Most oncologists see very few people with mesothelioma, a relatively rare cancer. The illness originates in a membrane called the mesothelium, which forms a lining that protects many of the body’s internal organs. It has been linked to exposure to asbestos once commonly used in building materials and is diagnosed in just 2,000 to 3,000 people in the United States each year.
As a hospital with one of the nation’s largest volumes of patients with mesothelioma, Memorial Sloan-Kettering offers a unique breadth of understanding and experience in diagnosing and treating the disease.
In our newly updated guide to mesothelioma you can learn about improvements in treatments and supportive care that have dramatically lengthened and improved the quality of life for patients over the past few decades.
High Volume and Advanced Care
Our surgeons have been leaders in establishing surgical approaches used to treat pleural mesothelioma, a common subtype of the disease that forms in the pleura, the sac that protects the lungs. Pleural mesothelioma can cause symptoms such as shortness of breath and pain in the chest area.
We oversee a vast patient database — the world’s largest — that generates information helpful to physicians in selecting not only who is a good candidate for surgery, but which type of operation will be most effective.
In addition, we have pioneered a multimodal approach for pleural mesothelioma that combines surgical removal of cancerous tissue along with chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Our radiation oncologists have developed cutting-edge radiation techniques, such as intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) that enables radiation to be targeted to tumors with better precision while minimizing damage to the normal tissue.
Our surgical and medical oncology experts also collaborate in advancing the treatment of peritoneal mesothelioma, a subtype that affects the lining of the abdomen and can lead to abdominal swelling and pain, diarrhea, and constipation. We are actively attempting to identify genetic mutations that might help us find new treatments for these cancers.
A Team Approach
Because we diagnose and treat a relatively large number of people with mesothelioma, we are able to offer many patients the option to enroll in clinical trials that test new drugs and novel approaches.
Through our multidisciplinary team approach we are able to design customized and timely treatment plans for each of our patients.
We have found that the quality and length of life of people with mesothelioma is also improved by the follow-up care and support provided by our team of physicians as well as our nurses and social workers. For relief from symptoms such as pain, fatigue, and shortness of breath, for example, many people also take advantage of our symptom and pain management services.