A new study confirms the obvious link between mesothelioma treatment and survival length. However, the research’s primary revelation is that many patients often do not receive appropriate treatment, mainly due to which medical facility they rely on for help.
In other words, which facility a patient goes to — whether it’s a large or small, a hospital known nationally or a local one, an academic facility or one not associated with a university — could determine how long they live after their mesothelioma diagnosis.
The Annals of Thoracic Surgery published the results of its recent study on the disparities in malignant mesothelioma treatment between high- and low-volume hospitals. Experts reviewed the National Cancer Database user file, specifically for data from 2004 to 2014. They found 3,419 patients from this time who met the study’s criteria, one of which was having pleural mesothelioma in stages 1-3.
Those 3,419 patients ranged in the treatment they received, and their survival times were often connected to their treatment.
Of those patients who received no treatment, the median survival time was approximately 10 months. The median survival time for patients receiving only chemotherapy was around 15 months. Patients receiving at least surgery and chemotherapy — in addition to radiation or other approaches — had a median survival time of approximately 21 months.
Guidelines for Pleural Mesothelioma Treatment
The connection between no treatment and poor survival time is obvious. A more startling discovery from the study is how often patients did not receive adequate and available treatment.
The primary treatment methods for pleural mesothelioma are surgery and chemotherapy. In some cases, depending on the cell type in the patient, both treatment approaches are applicable. Pleural mesothelioma with epithelioid cells is the most common type of the disease, and experts suggest a combination of surgery and chemotherapy when the cancer is in one of the first three stages.
Surgery is not as often an option for patients with the sarcomatoid cell form of mesothelioma. This cell type is more aggressive than epithelioid cells and has a construction which is difficult to remove during surgery. However, chemotherapy can be helpful for patients with sarcomatoid mesothelioma cells.
Fewer Resources Leads to Lacking Treatment
Most mesothelioma patients reviewed in the study were diagnosed with an epithelioid cell type, meaning they could have undergone either chemotherapy or surgery (or both). However, nearly 30% of these patients received no treatment. The study, which was published on the U.S. National Library of Medicine database, showed that insurance status and facility type were the two main determining factors in whether a patient received appropriate treatment.
According to the results, high-volume facilities were more likely than low-volume ones to provide acceptable pleural mesothelioma treatment. The cancer is uncommon — there are only around 3,000 new cases in the United States each year — and many local doctors do not have experience diagnosing or treating the disease. Even some oncologists do not have the qualifications to treat mesothelioma because of the likelihood they have never worked with a patient of the disease.
Additionally, small, non-academic facilities often do not have the staff or funding to help patients properly. At large hospitals, particularly cancer centers, there are mesothelioma specialists on staff who are experienced in treating the cancer and can provide information on available clinical trials investigating new methods.
If large hospitals and cancer centers often provide the best treatment, then why do people continue going to small, local hospitals?
Cost is the most common explanation. Some patients shy away from traveling to a prestigious cancer center for cost-saving purposes and instead rely on a local facility. Many mesothelioma patients also believe they do not have many treatment options if they have a plan with a high deductible or no insurance whatsoever.
While these concerns are common and valid, they present issues with encouraging resolutions.
How to Counter Treatment Roadblocks
If you’re a mesothelioma patient, you’re likely concerned with the financial ramifications of treating your disease. Travel costs may seem to prevent you from finding a facility that specializes in mesothelioma.
Fortunately, many companies understand the struggles that cancer patients and their families face regularly. These businesses — unlike those asbestos manufacturers that caused the disease in the first place — put mesothelioma victims such as yourself above their own profits.
Financial resources are available to help with travel costs and other monetary issues related to receiving mesothelioma treatment. Our patient advocate, Karen Ritter, RN, can provide details on travel grants and discounts available specifically to mesothelioma patients. If you’re interested in pursuing one of these options, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
There also is a quick and easy way to find a facility that specializes in mesothelioma. Our doctor match program or cancer center recommendation form can connect you with one of many options. Before choosing a hospital and doctor for your treatment or second opinion, check the availability of the top mesothelioma doctors in the country.
Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer, but many people have lived for numerous years thanks to effective treatment. There are some mesothelioma survivors who have reached the 10- and 20-year marks, largely thanks to receiving help from the best and brightest mesothelioma specialists in the country. Follow their approach and work with a reputable national hospital or cancer center to ensure you know of every option — and can try each possible method to fight the disease.
- Disparities in Compliance with National Guidelines for the Treatment of Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma. U.S. National Library of Medicine, via The Annals of Thoracic Surgery. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31004585. Accessed: 04/24/19.
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