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More Than One Option for Mesothelioma Patients

Virtua Surgical Group, P.A.

Doctors are of two minds about which surgical approach is preferable for patients with mesothelioma, according to Dr. Raja Flores, chief of thoracic surgery at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the lung or abdomen that strikes about 2,500 to 3,000 Americans a year. It is associated with asbestos exposure.

In an article in the New York Daily News, Flores, a specialist in mesothelioma cancer treatment, said the two main surgeries are extra-pleural pneumonectomy, which removes the patient’s lung, and pleurectomy/decortication which removes the cancerous lining of the lung, but spares the lung itself. Not all mesothelioma patients are healthy enough to undergo mesothelioma surgery options.

Flores said CT scans often understate the amount of cancer and surgeons don’t always know which surgical approach is best until they can examine the lung during surgery. The goal of surgery is to remove the bulk of the tumors while reducing pain, but there is not a standard way to do the surgery, Flores said. The concept of sparing the lung of mesothelioma patients is relatively new, based on research published in the last two years.

Flores said that asbestos exposure is the number one risk factor for mesothelioma. A mineral, asbestos was widely used in many building products from cement to ceiling tiles to insulation, but the tiny fibers cause cancer.

People who were exposed to asbestos or have family members who developed mesothelioma should be on the alert for signs of the disease, Flores said. Symptoms include shortness of breath, which is often caused by fluid accumulating on the lungs. But other factors can also cause fluid accumulation. If a doctor can’t explain fluid accumulation, a patient should have a biopsy to determine whether they have mesothelioma. Chest pain is as indicator that the disease is more advanced.

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