Mesothelioma

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, we can provide the information you need, from understanding the cancer itself, to choosing the right treatment, to finding support.

Mesothelioma is different from lung cancer. If you're not sure what the difference is or how it affects you, you can call our Cancer Nurseline Freephone 1800 200 700.

What you should know about mesothelioma

  • Mesothelioma is cancer of the mesothelium.
  • The mesothelium is a thin layer that lines the wall of your chest and abdomen and the organs found there.
  • This information is about pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lining of your lungs. This is the most common type.
  • Mesothelioma can also develop in the lining of your abdomen, testicles or heart, but these are rare.

Pleural mesothelioma

Your lungs are covered by two layers called the pleura. These layers are separated by a small amount of fluid, which helps to keep them moist. The pleura are very thin and the fluid helps them to slide over each other easily. This allows your lungs to expand and contract as you breathe in and out. The inner layer that surrounds your lung is called the visceral layer. The outer layer attached to your chest wall is called the parietal layer.

Mesothelioma causes the pleura to become hard or thicken. This makes it more difficult for your lungs to expand and contract as normal, making it harder for you to breathe. Sometimes, fluid builds up between the two layers. This also makes it harder for your lungs to breathe in and out. As a result, you will feel breathless.

More information

For more information, see our Mesothelioma and asbestos factsheet

For other booklets and factsheets, including information about cancer types, treatments, side-effects, emotional effects, financial information and more, visit our publications section.