Life Extending Advances in Mesothelioma

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Topics include: Understanding and Treatment

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart. Around 3,000 new patients in the United States are diagnosed with it each year. Typically, mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos, and although the incidence is rare, cases diagnosed are on the rise. in this episode of Patient Power, sponsored by The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Dr. Anne Tsao and her patient, Kathy join Andrew to discuss the latest in the diagnosis and treatment of mesothelioma.

In 2008, Kathy began experiencing a cough coupled with breathing problems that would not go away. After many trips to her primary care physician and many failed attempts to treat her worsening symptoms, Kathy was admitted to the local hospital for testing. She was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Kathy and her doctors agreed that she should go to M. D. Anderson immediately. She underwent surgery and is currently enrolled in a clinical trial. Kathy speaks highly of her treatment and how she and her doctors are fighting hard to beat her cancer.

Dr. Tsao then talks about the incidence and causes of mesothelioma as well as the symptoms and how it is diagnosed. She expresses the importance of seeking care at a specialized center to get the proper treatment for this condition. Dr. Tsao explains the importance of enrolling in clinical trials and the targeted treatments that are becoming available to patients. She then addresses asbestos exposure, and Kathy shares her situation of how she was exposed to asbestos at a former job. In addition to providing information on the latest treatments and research, Dr. Tsao provides answers to listener questions. If you are looking a valuable resource of mesothelioma information, listen to this program.

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Transcript

Andrew Schorr:

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that affects the lining around the lungs. It can be around the heart, around the abdomen. Typically, it's caused by exposure to asbestos, and the incidence of this type of cancer is rare, but it's also on the rise. We're going to hear from a leading expert from M. D. Anderson and an inspiring patient next on Patient Power.

Hello and welcome to Patient Power. I'm Andrew Schorr. This program is sponsored, like so many we've done, by M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, where we connect with you leading, often world renowned experts. We're going to do that today as we learn about a condition that some of us just see advertised in legal ads on television, and that is mesothelioma. It's a rare form of cancer. It affects the lining around the lungs, sometimes around the heart and in the abdomen, and it's typically caused by exposure to asbestos that may have been 40, 50 years, decades earlier, and then it develops, and people have a variety of symptoms that we'll learn about.

One person who found herself affected by this is Kathy. Kathy is 54, she lives in Lumberton, Texas, down the road from Houston to the east. And she was having breathing problems, really beginning in February of 2008, and then June it got really bad. Kathy, tell us, how bad did your breathing become?

Kathy:

It became so bad that I could barely walk across a room without having to sit down.

Andrew Schorr:

Oh, my.

Kathy:

It was very bad. And I did have some pains in my chest.

Andrew Schorr:

But you were gasping for breath.

Kathy:

I was gasping for breath.

Andrew Schorr:

All right. Now, you'd been going to the doctor for months, your primary care doctor.

Kathy:

Right.

Andrew Schorr:

And you were being treated by antibiotics and cough medicine, but it kept getting worse. So finally, I understand, you were admitted to the hospital in Beaumont, Texas, and they do the various exams, biopsy, including the lining of your lungs, and it comes back with this disease I mentioned. Had you ever heard of mesothelioma before?

Kathy:

Only on TV.

Andrew Schorr:

Like the legal ads we were talking about. So you knew it was something that maybe you needed to go to a major cancer center for. What did you tell them in Beaumont?

Kathy:

I told them that I just wanted to go to M. D. Anderson, that that's where I needed to go, and my doctors in Beaumont agreed.

Andrew Schorr:

So you got to M. D. Anderson and they saw you right away?

Kathy:

Yes, they did.

Andrew Schorr:

So you I end up being given a clinical trial medicine. Did that help?

Kathy:

You know, there was some still of the gasping.

Andrew Schorr:

Right. I can understand. Well, you eventually had surgery, major surgery, which we'll learn about. And it took a while to recover. I know you were in the hospital a couple weeks. So here we are now, months down the road. How are you doing today?

Kathy:

So much better. So very much better. I still sometimes overdo, I still have problems breathing, but it's just, you know, I have to sit down and recover. But I just feel much better. Going to M. D. Anderson I've learned so much, and I know what to look for.

Andrew Schorr:

You think it was a good choice?

Kathy:

Yes. Oh, definitely.

Andrew Schorr:

Often the prognosis, if you will, when someone is diagnosed with a condition as serious as mesothelioma is not good. Do you feel like you're with us in part today and doing as well as you are because of M. D. Anderson?

Kathy:

Yes. Yes, most definitely. And they were honest with me, you know, about mesothelioma, and that it very likely would come back. And I know that, I realize that, but I'm fighting as hard as I can.

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Page last updated on December 18, 2013