Surgery is one of the best curative options for mesothelioma patients. Knowing what to expect during recovery can prepare you and help you recover faster.
Getting Through Recovery
Some patients may be apprehensive about the recovery process following a major surgery. Recovery usually lasts around 10 weeks, depending on the type of surgery and the patient’s overall health, and life after recovery is typically more comfortable and manageable. Learn more about life after recovery in our free Mesothelioma Guide.
Key Components of Surgical Recovery
Inpatient v. Outpatient Recovery
Patients who have surgery to remove their mesothelioma tumor(s) undergo both inpatient and outpatient recovery. Inpatient recovery is intensive and lasts only one to two weeks, whereas outpatient is longer but less intensive.
Physical therapy is essential after a mesothelioma surgery. Pleural mesothelioma patients require therapies such as coughing and breathing exercises as well as walking. Peritoneal patients generally just require a certain diet and rest.
Life After Surgery
After having surgery, most patients experience an improved quality of life. Many patients are able to go about their life normally after recovery and are often still capable of physical activities such as playing golf or tennis.
Knowing What to Expect
Being prepared with the knowledge of what life after surgery will be like can dispel fears about recovering from a major surgical procedure. Although recovery is different for the different procedures that a mesothelioma patient may have, all patients have a similar initial recovery experience.
All patients undergo an inpatient recovery period. Immediately following surgery, patients share common symptoms of sleepiness and nausea from the anesthetic used during surgery. While in inpatient recovery, patients have their vitals monitored, such as blood pressure, temperature, breathing, and pulse. Patients are also required to be on an IV for the delivery of medicine and fluids after surgery. Beyond these similarities associated with recovery, there are differences in recovery based upon the types of surgeries performed.
Extrapleural Pneumonectomy (EPP) Recovery
Known as the gold standard of treatment for patients with pleural mesothelioma, the extrapleural pneumonectomy involves removing a patient’s cancerous lung. This surgery has produced remarkable survival times and even remission in some patients.
After an EPP, patients remain in the hospital for approximately two weeks while their vitals are monitored and they begin physical therapy. The patient may be kept in the Intensive Care Unit for the first few days while their vitals are monitored. Patients can expect to be on a respirator to assist their breathing for the first few days after surgery. In addition, patients are required to walk multiple times a day to help expedite recovery, often starting as soon as the day after surgery.
Once the patient returns home, an additional recovery period of about eight weeks can be expected. Here patients continue their walking and breathing exercises until a full recovery is made. It is important for patients to take their recovery seriously and to not overexert themselves at home.
Post-surgical treatment options such as chemotherapy and radiation may be re-introduced into the regime. Chemotherapy may vary from systemic chemotherapy, which is given intravenously, to heated chemotherapy, which is applied directly to the cancerous area during the EPP surgery.
Pleurectomy/Decortication (P/D) Recovery
The alternative surgical treatment to the EPP is the pleurectomy with decortication. The P/D is a procedure typically only used in patients whose mesothelioma hasn’t spread very far, because only the lining of the lung is removed opposed to the entire lung. This procedure takes longer to complete, but the recovery, while similar to that of an EPP, is relatively shorter.
Patients who have a P/D require close medical attention after the surgery. Patients have their vitals monitored after surgery and are given pain medication, usually in the form of a morphine pump. Patients typically spend a week in the hospital after a pleurectomy with decortication to make sure no complications arise.
Patients can expect an overall recovery time of about four weeks. This is much shorter than the recovery from an EPP, but the overall recovery process is the same—inpatient treatment, breathing and walking exercises are all typical.
Cytoreductive surgery is an intense process involving a partial removal of the lining of the abdomen and any surrounding tumors. Recovery from the surgery itself is more extensive than either an EPP or a P/D because the abdominal cavity contains 10 primary organs that may be affected by tumors.
Inpatient recovery lasts two weeks, during which the patient is on an IV that delivers both pain medication and fluids. Once the patient returns home, they can expect another two to three weeks of recovery time. During this time the patient is still on an IV for nutritional supplements because the digestive system and other organs take a while to fully recover. For this reason, functions such as bowel movements and eating may take up to two weeks to become normal or possible.
Life After Surgery
One of the biggest concerns among patients who are about to undergo a major procedure is what life will be like after recovery is complete. Fortunately, though these are major operations, most patients can continue living their life as normally as possible and often are more comfortable after their procedure. Of course, there is also the benefit of a significant increase in life expectancy for patients who undergo these procedures. Find out if surgical treatment is right for you and take the first steps to an improved quality of life by getting connected with a mesothelioma specialist.