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Lung-Sparing Surgical Option for Mesothelioma Patients Discussed at International Symposium

Mesothelioma X-rayThe Pacific Meso Center at the Pacific Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in Los Angeles once again hosted the International Symposium on Lung-Sparing Therapies for Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma.  In its second year, the symposium is an opportunity for mesothelioma experts to discuss the benefits of the “lung-sparing” surgery pleurectomy/decortication (P/D) which strips away the diseased membrane lining the lung and visible mesothelioma tumors, but spares the lung. 

The alternative to P/D for pleural mesothelioma patients is the extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP), a more radical procedure that involves removal of a lung, the diseased lining of the chest cavity and heart, and a portion of the diaphragm.  There has been an ongoing debate among mesothelioma physicians of the best surgical approach for improving the survival of mesothelioma patients.  

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer typically affecting the lining of the lungs. Primarily caused by exposure to airborne asbestos fibers, it is highly aggressive and is resistant to many of the current cancer treatments. Mesothelioma often has a complex growth pattern making complete surgical removal a very difficult task leaving oncologists and surgeons to determine which of the surgical procedures will offer the patient the best survival option.

Dr. Robert Cameron, Director of the UCLA Mesothelioma Comprehensive Research Program and Chief of Thoracic Surgery at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center, and leader of the symposium, has long been a proponent of P/D and has been critical of physicians that offer EPP.  Cameron has said, “Taking out a lung does harm and there is absolutely no benefit to the patient.” 

Cameron was joined at the Symposium by some of the leading experts in the field, including: Dr. Anne Tsao of M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Dr. Raja Flores of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. The two previously collaborated on an article regarding personalized treatment for mesothelioma patients. 

“With the treatment of mesothelioma, everything is changing,” said Tsao. “There was a lot of nihilism before. We see it turning from it being fatal to a chronic illness and, hopefully, to a cure.” 

Mesothelioma survivors were also present at the symposium and lauded the attending physicians for standing by the less-invasive surgery.  Several of the patients found P/D to be a viable alternative after being told there was nothing that could be done to help them in battling their disease. 

Organizers are already planning next year’s event to be held May 12-13, 2013. 

3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year.  The patients and their physicians look forward to Symposiums such as this so that breakthroughs and perspectives on mesothelioma treatments can be shared with other physicians and the general public.

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Nancy Meredith is a blog and web content writer with more than 20 years of professional experience in the Information Technology industry. She has been writing about Mesothelioma for 4 years. Follow Nancy on Google+

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