Mesothelioma Treatment

Treatment helps people live longer with malignant mesothelioma. While a curative treatment outcome is rare, the treatment approach is mostly called multimodal therapy which can help certain patients live for years with the cancer.
Multimodal therapy combines treatments to kill cancer cells in multiple ways. Patients diagnosed in an early stage often qualify for a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Multimodal therapy for late-stage patients may involve chemotherapy and immunotherapy.

The most common treatment options for mesothelioma include:



Radiation therapy 

New and experimental therapies are available eg targeted therapy, immunotherapy and photodynamic therapy.

Different types of mesothelioma require specialized treatment. Varying surgeries and chemotherapy drugs are used in malignant pleural mesothelioma treatment compared to peritoneal mesothelioma treatment.

Mesothelioma life expectancy without treatment is around four to six months for the average patient diagnosed in stage 3 or stage 4. Electing treatment at these stages often helps patients live at least a year. 

Those diagnosed in stage 1 or stage 2 who undergo aggressive treatment may live for years with mesothelioma.
What Are the Current Types of Mesothelioma Surgery?
The current types of surgery for pleural mesothelioma include extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) and pleurectomy and decortication (P/D). A thoracotomy is the first part of an EPP or P/D surgery. This allows doctors to operate on organs inside the chest. Surgeons may also use a diagnostic procedure called video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS), which is inserting a tiny camera through a small cut in the chest to see the lung. VATS allows doctors to see inside the chest and take biopsy samples. The primary surgery for peritoneal mesothelioma is cytoreductive surgery, also known as debulking surgery.

Extrapleural Pneumonectomy (EPP)
EPP removes the cancerous lung and all nearby areas where mesothelioma spreads. This can include nearby lymph nodes, parts of the chest lining, heart lining and diaphragm.

 Pleurectomy and Decortication (P/D)
P/D spares the lung and only removes cancerous parts of the pleural lining, the chest wall lining and the diaphragm.

Cytoreductive Surgery
Cytoreductive surgery removes cancerous growths from the lining of the abdomen. Also known as debulking surgery or peritonectomy, this procedure is often followed by heated chemotherapy.

Three tips on recovering from mesothelioma surgery
What Are the Chemotherapy Options for Mesothelioma?

The standard and most effective first-line chemotherapy regimen for pleural mesothelioma patients is the combination of cisplatin and pemetrexed (Alimta). A related combination of pemetrexed and carboplatin often achieves the same results but with fewer side effects.

These drugs are usually delivered with an IV into the bloodstream. Sometimes, doctors heat up chemotherapy drugs and deliver them locally after surgery rather than throughout the bloodstream.

In a 2016 study, researchers it was found that mesothelioma patients who received one of the chemotherapy combinations survived three times longer than patients without chemotherapy.

If the cancer grows, patients may undergo second-line chemotherapy with other drugs, including:




Other chemotherapy drugs tested on mesothelioma have included onconase, navelbine, raltitrexed and mitomycin.

Heated Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC) is the most effective treatment option for peritoneal mesothelioma patients.

In this procedure, heated chemotherapy drugs are delivered directly into the abdominal cavity after cytoreductive surgery to kill remaining cancer cells.
According to a 2013  the median survival rate for peritoneal patients who underwent HIPEC and cytoreductive surgery was 41 months. Those who returned for a second procedure survived an average of 80 months.

Intraperitoneal chemotherapy may also be administered without surgery and with the chemotherapy at normal room temperature.

Quick Fact:
75 percent of peritoneal mesothelioma patients survived at least five years after receiving three types of intraperitoneal chemotherapy: Normothermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (NIPEC), HIPEC and early postoperative intraperitoneal chemotherapy (EPIC).


Hyperthermic intrathoracic chemotherapy (HITHOC) is an experimental version of HIPEC for people with pleural mesothelioma.
HITHOC delivers heated chemotherapy throughout the chest cavity after a pleurectomy and decortication.
Currently, HITHOC is not as successful as HIPEC, but doctors are optimistic the procedure can be improved. Several studies have reported longer survival among patients who received HITHOC. 

Other Mesothelioma Treatment Options
Chemotherapy and surgery are primarily used to prolong survival, while radiation therapy and other therapies are primarily used to control symptoms. However, radiation therapy can reduce the risk of local recurrence in addition to improving chest pain.
Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy uses high-energy particles or waves, such as X-rays, gamma rays or protons, to target cancer cells.
It is used to control chest pain by shrinking mesothelioma tumors that are pressing against the chest wall. When combined with surgery, radiation therapy can reduce the risk of local recurrence.
Some doctors apply radiation before surgery to shrink tumors to make them easier to remove.
Radiation often doesn’t have the strong side effects of chemotherapy, and it can help reduce the physical pain of mesothelioma. It is sometimes used palliatively to reduce mesothelioma symptoms when surgery is no longer an option.
However, because radiation can be toxic to various organs and damages DNA while killing cancer cells, it is used carefully. Pleural mesothelioma patients are more likely to receive radiation than peritoneal patients because it is hard to apply radiation to the abdomen without harming vital organs.
Pleural Mesothelioma Treatment Options
Other mesothelioma cancer treatment options control pleural symptoms and help doctors diagnose the cancer. Noninvasive surgeries are available to drain fluid that builds up in the chest, alleviating troublesome symptoms.

Treats pleural effusions by removing fluid from the space between the visceral lining and parietal lining of the lungs and closes the pleural space to prevent further buildup.

This older method of treating pleural effusions drains fluid but does not close the pleural space.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Treatment Options
In addition to cytoreductive surgery and HIPEC, another treatment option called paracentesis is available to relieve pain and pressure caused by excess abdominal fluid.

This procedure removes ascites, which is fluid buildup in the abdominal cavity. A tube drains the fluid through a small abdominal incision.
Pericardial Mesothelioma Treatment Options
There are limited treatment options for pericardial mesothelioma, a rare type of the asbestos-related cancer that forms on the linings of the sac around the heart.


Removes excess fluid from the sac that surrounds the heart using a needle and a thin drainage tube.


A pericardiectomy is a tumor-removing surgery for pericardial mesothelioma. This procedure aims to remove as much cancerous tissue as possible from the linings of the pericardial sac.

Pericardial Window

A pericardial window removes part of the heart lining to drain excess fluid from around the heart.
“ Mesothelioma cancer helper  website is, in my opinion, the best resource for anyone suffering from cancer due to asbestos. Complementary Mesothelioma Treatments
Most mesothelioma patients elect complementary therapies that improve their overall health and boost their immune system. Examples include palliative care, alternative therapy and taking care of your physical health.

Palliative Care

Palliative care involves any therapy used to relieve symptoms or improve quality of life.

If the cancer already has spread significantly, doctors typically recommend palliative treatment options for mesothelioma that can help alleviate pain, breathing problems and other cancer symptoms that lessen your quality of life.

Alternative Therapy

Complementary and alternative medicine options don’t treat the disease itself but focus on the patient mentally, emotionally and physically. They can be used alongside more traditional approaches to cancer treatment. These types of treatments are not replacements to modern medicine and should not be used in place of a doctor or other medical professional.

Massages, acupuncture, yoga, naturopathy and aromatherapy can be used to relieve pain or reduce stress that comes from traditional treatment. Patients in many states have access to medical marijuana, which can help control cancer pain.

Physical Health Care

Many mesothelioma patients take steps to improve their overall health. Some patients focus on their emotional and mental health by joining a support group.
Others change their diet to boost nutrition. Some patients begin a gentle exercise program to lessen fatigue.

Free Mesothelioma Nutrition Guide

Eating right and balancing your diet while undergoing mesothelioma treatment can help ease your symptoms.

New Mesothelioma Treatment Options

Some of the new mesothelioma treatment options in development include immunotherapy and photodynamic therapy. They are being used in clinical trials and could become standard treatment at some point. New treatment for mesothelioma is thoroughly tested in clinical trials to ensure safety and efficacy.
Clinical Trials

Many mesothelioma patients are eligible for clinical trials that test emerging treatments. Clinical trials also test new approaches to multimodal therapy and the combination of different chemotherapy drugs.


Immunotherapy helps your own immune system fight cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration already approved some checkpoint inhibitors, such as pembrolizumab (Keytruda) and nivolumab (Opdivo), for the treatment of various cancers. Mesothelioma could be next.

Photodynamic Therapy

This therapy uses light energy to kill cancer cells. Doctors inject a light-sensitive drug into the patient. After a few days, a special light is applied to the area, usually via laser, to activate the drug and kill cancer cells.

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