Decorative image

Treatment decisions for pleural mesothelioma

Find out about how your doctor decides which treatment you need, the types of treatment you might have and treatment by stage.

Deciding which treatment you need

A team of doctors and other professionals discuss the best treatment and care for you. They are called a multidisciplinary team (MDT).

The treatment you have depends on:

  • where your cancer is
  • how far it has grown or spread (the stage)
  • the type of cancer
  • your general health and level of fitness

Your doctor will discuss your treatment, its benefits and the possible side effects with you.

The main treatments

Unfortunately mesothelioma can be very difficult to treat as it is often found when it is advanced. Nearly all treatment aims to control your mesothelioma for as long as possible and keep your symptoms under control.

Some people with early stage mesothelioma have surgery. This is followed by chemotherapy or radiotherapy or a combination of both.

People with more advanced mesothelioma might have chemotherapy to shrink it and reduce symptoms. Chemotherapy can help some people live weeks or months longer. Radiotherapy might also shrink the cancer and control your symptoms.

Chemotherapy

You might have chemotherapy for early stage pleural mesothelioma, alongside surgery and radiotherapy.

Chemotherapy can also help to shrink or control advanced pleural mesothelioma for some time.

Radiotherapy

You might have radiotherapy to control the symptoms of mesothelioma. It can also slow down the growth of your tumour.

Surgery

Surgery can be used to try to completely remove the mesothelioma. 

For people with advanced mesothelioma, the surgery aims to remove as much tumour as possible to relieve symptoms. This is called palliative surgery or debulking.

Supportive care (palliative care)

Mesothelioma is often diagnosed when it is quite advanced. Some people with very advanced mesothelioma might be too ill to cope with treatments such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery. But you can still have treatment to relieve symptoms such as pain, breathing problems and weight loss.

This is called palliative care. It is managed by a team of doctors and nurses who are experts in controlling symptoms of advanced cancer. The team might also include a physiotherapist and dietician.

Clinical trials to improve treatment

Your doctor might ask if you’d like to take part in a clinical trial. Doctors and researchers do trials to improve treatment by:

  • making existing treatments better
  • developing new treatments
Last reviewed: 
17 Dec 2015
  • AJCC Cancer Staging Manual (8th edition)
    American Joint Committee on Cancer
    Springer, 2016

  • Malignant pleural mesothelioma: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up

    P Baas and others on behalf of the ESMO Guidelines Committee

    Annals of Oncology 26 (Supplement 5): v31–v39, 2015

  • Extra-pleural pneumonectomy versus no extra-pleural pneumonectomy for patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma: clinical outcomes of the Mesothelioma and Radical Surgery (MARS) randomised feasibility study

    T Treasure and others

    Lancet Oncology. 2011 August;12(8):763-72. 

  • Efficacy and cost of video-assisted thoracoscopic partial pleurectomy versus talc pleurodesis in patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma (MesoVATS): an open-label, randomised, controlled trial

    R Rintoul and others

    Lancet. 2014 September 20;384(9948):1118-27. 

  • Cancer and its management (7th edition)
    J Tobias and D Hochhauser
    Wiley-Blackwell, 2015

Information and help

Dangoor sponsorship

About Cancer generously supported by Dangoor Education since 2010.