5 Tips for Talking to Your Doctor About New Mesothelioma Treatments

A doctor reviews information with a patient.

While there isn’t a cure for mesothelioma, new and emerging treatment options show promise in helping to slow the cancer’s spread. Mesothelioma patients who’ve heard about advances in the news might wonder if they’re good candidates for new treatments. Keep reading to get five tips for bringing up new mesothelioma therapies with your doctor.

New Developments in Mesothelioma Treatment

Researchers continue discovering new and effective ways to treat mesothelioma and improve survival. For example, immunotherapy has emerged as a viable replacement for chemotherapy within the last few years.

In 2020, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved the immunotherapy combination nivolumab (Opdivo®) and ipilimumab (Yervoy®) for pleural mesothelioma patients who aren’t eligible for surgery.

Other new and emerging therapies for mesothelioma include:

  • Anti-angiogenic drugs like bevacizumab (Avastin®)
  • CAR T-cell therapy
  • Cryotherapy
  • Epigenetic therapy
  • Gene therapy
  • Pembrolizumab (Keytruda®, approved for certain mesothelioma patients in 2020)
  • Tumor Treating Fields (TTFields)
  • Photodynamic therapy
  • Vaccines (virotherapy)

Newer therapies may be available to mesothelioma patients who qualify for clinical trials. You might consider asking your doctor if there are any open trials you could join.

How to Talk to Your Doctor About New Treatments

If you’ve never talked to your doctor about new mesothelioma treatment options, you may not know when or how to broach the subject. Here are some tips that can help.

1. Make sure you’re satisfied with your current care.

If you’re not already, be sure to see an experienced mesothelioma specialist. Mesothelioma doctors are experts in the field and are therefore more likely to be familiar with the latest developments in mesothelioma treatment.

Because of this, they’re in the best position to answer questions about new therapies and advise you on potential risks, benefits, side effects, and more.

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2. Bring an advocate with you.

Having someone with you during a medical visit — especially if you’re discussing possible treatment options — can help tremendously. Whether it’s a friend, spouse, or family member, this person can act as an additional advocate for your health, helping to communicate your thoughts and questions.

They might even think of a question or concern about new mesothelioma treatments that you hadn’t yet considered.

3. Gather information about the new treatment(s) beforehand.

Come to your doctor’s visit prepared with any details you’ve seen about a new treatment. If you read an article about a particular drug or therapy online, bookmark it on your phone so you can show it to your doctor.

Alternatively, you could also bring a pamphlet or newspaper that talks about the new treatment. Note anything in the article that applies to your type of mesothelioma that you’d like your doctor to address.

4. Write down your questions (and your doctor’s answers).

Even if you already know what you want to ask, it can’t hurt to write down any questions beforehand. Making a list will help ensure you don’t forget anything in the moment and that your doctor addresses all your concerns by the time you leave.

Here are some examples:

  • What are your opinions on TTFields for mesothelioma?
  • Would you recommend virotherapy for my type and stage of mesothelioma?
  • What are the potential benefits and drawbacks of photodynamic therapy?
  • How long would it take to see results from cryotherapy?

You (or your advocate) can then take notes on your doctor’s responses so you can reference them later.

5. Be patient if your doctor is cautious.

Even if a new drug or therapy has been approved for use by the FDA, there may still be more to learn. Sometimes more information is uncovered within the first few years after it’s used in large numbers of patients outside clinical trials.

For that reason, your doctor might prefer to take a wait-and-see approach with a new treatment, especially if you’re already responding well to an existing therapy.

Your doctor might also worry that the risks and side effects of a new mesothelioma treatment could outweigh the potential benefits.

If this happens, try not to get discouraged. Your doctor may be able to recommend another treatment option that would work better for your specific diagnosis.

Help for Talking to Doctors About New Mesothelioma Treatments

Talking about new mesothelioma therapies with your doctor might feel overwhelming, but a bit of planning can help you advocate for yourself and potentially open doors to life-changing treatments.

Thankfully, the Mesothelioma Hope team has prepared a pre-made list of 14 questions you can ask your doctor. These questions cover a wide range of topics related to treatments, clinical trials, and much more. Use our guide as a starting point when talking to your mesothelioma doctor.

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Mesothelioma Hope was founded by a team of passionate health advocates to educate people about this aggressive form of cancer. Mesothelioma affects thousands of people each year. Our team works tirelessly to give hope to those impacted by mesothelioma. Learn more about operating principles and our Editorial Guidelines.

3 References
  1. Raghav, K. et al. (November 2021). Efficacy, Safety, and Biomarker Analysis of Combined PD-L1 (Atezolizumab) and VEGF (Bevacizumab) Blockade in Advanced Malignant Peritoneal Mesothelioma. Retrieved July 20, 2022, from https://cancerdiscovery.aacrjournals.org/content/11/11/2738.abstract

  2. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. (2020, October 2). FDA approves drug combination for treating mesothelioma. Retrieved July 20, 2022, from https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-drug-combination-treating-mesothelioma

  3. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. (2020, June 16). FDA approves pembrolizumab for adults and children with TMB-H solid tumors. Retrieved July 20, 2022, from https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-approvals-and-databases/fda-approves-pembrolizumab-adults-and-children-tmb-h-solid-tumors