Types of Treatment for Mesothelioma
The two categories of mesothelioma treatment are curative and palliative treatment.
Curative treatments are given to help extend a patient’s life expectancy, and palliative treatments are mainly used to manage mesothelioma symptoms and reduce discomfort.
Primary Mesothelioma Treatment Options
There are certain treatments for mesothelioma that doctors recommend to help patients live longer.
The three main types of mesothelioma treatment are:
Mesothelioma specialists will often prescribe multimodal therapy, or a combination of different types of mesothelioma treatment. These customized treatment plans are designed to help mesothelioma patients live as long as possible.
Not sure which treatment is best for you? Download our Free Questions to Ask Your Doctor Checklist to ensure you get the care you need.
Factors Affecting Mesothelioma Treatment
Doctors will consider several factors as they determine a patient’s mesothelioma prognosis and treatment plan.
Factors that may impact mesothelioma treatment include:
- Cancer stage at diagnosis
- Cell type
- If (and how fast) the cancer is spreading
- Overall health of the patient
- Type of mesothelioma (pleural, peritoneal, pericardial, or testicular)
Additionally, your doctor may rule out certain treatments based on your age and/or your ability to tolerate potential side effects.
Surgery is often one of the best treatments for mesothelioma when it comes to controlling cancer growth and extending a patient’s lifespan.
Doctors have developed several surgeries for different types of mesothelioma. The main goal of mesothelioma surgery is to remove all visible tumor masses and, in some cases, surrounding tissues or infected organs.
Mesothelioma specialists may also choose to perform palliative surgery to help reduce a patient’s symptoms and help them live more comfortably.
Your specific treatment plan will depend on the type of mesothelioma you have and how far it has spread.
Registered Nurse Amy Fair discusses standard mesothelioma treatments and how patients can pick the best option. View Transcript.
Duration: 2 min 01 sec
What do I need to know about mesothelioma treatments?
It’s really important for your doctors, your oncologists, your surgeons to explain to you what stage you’re in – to explain to you what type of mesothelioma you have. You have to understand your disease, you have to understand the type of disease, and you have to understand the stage of the disease. Many people have to make decisions as far as quality and quantity of life.
What are my treatment options for mesothelioma?
The standard treatment options for mesothelioma is a surgical approach. In pleural mesothelioma, they will offer the patient a pleural decortication where they strip the lining of the lung. They may offer to the patient a pneumonectomy and that is removing the whole lung, not just the lining. They may offer radiation to shrink the tumor first. Also, radiation gives them palliative care if that tumor is pressing on vital organs or nerves and causing pain, they may want to go in and do radiation first to shrink that tumor. Then of course there is the chemotherapy approach, and again sometimes multiple modalities are used. Surgical approach, radiation, and chemotherapy. It is a clinical individual fit for that particular person.
How can I decide what treatment is best for me?
When deciding what treatment modality is best for you it’s important to communicate with your surgeon, to communicate with your oncologist. You need to get an understanding on their thoughts if you’re a candidate for chemotherapy. Are you a candidate to have surgery? Although all that is very important, the individual decision for what type of therapy lies within the mesothelioma patient.
Pleural Mesothelioma Surgery
The type of pleural mesothelioma surgery your doctor recommends will depend on your specific case of mesothelioma.
Surgery for pleural mesothelioma involves one of two procedures:
- Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP): Removes all visible tumors, the entire diseased lung, as well as portions of the parietal (outer) pleura, the diaphragm, and the pericardium
- Pleurectomy with decortication (P/D): Removes visible tumors, the diseased parietal pleura, the diaphragm, part of the pericardium, and some lung tissue if necessary
EPP is considered a more aggressive treatment than P/D because it is more invasive and requires removal of the affected lung.
Some studies have shown that patients who undergo EPP have a median survival time of 40 months. The median life expectancy of patients who receive P/D is around 29 months.
Unlike EPP, P/D allows patients to keep both lungs, providing them a better quality of life after surgery.
Additionally, P/D patients develop fewer fatal complications within 30 days after surgery compared to those who undergo EPP. That said, some doctors argue that P/D does not allow for as much of the tumor to be removed compared to EPP.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Surgery
Cytoreduction with hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) is considered the gold standard in peritoneal mesothelioma treatment.
Pioneered by now-retired oncologist (cancer specialist) Dr. Paul Sugarbaker in the 1980s, cytoreduction with HIPEC combines cytoreductive surgery with heated chemotherapy.
Cytoreductive surgery (also called debulking) involves the surgical removal of the entire diseased peritoneum (abdominal lining) and any tumors or diseased tissue surrounding the abdominal cavity.
Directly after the surgical tumor removal, doctors will administer heated chemotherapy drugs into the abdomen for up to 90 minutes. This helps kill off any remaining mesothelioma cells and prevent regrowth.
The average life expectancy for peritoneal mesothelioma patients who receive cytoreduction with HIPEC is 53 months.
During chemotherapy, patients are given cancer-killing medications that shrink and slow the growth of tumors. Chemotherapy may be administered before (neoadjuvant), during, after (adjuvant), or in place of surgery.
Chemotherapy is most commonly used to treat patients with pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma. It’s shown mixed results in patients with pericardial mesothelioma, a rare form of the cancer that affects the lining of the heart.
“Chemotherapy is the most common type of systemic therapy used for mesothelioma. It usually works by keeping the cancer cells from growing, dividing, and making more cells.”
– American Society of Clinical Oncology
Mesothelioma patients are usually given a combination of the drugs cisplatin and pemetrexed.
Top mesothelioma cancer centers will be able to administer the best chemotherapy medication(s) for your specific condition and help you stay as comfortable as possible.
Get your free planner today to start organizing medications, tracking chemotherapy appointments, and more.
Mesothelioma Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy is most commonly used for patients with pleural mesothelioma. Mesothelioma radiation therapy uses electrons or proton beams to destroy cancer cells by damaging their DNA.
The 2-year survival rate for pleural mesothelioma patients who received radiation therapy was 58%, according to a 2019 study by the European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology.
The two main types of mesothelioma radiation include:
- External beam radiation therapy (EBRT): This is the most common type of mesothelioma radiation and is administered through the skin from outside the body.
- Brachytherapy: This internal radiation therapy works by inserting a radioactive device inside a patient’s tumor, allowing higher doses of radiation to target more specific places than EBRT.
Radiation is typically performed in addition to other forms of mesothelioma treatment either before, during, or after surgery or chemotherapy.
Clinical Trials and Emerging Treatments for Mesothelioma
Researchers are continuing to study new and possibly more effective options for the treatment of mesothelioma. Many of these emerging treatments are only available through clinical trials until they are approved for wider use.
Mesothelioma patients who are not responding to traditional treatment methods can ask their care team if they’re eligible to join a clinical trial.
In certain cases, some participants do not actually receive the new treatment being tested. Instead, they might be given another standard therapy. However, everyone who participates in a clinical trial receives the same medical care and attention.
Learn about newer mesothelioma treatments being tested in the sections below.
Cryotherapy (also called cryosurgery) uses liquid nitrogen to freeze and destroy cancer cells.
This minimally invasive surgery is a relatively new mesothelioma treatment, but it has been used to treat other conditions for years.
Patients may undergo cryotherapy prior to surgery to shrink tumors and make them easier to remove. Cryotherapy can also be used after surgery to treat mesothelioma recurrences or control symptoms.
Immunotherapy (also called biologic therapy) boosts a patient’s immune system so the body can target and destroy cancer cells more effectively. There are several medications that boost the immune system and kill cancer cells.
For many years, immunotherapy for mesothelioma had only been available through clinical trials. This changed in October 2020 when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of Opdivo® (nivolumab) and Yervoy® (ipilimumab) to treat certain pleural mesothelioma patients.
This announcement marked the first drug regimen approved for mesothelioma in 16 years.
Gene therapy modifies the DNA of existing cells in order to fight off cancer. This type of therapy is conducted by using modified viruses to inject new genes into cancer cells.
Developments in gene therapy have the potential to effectively treat patients with both non-small cell lung cancer and pleural mesothelioma. Most recently, a team of doctors in Japan created inhalable versions of two tumor-suppressing drugs.
Their study, published in the May 2022 issue of Scientific Reports, found that inhaling gene therapy orally — similar to using an asthma inhaler — can deliver targeted therapy directly to the lung in a less invasive way than traditional treatment methods.
“We expect inhalable gene drugs to present a novel gene therapy agent for lung cancer that patients can self-administer.”
– Dr. Akinobu Gotoh, Hyogo College of Medicine, senior study author
Photodynamic therapy uses high-intensity light to destroy cancer cells. It’s sometimes combined with surgery or other mesothelioma treatments.
This type of therapy is usually more effective in localized cases of mesothelioma rather than widespread cancer. Studies have shown that photodynamic therapy can activate the body’s immune response and provide another way to destroy cancerous and precancerous cells.
Since photodynamic therapy is typically performed in an outpatient setting, patients can usually go home after treatment without needing to be hospitalized.
Reach out to Mesothelioma Hope at [phone number] to learn more about mesothelioma treatment options.
We can help you determine if you’re eligible for emerging treatments. Speak with a Patient Advocate today to get started.
Palliative Mesothelioma Treatment
Palliative mesothelioma treatment can benefit patients who undergo aggressive first-line treatments as well as those who are unable to receive curative treatment.
Depending on whether a patient is eligible for surgery, there are both invasive and noninvasive mesothelioma treatment options that can help improve quality of life.
Common Palliative Surgeries for Mesothelioma
The goal of palliative surgery is to ease symptoms and complications of mesothelioma like chest or abdominal pain, weakness, and difficulty breathing.
Surgical procedures used in palliative mesothelioma treatment include:
- Paracentesis: Drains fluid in the lining of the abdominal wall and the lining surrounding the internal organs to reduce peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms.
- Partial pleurectomy: Removal of part of the pleura (lung lining) so fluid can’t fill it. Fluid buildup in the pleura is a common cause of discomfort in pleural mesothelioma patients.
- PleurX catheter: A catheter can also be inserted into the pleural space if a patient suffers from pleural effusions (fluid buildup in the chest wall) that keep coming back. Patients can then drain the fluid at home instead of going into the hospital.
- Thoracentesis: Doctors use a needle to drain pleural effusions so a patient can breathe more easily.
- Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) talc pleurodesis: The space between the two layers of the pleura is sealed with medical-grade talc so that it can no longer fill with fluid.
Many patients who receive palliative mesothelioma treatment are still able to undergo more aggressive treatments like curative surgery and chemotherapy to potentially increase their life expectancy.
Other Palliative Mesothelioma Treatments
Mesothelioma patients who don’t qualify for surgery may be able to seek other forms of symptom-relieving treatment.
Some non-surgical palliative mesothelioma treatments include:
- Alternative treatment: Acupuncture, yoga, meditation, and exercise have helped some mesothelioma patients reduce stress and improve their overall well-being. Alternative mesothelioma treatment is not a replacement for professional medical care but can be used alongside traditional therapies.
- Chemotherapy/radiation: In addition to serving as potentially curative treatments, chemotherapy and radiation therapy can also be used to decrease pain by shrinking tumors that are pressing on bones, nerves, or major blood vessels.
- Pain medication: Patients can use over-the-counter drugs to treat mild to moderate cancer pain. Doctors may recommend prescription medication like steroids or opioids for more severe pain.
Our team of Patient Advocates is standing by to get you the help you or a loved one needs to feel better. Call (866) 608-8933 today to explore your mesothelioma treatment options.
Mesothelioma Doctors and Cancer Centers
Top mesothelioma doctors specialize in diagnosing and treating mesothelioma. These doctors excel in performing mesothelioma treatments that may help patients live for several months — and even years.
Distinguished physicians are working hard to treat mesothelioma every day at cancer centers around the country.
Some top doctors who treat mesothelioma include:
Dr. Robert Cameron
Renowned pleural mesothelioma specialist based out of the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center who helped to develop pleurectomy with decortication (P/D) surgery.
Dr. Jacques Fontaine
Top peritoneal mesothelioma specialist and Section Head of the Mesothelioma Research and Treatment Center at Moffitt Cancer Center.
Dr. Hedy Lee Kindler
Peritoneal mesothelioma specialist and Director of the Mesothelioma Program at the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Dr. Avi Lebenthal
Accomplished pleural mesothelioma surgeon based out of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and the VA Boston Healthcare System.
Mesothelioma Hope has no affiliation with and is not endorsed or sponsored by any of the doctors listed above. The contact information above is listed for informational purposes only. You have the right to contact these mesothelioma specialists directly.
Some top cancer centers that treat mesothelioma include:
Dr. Taylor Ripley
- Has a robust clinical trials program testing new and promising therapies
- Home to the Mesothelioma Treatment Center (MTC) founded by the late Dr. David Sugarbaker
Dr. Raphael Bueno
- Birthplace of the extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP)
- Home of the International Mesothelioma Program, one of the most comprehensive mesothelioma research programs in the world
Dr. Jacques Fontaine
- Home to the Mesothelioma Research and Treatment Center
- Tailors treatment approaches to each patient using the expertise of a multidisciplinary team
- Offers specialized treatment for peritoneal mesothelioma patients
- Home of the Peritoneal Surface Malignancies Program dedicated to treating rare abdominal cancers
Use our Free Mesothelioma Doctor Match to find specialists at cancer centers near you.
Mesothelioma Treatment Costs
Many patients have questions about how much their mesothelioma treatment will cost. Battling mesothelioma is not only emotionally devastating, but it can also be extremely expensive without financial support.
Between scans, chemotherapy, and surgical procedures, the total estimated cost to treat mesothelioma can easily exceed $400,000.
Fortunately, there are various resources that can help mesothelioma patients and their families pay for treatment. Get your Free Mesothelioma Guide to learn more about what types of financial assistance are available.
*Based on the average costs for 1 year of mesothelioma treatment. Costs can vary depending on insurance coverage, location, hospitalization, type of treatment and/or diagnostic testing, and other factors.
You may be able to seek legal help to access financial compensation for mesothelioma treatment.
Find Mesothelioma Treatment Near You
Curative and palliative mesothelioma treatment may help to relieve symptoms, kill cancer cells, and improve your life expectancy.
A range of mesothelioma treatment options are available to fight this deadly asbestos-related disease. Top mesothelioma doctors can determine which treatments work best for your diagnosis.
Thankfully, many patients can access the latest treatments at cancer centers in their area. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, use our Free Doctor Match to find a local specialist today.
Mesothelioma Treatment FAQs
What is the best treatment for mesothelioma?
The best way to treat mesothelioma from asbestos exposure will depend primarily on the type and stage of your cancer.
Your mesothelioma doctor and health care team will work with you to determine the best course of treatment based on the risks, side effects, and potential benefits of certain types of treatment.
Working with a mesothelioma specialist may help give you peace of mind knowing you are receiving the most effective treatment possible. Get in touch with us at (866) 608-8933 if you need help finding a specialist in your area.
Can you be cured of mesothelioma?
There’s not an official cure at this time but long-term survival may be possible. Some patients have lived for 15 years or longer thanks to mesothelioma treatments, defying the odds and becoming long-term survivors.
Researchers are also studying new treatments in the hope of finding a cure.
In the meantime, patients can seek out different treatment options that may help them live longer. You can find more information on potentially life-extending treatments in our Free Mesothelioma Guide.
How long do you live after being diagnosed with mesothelioma?
Most mesothelioma patients live 12-21 months after they are diagnosed with the disease. How long you live after diagnosis can depend on the mesothelioma type, cell type, your age, and your overall health.
Mesothelioma treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and more may help you live longer.
Are there any new treatments for mesothelioma?
Yes. The latest developments in mesothelioma treatment often come from clinical trials conducted at top cancer centers. During mesothelioma clinical trials, doctors test new therapies with the hopes of curing the cancer.
Examples of emerging treatments for mesothelioma include virotherapy, which uses genetically or naturally produced viruses to directly infect tumor cells, and epigenetic therapy, which alters the expression of genes in histones to eliminate cancer cells.