symptoms. A common form of palliative surgery is thoracentesis, or the drainage of fluid buildup in various body cavities that causes severe discomfort. Palliative surgery refers solely to treating symptoms through surgery rather than attacking the disease itself.
Curative surgery aims to remove malignant mesothelioma tumors and cells. The primary method of combating the disease, curative surgery physically removes tumors before they can spread to vital organs, dramatically slowing the apparent progression of the cancer. This type of surgery is often accompanied by chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or both in order to attack mesothelioma residues which are difficult for surgeons to remove.