Mesothelioma surgery remains one of the few treatment options open to mesothelioma patients at present. The possibility of mesothelioma surgery may offer hope for a longer life and hope is in itself important. So it is with great reluctance that I report to you on the opinion of a mesothelioma expert who questions having mesothelioma surgery.
Whether you agree with his opinion or not is up to you and your physician. But because his comments were published in The Lancet, one of the world’s most important medical journals, and then republished in Oncology Update and other medical publications, I would be remiss not to share them with you.
“There is no evidence that surgical resection for malignant pleural mesothelioma serves any purpose,” says Dr. Gary Lee, a respiratory specialist at the University of Western Australia. Dr. Lee’s comments accompany new UK research published in the Lancet showing that video-assisted thorascopic partial pleurectomy (VAT-PP) conferred no survival benefit in mesothelioma compared with talc pleurodesis, a common palliative therapy.
The conclusion of that study states, “VAT-PP is not recommended to improve overall survival in patients with pleural effusion due to malignant pleural mesothelioma, and talc pleurodesis might be preferable considering the fewer complications and shorter hospital stay associated with this treatment.”
Surgery is a logical response to an illness like mesothelioma. A part of the body is infected so the thinking is to remove that part and perhaps the disease will be removed with it. Although it is not always that simple.
Mesothelioma surgery falls into one of two categories: pleurectomy or extrapleural pneumonectomy. The first surgically removes all the tissue lining the lungs. The second also removes a lung. Neither of these is a simple procedure.
If you are older and in frail health the rigors of being put under anesthesia and then cut into may take too much away from the energy and time remaining to you. It is a difficult decision and one you should make with the help of your physician.
Questions to ask if you are considering mesothelioma surgery might include:
- How much time will this add to my life?
- How much time will it take to recover from the surgery?
- How long will I have to be in the hospital?
- What are the risks involved?
- What possible permanent effects could anesthesia have on my cognitive abilities?
 The Lancet, Early Online Publication, 16 June 2014