How is mesothelioma treated?

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Mesothelioma unfortunately can be difficult to treat as it is usually discovered when at a more advanced stage. The aims of most treatments are to control mesothelioma, keep you well and relieve symptoms.  The following treatments may be offered.


Surgery may be offered for early-stage mesothelioma to try to remove it. However, it usually cannot get rid of it for good. The aim of surgery is to try control the disease, relieve symptoms and to try keep you well for as long as possible.  Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are usually offered after surgery.


The build-up of fluid between the pleura (pleural effusion) can be removed during a thoracoscopy (pleural aspiration). During this treatment, your doctor can put powdered medication into the pleura, causing scarring and often preventing further build-up of fluid. This is known as pleurodesis. It will help you feel less breathless.


Radiotherapy is the use of high-energy rays to control symptoms and shrink the tumour. This treatment is quick and painless. Sometimes patients experience pain after treatment - pain flare - but it usually eases after a day or two. You may have radiotherapy after surgery to stop or delay the cancer returning.  It may also be used to reduce symptoms or to slow the growth of the tumour. Read about the side-effects of radiotherapy.


Chemotherapy is the use of cytotoxic drugs to control the symptoms of the disease or slow down the growth of the tumour. You may have chemotherapy as well as surgery or radiotherapy.  The doctors will assess and discuss with you if you are well and fit enough to have chemotherapy. Read about the side-effects of chemotherapy.

Controlling symptoms

Mesothelioma can cause symptoms like breathlessness and pain. Let your medical team know if you have any symptoms so that they can help you. Some hospitals have pain specialists and breathlessness clinics. You should also be referred to the palliative care team, who are experts in managing symptoms. Read more about managing side-effects and symptoms. 

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