One of the most daunting tasks after a mesothelioma diagnosis is understanding mesothelioma treatment. The thought of treatment can make patients and their loved ones feel depressed, overwhelmed, and — with so many new medical terms to learn — extremely confused.
The best way to prepare for treatment is to familiarize yourself with the different procedures, recovery times, and possible side effects so you feel less anxious and more in control. Thankfully, you don’t have to walk this path alone.
Here’s an overview of what to expect from common mesothelioma treatments and how you and your caregivers can take an active role in your recovery.
Our on-staff mesothelioma nurse Amy Fair has 20+ years of experience helping patients and their families. Contact us to connect with her today.
What Patients Can Expect With Each Type of Treatment
How to prepare for and recover from mesothelioma treatment depends on several factors, including your age, the location of your cancer, the type of treatment, and your overall health.
Learn what’s involved in surgery, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy treatments.
Mesothelioma surgery is sometimes the first line of treatment patients receive if their cancer hasn’t spread to other parts of the body. Doctors may also have patients receive chemotherapy before getting surgical treatment. Each surgery aims to remove as many cancerous tumors as possible, increase life expectancy, and ease painful symptoms.
Three common tumor-removing surgeries for mesothelioma include:
- Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP): This procedure removes the affected lung and nearby tissues in patients with pleural mesothelioma. Sometimes the lining of the heart is also removed. It is an extensive surgery that can take three or more hours to complete.
- Pleurectomy with decortication (P/D): Also used for pleural mesothelioma treatment, a P/D removes the lining of the affected lung and any visible tumors. It is less invasive than an EPP and preserves the lung itself, but it takes much longer than an EPP to perform.
- Cytoreductive surgery with hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC): This procedure is the gold standard for peritoneal mesothelioma. First, cytoreduction (also known as debulking) is performed to remove any visible tumors. Then heated chemotherapy drugs are applied to the abdomen to kill any remaining cancer cells.
After surgery, patients can expect regular follow-up appointments. These appointments often include routine physical exams to check for side effects and additional X-rays and other imaging scans to see if treatment was successful.
What Is the Recovery Time for Mesothelioma Surgery?
Recovery time for mesothelioma surgery varies for each patient and depends on the procedure. Typically, patients can expect to stay in the hospital for a week or more so doctors can monitor them for any complications and then recover at home.
The chart below shows estimated recovery times for each type of surgery.
|Recovery Time in Hospital
|Recovery Time at Home
|EPP (for pleural mesothelioma)
|Up to 2 weeks
|P/D (for pleural mesothelioma)
|Up to 2 weeks
|Cytoreduction with HIPEC (for peritoneal mesothelioma)
|Up to 12 days
Remember that these are only estimates. You should talk with your doctor about your anticipated recovery time.
Survivors have shared their own stories of recovery after treatment. Read about their experiences in our Free Mesothelioma Survivors Guide.
Chemotherapy is the most common treatment for mesothelioma because it may be used whether or not a patient is a candidate for surgery.
Patients can expect each chemotherapy cycle (or round) to follow this general process:
- Treatment: Patients receive a combination of chemotherapy drugs through a needle and tube inserted into a vein for several hours. During this time, a doctor or nurse will monitor the patient’s vital signs and watch for any adverse reactions or side effects.
- Recovery: Over the course of several days or weeks, patients will recover from their treatment session. Patients may experience side effects like nausea and tiredness during this time.
- Repeat: After recovering and resting, patients return to their cancer center for another round of chemotherapy.
Unfortunately, since chemotherapy drugs kill both cancerous and noncancerous (healthy) cells, it is common for patients to have side effects in the period between treatments.
“Chemotherapy not only kills the bad cells, but it kills the good cells too. You’ll likely see nausea and some hair loss, but there are medications to help with nausea and stimulate appetite, so be sure to talk with your oncologist.”
— Amy Fair, Registered Nurse & Mesothelioma Patient Advocate
Chemotherapy side effects may include:
- Hair loss
- Loss of appetite
- Weakened immune system
- Weight loss
It’s important to discuss any side effects or concerns with your doctor. They may be able to try other chemotherapy drug combinations or provide additional prescriptions to manage side effects.
How Many Rounds of Chemo Are Needed for Mesothelioma?
Each mesothelioma patient will need a unique chemotherapy treatment plan, but most patients can expect 2-4 rounds of chemotherapy. This means that they will have to repeat the treatment and recovery process at least twice.
Multiple rounds allow doctors to see how the cancer is responding to chemotherapy and consider additional or alternative treatment options. As a result, patients should prepare for multiple follow-up appointments after they complete chemotherapy.
Mesothelioma immunotherapy has been growing in popularity for mesothelioma treatment since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the immunotherapy drugs Opdivo® and Yervoy® for pleural mesothelioma in 2020. These medications help the immune system identify and attack cancer cells.
Similar to chemotherapy, immunotherapy is delivered intravenously or through pills. Patients can expect to undergo several cycles of treatment, typically spanning a few weeks or months. During this time, doctors will assess how the patient is responding to treatment.
Side effects of immunotherapy can include:
- Changes in blood pressure
- Flu-like symptoms
- Muscle pain
- Skin rashes
As with any other treatment, patients should expect routine follow-up appointments that may involve blood tests and X-rays to ensure the patient is not experiencing any complications.
While Opdivo and Yervoy are the two immunotherapy drugs approved for mainstream mesothelioma treatment, other immunotherapy options and emerging treatments are being studied in clinical trials every year.
Have questions about immunotherapy or clinical trials? Talk with one of our knowledgeable Patient Advocates today at (866) 608-8933.
Cancer Wellness Habits to Support Your Recovery
Mesothelioma treatment can be physically and emotionally demanding. For this reason, doctors recommend practicing specific wellness habits to help patients recover from and cope with treatment.
Learn more about cancer wellness habits that can aid in your recovery journey.
Community and Connection
It’s completely normal for people with cancer to feel isolated and overwhelmed. For this reason, many mesothelioma survivors describe the important role that faith, family, and fellowship with other mesothelioma patients played in helping them through the toughest moments of treatment.
“The mesothelioma community has afforded me an incredible opportunity to meet others affected by this disease. It is such a gift to be even a small part of their corner of the world.”
— Alexis Kidd, 16+ Year Peritoneal Survivor
Mesothelioma support groups can be a great place for patients looking for a place to start. There are groups that meet online, in person, and over the phone where patients can share experiences, knowledge, and coping skills. These moments of connection can empower patients and help them feel less alone.
Read 7 powerful stories of hope and resilience from patients and their family members in our Free Mesothelioma Survivors Guide.
Diet and Nutrition
Treatment side effects like fatigue, nausea, and vomiting can make it incredibly difficult to get the fuel your body needs. This can make fatigue and weakness even worse and not allow your body to recover.
Mesothelioma nurse Amy Fair shares these 5 nutrition tips:
- Ask for a referral to a nutritionist or dietitian during your next oncology appointment.
- Consume food and drinks at room temperature to avoid nausea.
- Increase your protein intake to help your body heal and build muscle.
- Replace 3 large meals with 6-8 smaller, low-fat meals each day.
- Try eating spicy foods or hard candy to stimulate your salivary glands, which can help with appetite.
Pleural mesothelioma survivor Arthur “Art” Putt experienced throat pain and irritation after chemotherapy and immunotherapy. But with a careful nutrient-focused approach, he was able to heal.
“At one time, doctors told me I’d never eat solid food again, but we showed them wrong.”
— Art Putt, 5+ Year Pleural Mesothelioma Survivor
Additionally, a nutritious mesothelioma diet that incorporates immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory foods can help support recovery and make you feel more comfortable after treatment.
Body pain and fatigue after treatment can make it difficult to move and complete daily activities. However, even just a few minutes of gentle movement can improve blood flow, strengthen the immune system, and help the body bounce back after treatment.
Some gentle activities for mesothelioma patients include:
Ask your doctor what activities they recommend before, during, and after treatment.
Mental Health Support
Depression impacts 1 in 4 cancer patients, according to the American Cancer Society. Mesothelioma patients may be at an even greater risk of depression and anxiety because of the aggressive nature of the disease.
From diagnosis to treatment and recovery, it’s important to be mindful of your mental health. Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed to ask for help. Many cancer treatment centers have in-house therapists and counselors or can refer you to someone who can help.
Most importantly, remember that you are not alone. Talking about your feelings with someone you trust can reduce your stress and help you cope.
Learn how patients and their caregivers have navigated their own mental health in our Free Survivors Guide.
How Caregivers Can Support Their Loved One’s Healing
Family and friends are a crucial part of mesothelioma treatment. With their support, mesothelioma patients can feel more empowered and hopeful throughout their treatment and recovery journey.
“Be there for the person with the illness. As hard as it is to think of them not being around, it’s most definitely harder on them to go through this major challenge, and they need someone to lean on.”
— Matt Litton, Son of Peritoneal Mesothelioma Survivor Jill Litton
Here are some specific ways caregivers can help a loved one after mesothelioma treatment:
- Encourage them to remain hopeful.
- Help administer their medications if needed.
- Look out for any severe side effects.
- Prepare nutritious food based on their doctor’s recommendations.
- Seek out mental health and mesothelioma support groups.
- Spend quality time with them.
- Advocate for them during follow-up appointments and ask questions.
Additionally, it’s important for mesothelioma caregivers to take care of themselves so they can care for their loved one. Remember it’s okay to ask for help.
Get Help at Each Stage of Mesothelioma Treatment
A mesothelioma diagnosis can be devastating, but surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and other treatments offer hope. Some survivors have lived 20 years or more with mesothelioma treatment.
After hours of researching mesothelioma treatment, you may feel weighed down by questions and concerns. However, Mesothelioma Hope is committed to helping you and your family at every step of the process.
Our Patient Advocates are available 24/7 at (866) 608-8933 to support you. Whether you need help paying for treatment or finding the best mesothelioma specialists, we are here for you.