There aren’t many surgeons and cancer centers capable of performing surgery for mesothelioma.

This fact means patients wanting surgery must travel farther to get a life‑saving operation.

Dr. Estelamari Rodriguez, of the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, presented findings on access to treatment at the IASLC 2021 World Conference on Lung Cancer.

One of the significant revelations was how far patients must go for surgery. He and his research team analyzed 2,804 cases of mesothelioma from 2004‑2017. Exactly half (1,402) had surgery and they were:

  • 70% male
  • 83% white/caucasian
  • 86.7% in early stages (stage 1 or stage 2)

Survival was much better after surgery. Another survival factor was receiving multimodal therapy — such as chemotherapy or radiation — before or after surgery.

The main finding was surgical candidates traveled a greater distance for treatment compared to non‑surgical patients. The average was 16 miles compared to 14 miles.


Why Distance Is an Issue for Patients

Patients eligible for surgery often must travel outside of their city — or even state — to find a qualified doctor. There are a handful of top cancer centers with the resources and staffing to perform surgery for mesothelioma.

By comparison, patients not eligible for surgery usually just receive maintenance chemotherapy or immunotherapy. This likely involves going to the local hospital or cancer center for treatment. Since a specialist surgeon isn’t needed, patients don’t have to travel.

Many patients don’t want to travel, even for surgery. Mesothelioma is an aggressive disease with uncomfortable side effects, including chest pain, difficulty breathing and more.

The idea of getting on a plane for a long flight or taking a long road trip might seem exhausting and overwhelming. For this reason, many patients rule out going to a top cancer center in another state or region. They prioritize their quality of life and spending their precious remaining time at home with family.

There’s nothing wrong with this decision. We at Mesothelioma Guide value the importance of time with family and respect any patient’s decision regarding treatment.

Unfortunately, some patients are told by a local doctor or oncologist that their cancer isn’t operable. This is often an incorrect assessment. Surgery for mesothelioma is possible — with the right medical support.


Why a Second Opinion Can Make Surgery an Option for You

We at Mesothelioma Guide always recommend patients get a second opinion from a specialist. This often involves going to a top cancer center with a mesothelioma surgeon on staff. The surgeon will look at scans, perform more imaging tests, and provide their opinion on whether surgery is possible.

Going to a local hospital or cancer center may cause you to receive a poor prognosis from an unqualified surgeon. Getting input from a specialist can provide a lifeline for survival from this cancer.

For help finding a top cancer center, email our medical team. Our patient advocate, Karen Ritter, is a registered nurse. Her email is for direct contact.

    Sources & Author

Devin Goldan image

About the Writer, Devin Golden

Devin Golden is the content writer for Mesothelioma Guide. He produces mesothelioma-related content on various mediums, including the Mesothelioma Guide website and social media channels. Devin's objective is to translate complex information regarding mesothelioma into informative, easily absorbable content to help patients and their loved ones.

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