Treatment options for pleural mesothelioma

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. This is because 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. They then have chemotherapy or radiotherapy or a combination of both.

People with more advanced mesothelioma might have chemotherapy. This is 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 tries to remove the mesothelioma. Unfortunately, it can't usually get rid of it for good.

For advanced mesothelioma, the surgery aims to remove as much tumour as possible. This helps 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

Your doctor might ask if you’d like to take part in a clinical trial. Doctors and researchers do trials to make existing treatments better and develop new treatments.

Your choices

Your doctor might offer you a choice of treatments. Discuss each treatment with them and ask how they can control any side effects. This helps you make the right decision for you. You also need to think about the other factors involved in each treatment, such as:

  • whether you need extra appointments
  • if you need more tests
  • the distance you need to travel to and from hospital

You might have to make further choices as your situation changes. It helps to find out as much as possible each time. You can stop a treatment whenever you want to if you find it too much to cope with.

Last reviewed: 
11 Jun 2021
Next review due: 
11 Jun 2024
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