Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer that most often develops in the lining of the lungs. The most common causes include asbestos exposure, a natural mineral that was once widely used in building materials and other products. Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma. People who work in certain jobs are at higher risk for exposure, including military veterans.
There is no cure for mesothelioma, but treatments can prolong life and improve quality of life. If you are a military veteran diagnosed with mesothelioma, speak with your doctor about all of your treatment options. Veterans make up a large percentage of mesothelioma patients. Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals treat more than 2,000 veterans with mesothelioma each year.
This article will discuss mesothelioma treatment options for military veterans.
Surgery is the most common treatment for mesothelioma. It is often combined with other therapies, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
The type of surgery performed depends on the cancer stage and where it is located in the body. The most common type of surgery for mesothelioma is a pleurectomy with decortication (P/D). This surgery removes the lining of the lung (pleura) and the cancerous tissue surrounding it. Other types of surgery include:
- Extrapleural Pneumonectomy (EPP): This surgery removes the affected lung, part of the chest lining, and some of the nearby lymph nodes.
- Wedge Resection: This surgery removes a small lung section that contains cancer.
The VA provides surgery for mesothelioma at its specialized cancer centers. Veterans can look up mesothelioma VA benefits online to see if they qualify for coverage. In addition, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has a national network of VA hospitals and clinics that offer cancer care.
Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It combines with other treatments, such as surgery and radiation therapy. The most common type of chemotherapy for mesothelioma is a combination of cisplatin and pemetrexed. This combination has promised to prolong life in people with mesothelioma. Other chemotherapy drugs include carboplatin, gemcitabine, and vinorelbine. The VA provides chemotherapy for mesothelioma at its specialized cancer centers.
3. Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy combines with other treatments, such as surgery and chemotherapy. The most common type of radiation therapy for mesothelioma is external beam radiation therapy. This radiation therapy uses a machine to direct radiation beams at cancer.
Internal beam radiation therapy is another type of radiation therapy. It involves inserting radioactive material into the body near the infected area. The VA provides radiation therapy for mesothelioma at its specialized cancer centers.
4. Clinical Trials
Clinical trials are research studies that test new treatments. They are an important option for people with mesothelioma, as they offer access to treatments that are not yet available. However, clinical trials are not right for everyone. It is important to speak with a doctor to see if a clinical trial is an option.
In addition, not all clinical trials are available at the VA. However, the VA does offer access to many clinical trials through its partnership with the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
5. Alternative Treatments
There are many alternative treatments for mesothelioma, such as acupuncture, massage therapy, and herbal supplements. These treatments are not proven to cure mesothelioma, but they may help to improve quality of life. The VA does not cover alternative treatments for mesothelioma. However, some veterans may be able to get coverage for these treatments through the Veterans Choice Program.
Mesothelioma is a difficult disease to treat. However, there are many treatment options available. Military veterans have access to specialized cancer care through the VA. In addition, clinical trials offer access to new and innovative treatments. Alternative treatments may also help to improve the quality of life.
6. Supportive Care
Supportive care is an important part of mesothelioma treatment. It helps to manage symptoms and side effects, and it can also improve the quality of life. The VA provides supportive care for mesothelioma at its specialized cancer centers. In addition, the VHA has a national network of VA hospitals and clinics that offer supportive care.
7. Palliative Care
Palliative care is a type of supportive care that focuses on relieving the symptoms of mesothelioma. It often combines with other treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Also known as comfort care, palliative care can help to improve the quality of life.
The VA provides palliative care for mesothelioma at its specialized cancer centers. In addition, the VHA has a national network of VA hospitals and clinics that offer palliative care.
8. Hospice Care
Hospice care is palliative care that focuses on comfort and quality of life. It is for people with terminal illnesses, such as mesothelioma. It is made available in the home, a hospice facility, or a hospital. The VA provides hospice care for mesothelioma at its specialized cancer centers. In addition, the VHA has a national network of VA hospitals and clinics that offer hospice care.
9. Financial Assistance for Veterans
The costs of mesothelioma treatment can be high. Military veterans may be eligible for financial assistance through the VA. The VA provides financial assistance for mesothelioma treatment through the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA). The VBA offers a variety of benefits, including disability compensation, pension programs, and healthcare.
In addition, the VBA offers a special program for veterans with mesothelioma. The Mesothelioma Veterans Benefits Program provides financial assistance for treatment, care, and other expenses.
10. Questions to Ask Your Doctor
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may have many questions. Here are some questions you may want to ask your doctor:
- What is the stage of my disease?
- What are my treatment options?
- What are the side effects of each treatment?
- How long will treatment last?
- What is the prognosis?
- What are the risks and benefits of each treatment?
- What are the costs of each treatment?
- Is there a clinical trial that I may be eligible for?
- What are the alternative treatments?
If you are a military veteran with mesothelioma, many resources are available to help you. The VA has a national network of cancer centers that offer specialized care for mesothelioma. In addition, the VHA has a nationwide network of VA hospitals and clinics that provide supportive care. Lastly, the VA has a website that provides information about mesothelioma and other cancers.