Risks of Radiation Therapy

Many of you have now seen the article that was published in the NY Times on January 23rd (read article here). We are posting this article as we field many questions from community members about these new types of radiation therapy.  As we can see by this article, even some of the largest hospitals have had problems with both mechanical and human error.  I cannot stress enough that all mesothelioma patients considering new technology should investigate the experience of the center, the experience of the personnel designing the treatment and then the experience of those administering treatment.  We are fortunate to have developed relationships with expert radiation oncologists who assist me in determining where to send patients for therapy if they are unable to go to an expert mesothelioma center.
Cancer treatment often requires travel far from home, but to avoid these potential pitfalls, I truly believe that you need to be in the hands of experts.  Hospitals and Cancer Centers heavily market themselves and it is easy to be swayed when you are feeling vulnerable.  My mom always said the “proof is in the pudding”, in this case the reports of clinical trials using these machines in mesothelioma patients are proof of efficacy. If you enter a clinical trial using some of these new techniques, there are more personnel involved as the protocols must pass rigorous peer review and then IRBs (Institutional Review Boards) which were put in place to protect patients.
There is a role for radiation therapy and having a consultation with an expert to guide you is crucial.  Often times the therapy can be mapped out at an expert center and with the help of these seasoned radiologists, you can be placed in good hands to have the treatment delivered close to home.

~Mary Hesdorffer, NP

Click here to contact Mary Hesdorffer, Nurse Practitioner or call 877.363.6376

Cardiac Arrhythmias and Mesothelioma

There are a number of conditions that can contribute to cardiac arrhythmias in mesothelioma patients.  Arrhythmias are rapid atypical heartbeats which lose the characteristic patterns observed in the normal electrocardiogram (EKG). In mesothelioma, primary cardiac tumors of the heart (pericardial mesothelioma) or in most cases the spread of mesothelioma to the cardiac silhouette, can be responsible for arrhythmias.   The AV (atrial ventricular) node is composed of specialized tissues located between the atrium and ventricle.  The purpose of the av node is to set cardiac rhythm.  When malignancy impinges upon these tissues, arrhythmias can develop.  Common presenting symptoms are similar to those of congestive heart failure: cardiac and pleural effusions, shortness of breath and extreme fatigue.  Pulse will be irregular and in most cases rapid, greater than 100 beats per minute.

Surgery and the formation of scar tissue can damage this sensitive tissue following and EPP or PD.  These complications are described in papers reporting on large series of patients who have undergone this surgery.  In the immediate post operative period the major causes of arrhythmias usually reported are  incisional pain, hypovolemia due to blood loss and respiratory insufficiency due to anemia.

Tumor cells secrete substances not well understood that cause night sweats, fevers, anemia and sometimes a condition referred to as paraneoplastic syndrome.  Paraneoplastic syndrome can result in electrolyte imbalances and the heart muscle is sensitive to changes in electrolytes.

In most cases where we observe normal rhythm but rapid pulse, the cause is anemia.  In patients with cancer we describe a condition referred to as anemia of chronic disease.  In this group of patients we can transfuse regularly but the only true correction of this condition would be instituting effective chemotherapy. Thryoid dysfunction can also result in arrhythmias.

~Mary Hesdorffer, NP

Click here to contact Mary Hesdorffer, Nurse Practitioner or call 877.363.6376

Get the most from the curemeso.org website

The Meso Foundation website is an excellent source of information and resources. To make your browsing easier and to help you find information important to you, I have outlined below some sections that you might find useful.

BULLETIN BOARD/FORUM -If you’re on this blog, chances are that you are already familiar with the Meso Foundation bulletin board. If you don’t know about it, click here to visit.  Mesothelioma patients live all over the country, making it difficult for individuals to meet others dealing with this disease. Our bulletin board lets you create a virtual support network with others affected by meso. Here, you will be able to talk to other patients and caregivers, and obtain information from them, about their own treatments, experiences, as well as tips and solutions for some of the most common medical issues stemming from mesothelioma treatment.

IMMEDIATE EXPERT HELP – This is a crucial resource for those just diagnosed who don’t know where to turn for help, as well as for folks who have been dealing with meso for some time, and would like additional information and help navigating through options.

MESOTHELIOMA INFORMATION – Browse this section to learn about the disease itself, its treatment, read the stories of hope and get information about asbestos.

MESOTHELIOMA SCIENCE / RESEARCH ARCHIVES – The world of medical journal abstracts is sometimes difficult to navigate. Use this section to look at important studies for mesothelioma, sorted by topic.

UPCOMING MESO FOUNDATION VOLUNTEER EVENTS – This section is meant to be a guide for fundraising events. If you are having an event that you’d like added to this page, please let me know by emailing me.

ADVOCACY AND AWARENESS – Keep in touch with your congressional representatives through our Action Center.  If you don’t know who your representatives are, you can look them up here. When talking to your representatives or to anyone else that you think can help, make sure to refer to information and mesothelioma statistics on The Tragic Facts page.

CREATE YOUR OWN FUNDRAISING PAGE AND TRACK DONATIONS YOU RAISE -Whether you are participating in a 5K race, hosting a bowlathon, or embarking on a letter writing fundraising campaign, this tool can help you manage your gifts and donors. Create your account, set-up your fundraising goal, and let your contacts know they can donate on this page.

TRIBUTE WALL – This section of our website is dedicated to the loved ones we have lost to mesothelioma. To add your loved one to the Tribute Wall, contact me with their name and if you wish, also with a photo and paragraph about them.

If you have any questions about our website or need help, please contact me at 877.363.6376 ext. 7272 or email me at the below listed email address.

Maja Belamaric
Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation