Treatment Options for Mesothelioma

Treatment Options for Mesothelioma

Once mesothelioma has been confirmed, it is staged to determine exactly what treatment options could be used. Another factor that will determine treatment options is your personal preferences. Given the relative rarity of mesothelioma, it is likely that it may not be included in your health insurance, and this may also have an effect on what treatment option you take.

At the end of the day, there are three options to choose from. These are:

  • Radiotherapy
  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy

Most treatments requires a combination of these methods for maximum effect, and this means that the whole treatment may require an army of different doctors, for example:

  • A radiation oncologist, who will oversee the radiotherapy
  • A thoracic surgeon, who will conduct the surgical removal of  the tumor
  • A medical oncologist, who will oversee chemotherapy.

You will also need nurses and other medical professional throughout your therapy. There are Comprehensive Cancer Centers all over the USA; these dedicated cancer treatment centers offer the best treatment options available.

Surgery in Treating Mesothelioma

Surgery is done to: either attempt curing the cancer (potentially curative surgery), or relieve the pain of its symptoms.  Because potentially curative surgery doesn’t always excise off the cancerous cells, there is a likelihood of the cancer recurring from the few cells left behind. Surgery is also pointless after the cancer has metastasized to distant regions of the body.

Palliative surgery is often an effective means of relieving painful symptoms; for example, performing surgery to drain the effusions will improve the patient’s general health. All surgical procedures generally extend the patient’s life.

Surgery in Pleural Mesothelioma

The following surgical procedures can be carried out.

  • Extrapleural pneumonectomy- This is an extensive procedure in which the pericardium, sections of the diaphragm, the pleural lining on the chest wall, adjacent lymph nodes, and the lung on the tumor side are removed. The pericardium and diaphragm are then replaced with artificial composites. The probability of post-surgical complications is high, about 30%.
  • Pleurectomy/Decortication- This targets the pleura on the chest wall, lung, mediastinum and diaphragm. There’s an extended version in which the pericardium and diaphragm are also removed. This is a common palliative procedure.
  • Debulking- This is a targeted removal of the tumorous cells.
  • Omentectomy- this is the removal of the omentum, a common site for peritoneal mesotheliomas to metastasize to.

Surgery in Peritoneal Mesothelioma



Radiation Therapy

There are two main radiation therapies you can use:

Brachytherapy- A radiation source is inserted adjacent to the targeted cell and gives off low regular doses of radiation.

External Beam Radiation Therapy- An external radiating source is aimed at the tumor. Radiation doses vary, and some can be set at 5 times/week, for several weeks.

Possible Side Effects

Anything that can destroy cancerous cells can do the same to healthy cells; some of the side effects in radiation include:

  • Hair loss
  • Lung damage
  • Fatigue
  • Discolored skin


There are numerous medications to help combat mesothelioma; most contain a combination of pemetrexed and cisplatin. Drugs can be added systematically, i.e. through the blood or locally, at the site of the cancer, either through the abdomen (intraperitoneally) or through the chest (intrapleurally). Chemotherapy can be used before surgery to contain the tumor, and after surgery to kill off any remaining tumor cells. Mesothelioma is treated using any of the following drugs:

  • Mitomycin
  • Vinorelbine
  • Epirubicin
  • Doxorubicin
  • Ifosfamide
  • Carboplatin etc.

The side effects are similar to those caused by radiotherapy, and in both cases, the symptoms fade away once the medication is discontinued.


The prognosis in mesothelioma is often very poor, because of the late detection of the cancer. Most mesothelioma sufferers are often given 5-18months after diagnosis, but this can be extended to years with proper treatment.


The best treatment is prevention, or early detection. Regular checkups will help in the detection of the disease early on, when the prognosis is a lot better.

Also see First Signs of mesothelioma