Malignant Mesothelioma: Treatment Choices

March 21, 2017

Malignant Mesothelioma: Treatment Choices

There are various treatment choices for malignant mesothelioma. Which may work best for you? It depends on a number of factors. These include the type, size, location, and stage (extent) of your cancer. Other factors include your age, overall health, and what side effects you’ll find acceptable.

Learning about your treatment options

You may have questions and concerns about your treatment options. You may also want to know how you’ll feel and function after treatment, and if you’ll have to change your normal activities.

Your healthcare provider is the best person to answer your questions. He or she can tell you what your treatment choices are, how successful they’re expected to be, and what the risks and side effects are. Your healthcare provider may recommend a specific treatment. Or he or she may offer more than one, and ask you to decide which one you’d like to use. It can be hard to make this decision. It’s important to take the time you need to make the best choice.

Deciding on the best plan may take some time. Talk with your healthcare provider about how much time you can take to explore your options. You may want to get another opinion before deciding on your treatment plan. In fact, some insurance companies may require a second opinion. You may also want to involve your family and friends in this process.

Understanding the goals of treatment for mesothelioma

For some mesotheliomas, the goal of treatment is to cure the cancer. If a cure isn’t possible, you may receive treatment to shrink the cancer or keep it under control. Treatment can also improve your quality of life by helping to control the symptoms of the disease. The goals of treatment can include one or more of these things:

  • Remove or destroy the mesothelioma in the place where it started

  • Remove or destroy tumors in other parts of your body

  • Stop or slow the growth or spread of mesothelioma cells

  • Prevent or delay the cancer's return

  • Ease symptoms from the cancer, such as pain or trouble breathing

Types of treatment for mesothelioma

There are several types of treatment for mesothelioma. Different combinations of treatment may be used, depending on a number of factors, such as: 

  • The type and location of the cancer 

  • The stage (extent) of the cancer

  • Your age and overall health

  • Your personal concerns and preferences

Each treatment has its own goals.


For some early stage mesotheliomas, surgery can be used to try to remove all of the cancer. But this is often a complex operation. Plus, it can be hard to remove all of the mesothelioma. In some cases, surgery is done to remove as much of the cancer as possible. This is then followed by other treatments. For more advanced cancers, less extensive forms of surgery are used to help relieve symptoms from the cancer. These include trouble breathing.


Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays or particles to kill cancer cells. This treatment might be used after surgery. It’s done to try to kill any remaining cancer cells. It may also be used to help relieve symptoms in people with advanced cancer.


Chemotherapy (chemo) is the use of medicines to kill cancer cells. For early stage mesothelioma, chemo can be used before surgery to try to make the operation easier. Or it may be done during or after surgery to try to kill any remaining cancer cells. Chemo is often the main treatment (sometimes with radiation) for people with advanced mesothelioma or who cannot have surgery for some other reason.

Supportive care

Your healthcare provider may suggest treatments that help ease your symptoms, but don’t treat the cancer. These can sometimes be used along with other treatments. Or your healthcare provider may suggest supportive care if he or she believes that available treatments are more likely to do you more harm than good.

Clinical trials for new treatments

Researchers are always looking for new ways to treat mesothelioma. These new methods are tested in clinical trials. Talk with your healthcare provider to find out if there are any clinical trials you should consider.

Talking with your doctor

At first, thinking about treatment options may seem overwhelming. Talk with your healthcare team and loved ones. Make a list of questions. Consider the benefits and side effects of each option. Discuss your concerns with your healthcare provider before making a decision.


March 21, 2017


Initial Management of Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma. UpToDate.

Reviewed By:  

Alteri, Rick, MD,Levin, Mark, MD