Treating and Managing Mesothelioma

How Mesothelioma Is Treated

How your mesothelioma is treated will depend on certain aspects of your cancer, such as the stage and location of the cancer, and your overall health.

If your cancer is caught early enough, you may be able to have surgery to remove all or part of the mesothelioma. If it is not possible to completely remove the cancer, surgery can help reduce symptoms such as fluid buildup that is causing difficulty breathing.

Chemotherapy is also a treatment that can help reduce symptoms of mesothelioma. Chemotherapy uses chemicals that are put into the body through an IV and help to shrink and slow the growth of mesothelioma.

Other options to treat mesothelioma include targeted therapy, which uses drugs that fight against cancer cells in the body, and immunotherapy, which uses your own immune system to attack the cancerous cells. Although these are not commonly used methods for treating mesothelioma, your healthcare provider may decide to use them if other treatments are not working. Radiation therapy may be used to kill cancer cells in certain areas of the body or as palliative therapy to relieve your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer, but new therapies are developing all the time. Talk to your provider about your mesothelioma and personal treatment goals to see what available supportive treatment options or clinical trials are right for you.

Stages of Malignant Mesothelioma of the Lung

Four stages are used for determining where you are at in the disease process. Stage I (the least advanced stage) through Stage IV (the cancer has spread beyond the lungs to other areas of the body). Your healthcare provider will complete certain tests to determine what stage your cancer is at in order to know how to best treat your disease.

Managing Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is usually diagnosed when the disease is advanced and you begin to experience symptoms. Regardless of the type of treatment you receive, there are things you can do to alleviate your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Shortness of breath is a common problem for patients with mesothelioma. Depending on individual factors, shortness of breath may be addressed by removing fluid from the pleural space with a needle, placement of a drain or sometimes surgery. If you are experiencing fluid buildup, you may need more than one treatment to manage it.

If you are experiencing pain from mesothelioma, you have options to help alleviate it. Some options for pain management include working with a physical therapist who can show you ways to move to help prevent pain and make life more comfortable. Your healthcare provider may also discuss taking medications orally, with a patch or intravenously. Pain can affect your life in many ways. It can cause poor sleep, poor appetite, and fatigue, so it is important to talk to your healthcare provider about any discomfort you experience and possible treatment options.

A key component in managing mesothelioma is palliative care to control your symptoms. Palliative care from physicians specialized in the management of patients with mesothelioma could help minimize the physical and emotional effects of your symptoms. Your palliative care specialist will be focused on your individual needs and not your prognosis. This type of care can occur alongside curative treatment options that you are pursuing. The palliative care specialist should become part of the team as soon as possible after you have received a diagnosis.

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Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel.

Page last updated: August 7, 2023

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