Font Size

Mesothelioma (cont.)

What Are Treatments for Mesothelioma?

Like most cancers, mesothelioma is best treated when it is diagnosed early. Treatment depends on the location of the tumor, how far it has spread, and your age and general health. Stages 1, 2, and some stage-3 mesothelioma may be amenable to potentially curative surgery. Whatever the stage of mesothelioma, there are several types of treatments that can be used.

Traditional treatments for mesothelioma include the following:

  • Surgery (removal of the tumor)
  • Chemotherapy (using medications to kill cancer cells)
  • Radiation therapy (using high-dose X-rays or other high-energy rays to kill cancer cells)

Currently guidelines such as those provided by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) can guide treatment once the disease is diagnosed with certainty. Treatment is best done at centers with experience with this uncommon disease. Often the traditional treatments are used in combination. Aggressive surgery may carry significant risk of complications and is again best performed by experienced surgeons. A multidisciplinary team is usually convened prior to treatment to plan and coordinate the care of a patient with mesothelioma.

Because mesothelioma is difficult to treat, several new therapies are being evaluated currently. They include the following:

  • Photodynamic therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Gene therapy
  • Clinical Trials of new medications are ongoing

What Is the Medical Treatment for Mesothelioma?


Chemotherapy uses anticancer drugs to attempt to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment because the drug enters the bloodstream, circulates throughout the body, and kills cancer cells. Because the drugs circulate throughout the body, they can kill normal cells together with the cancer cells, leading to side effects. Chemotherapy is often used in combination with other treatments, especially surgery. Today the combination of two drugs, Pemetrexed and cisplatin has shown the most promise as a treatment.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy X-rays or other high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells. Most of the normal cells recover from the injury caused by radiation; however, damage to some of the healthy cells causes the side effects of radiation therapy (nausea, vomiting, fatigue, hair loss, and skin irritation).

Radiation can be given from outside the body using a machine (external radiation therapy), or it can be given with the help of materials producing radiation that are implanted inside the body (internal radiation therapy).


To relieve symptoms and provide pain relief, your fluid from the pleural cavity may be drained by inserting a needle into the chest and applying gentle suction. Drugs may be given through a tube in the chest to prevent more fluid from accumulating.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/21/2016

Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Mesothelioma:

Mesothelioma - Experience

Please share your experience with mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma - Symptoms and Signs

What symptoms and signs have you experienced with mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma - Prognosis

Please describe the prognosis of your mesothelioma.

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Mesothelioma »

Malignancies involving mesothelial cells that normally line the body cavities, including the pleura, peritoneum, pericardium, and testis, are known as malignant mesothelioma, which may be localized or diffuse.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

Medical Dictionary