Mesothelioma Treatment

There are several treatment options available for malignant mesothelioma. These options include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. All mesothelioma treatment options aim to extend your lifespan, reduce your symptoms, and make you more comfortable. Mesothelioma treatment is prescribed and performed by specialized doctors at cancer centers around the country.

Treatment Options for Mesothelioma

The two categories for malignant mesothelioma treatment include curative and palliative treatment.

Curative treatments are given to help extend a patient’s lifespan, whereas palliative treatments manage symptoms and reduce discomfort. Doctors generally use the same mesothelioma treatments to achieve curative or palliative goals.

The three main types of mesothelioma treatment include:

Mesothelioma specialists will often prescribe multimodal therapy, which is a combination of multiple types of mesothelioma treatment. Customized treatment plans are designed to help you live as long as possible.

Mesothelioma Treatment Video Thumbnail

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.

Factors Affecting Mesothelioma Treatment

Doctors will take several factors into consideration before they recommend how to treat mesothelioma cancer. These factors can influence your mesothelioma prognosis and treatment plan.

Factors that may impact mesothelioma treatment include:

  • Cancer stage at diagnosis
  • How fast the cancer is spreading
  • Mesothelioma cell type
  • Mesothelioma type
  • Overall health
  • The patient’s personal wishes

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Mesothelioma Treatment Costs

Many patients have questions about how much their mesothelioma treatment will cost. Battling mesothelioma can not only be emotionally devastating, but it can also be financially draining.

Thankfully, there are financial support options and legal resources available to mesothelioma patients to help them pay for treatment.

The prices of medical care are for illustrative purposes only and can vary depending on insurance coverage, geographic location, hospitalization, type of treatment and/or diagnostic testing, and more.

$402,000 Total estimated cost
  • $10,000 Chemotherapy Monthly Average Cost
  • $600 Chest X-ray
  • $3,000 Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan of Chest
  • $500 Consultation With Oncologist
  • $75 Doctor Visit
  • $2,250 Fluid Drains
  • $100 Follow-Up Labs
  • $500 Multiple X-rays
  • $9,500 monthly average Monthly Prescription Charges for Aloxi, Neulasta, and pain medication
  • $5,000 Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan
  • $2,000 Possible Inpatient Hospitalization
  • $400 Specialist Doctor Visit
  • $2,250 Thoracentesis
  • $4,500 Tube Thoracostomy
  • $73,000 Video-Assisted Thoracoscopy (VAT) With Biopsy
  • $100 Vitamin B12 Injection

Get information on financial assistance for treatment. Get our Free Mesothelioma Guide today.

Mesothelioma Treatment Timeline

Mesothelioma treatment can vary for each patient, but most treatment plans follow the same steps from diagnostic testing to final treatment.

Here is an example of a mesothelioma treatment timeline:

  1. Examine Symptoms:
    Your doctor will give you a physical exam and conduct imaging tests such as X-rays or CT scans once you start experiencing mesothelioma symptoms.
  2. Get a Diagnosis:
    Your doctor will perform a biopsy and remove a tissue or fluid sample to examine it for cancer cells. A biopsy is necessary to confirm a mesothelioma diagnosis.
  3. Get a Second Opinion:
    It is highly encouraged to get a second opinion from a mesothelioma specialist because most general physicians have little experience with the rare cancer.
  4. Follow a Treatment Plan:
    Once you select a specialist, your care team will build a treatment plan tailored to your specific diagnosis and personal wishes.
  5. Receive Second-Line Treatment:
    Talk to your doctor about second-line treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, and experimental therapies if your cancer comes back.

Mesothelioma Surgery

Surgery is often one of the best treatment options to control cancer growth and extend a patient’s lifespan. Mesothelioma specialists and/or oncologists will remove all visible tumor masses and sometimes the surrounding tissues or infected organs during surgery.

Doctors have developed several surgical procedures for different types of mesothelioma. Your mesothelioma cancer treatment plan will depend on the type of mesothelioma you have and how far it has spread.

Pleural Mesothelioma Surgery

Malignant pleural mesothelioma treatment consists of either an extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) or a pleurectomy with decortication (P/D).

The type of pleural mesothelioma surgery recommended depends on your specific case of mesothelioma.

  • Extrapleural Pneumonectomy (EPP): Curative surgery is usually combined with chemotherapy or radiation to help improve patient life expectancy. This surgery 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 since it removes the greatest amount of mesothelioma tumors in many cases.

Some studies have shown that patients who undergo EPP have a median survival time of up to 27 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, giving 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 it does not allow for maximum tumor resection (removal).

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Surgery

There is one curative surgery for peritoneal mesothelioma called cytoreduction with HIPEC. This mesothelioma treatment method was developed by Dr. Paul Sugarbaker and consists of cytoreductive surgery and heated chemotherapy.

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), patients with peritoneal mesothelioma who receive cytoreduction with HIPEC may survive up to 7 years or more after diagnosis.

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 to kill off any remaining mesothelioma cells and prevent regrowth.

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Mesothelioma Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy for mesothelioma is most commonly used for patients with pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma. Chemotherapy has shown mixed results in patients with pericardial mesothelioma.

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. Mesothelioma patients are usually given a combination of the drugs cisplatin and pemetrexed.

Cancer centers with experience treating mesothelioma patients will be able to administer the best chemotherapy medication(s) for your specific condition and help you stay comfortable during the chemotherapy process.

“Chemotherapy is a scary term. Experienced centers are going to be very good at all the supportive care measures — the things that help you feel better.”

Dr. Hedy Lee Kindler,
Mesothelioma Specialist at University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center


Mesothelioma Hope has no affiliation with and is not endorsed or sponsored by Dr. Kindler. Any contact information listed is for informational purposes only. You have the right to contact Dr. Kindler directly.

Mesothelioma Radiation Therapy

Radiation for mesothelioma 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.

Radiation is usually used in addition to other forms of mesothelioma treatment either before, during, or after surgery or chemotherapy.

Radiation Treatment Icon
Radiation increases the 2-year survival rate by 58% for pleural mesothelioma patients

Other Mesothelioma Treatment Options

Researchers continue to study new and effective ways to treat this rare cancer.

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.

Immunotherapy for mesothelioma had only been available through clinical trials for many years. This changed in 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.

The combination of these drugs marked the first additional treatment for mesothelioma in 16 years.

According to the FDA, the median overall survival for patients treated with nivolumab plus ipilimumab was 18.1 months, compared to 14.1 months for chemotherapy patients.

Other mesothelioma treatment methods include:

  • Cryotherapy: Cryotherapy (also called cryosurgery) uses liquid nitrogen to freeze and destroy cancer cells. Pleural mesothelioma specialist Dr. Robert B. Cameron pioneered the use of cryotherapy treatment for mesothelioma.
  • Gene Therapy: Gene therapy changes the DNA of either cancer or healthy cells in order to fight off cancer. This type of therapy is conducted by using modified viruses to inject new genes into cancer cells.
  • Tumor Treating Fields (TTF) System: This uses carefully-tuned electric fields to interrupt cancer cell division and kill cancer cells. The FDA approved TTFs as a pleural mesothelioma treatment in 2019. However, it must be used alongside chemotherapy.

“We’re making tremendous advances in the diagnosis of mesothelioma, the staging of this disease, treatment, and research, and this is providing hope to patients and families.”

Daniel H. Sterman,
director of the Multidisciplinary Pulmonary Oncology Program at the New York University Langone Medical Center

To learn more about mesothelioma treatment options near you, connect with one of our caring Patient Advocates.

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Palliative Treatment for Mesothelioma

Palliative mesothelioma treatment is beneficial to reduce pain and discomfort for patients who undergo aggressive first-line treatments and for those unable to receive curative treatment.

Palliative Care Options for Pleural Mesothelioma

  • Partial Pleurectomy: Surgical removal of part of the pleura to relieve symptoms and prevent fluid from filling the pleura.
  • PleurX Catheter: A catheter can also be inserted into the pleural space if a patient suffers from pleural effusions that keep coming back. Patients can then drain the fluid at home instead of going into the hospital.
  • Thoracentesis: Surgical removal of pleural effusions (fluid buildup in the chest wall) to help a patient breathe more easily.
  • Video-Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery (VATS) Talc Pleurodesis: Effective technique that manages repeated pleural effusions, in which the space between the two layers of the pleura is sealed so that it can no longer fill with fluid.

Palliative Care Options for Peritoneal Mesothelioma

  • Paracentesis: Drains fluid in the lining of the abdominal wall and the lining surrounding the internal organs to reduce peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms. Doctors may also insert a catheter if the abdominal fluids keep coming back.

Palliative Care Options for Both Pleural and Peritoneal Mesothelioma

  • Alternative Treatments: Includes massage, yoga, and meditation to provide symptom relief and overall well-being. These options are not a replacement for medical treatment.
  • Chemotherapy/Radiation: Used as both curative and palliative treatment options. This treatment aims to relieve symptoms during palliative care.
  • Pain Medication: Doctors may prescribe pain medication to help relieve symptoms.
  • PleurX™ Catheter: FDA-approved catheter that allows cancer patients to manage fluid buildup in the chest or abdomen to reduce pain and discomfort at home without going to the hospital.

Mesothelioma Doctors and Cancer Centers

Top mesothelioma doctors specialize in diagnosing and treating mesothelioma. These doctors excel in performing mesothelioma treatment that may result in several more months — and even years — of life for patients.

There are many distinguished specialists that treat mesothelioma in cancer centers around the country.

Some top doctors who treat mesothelioma include:

  • Dr. Avi Lebenthal

    Dr. Avi Lebenthal

    Accomplished pleural mesothelioma surgeon based out of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and the VA Boston Healthcare System.

  • Dr. Jacques Fontaine

    Dr. Jacques Fontaine

    Top peritoneal mesothelioma specialist and Director of the Mesothelioma Research and Treatment Center at Moffitt Cancer Center.

  • Dr. Hedy Lee Kindler

    Dr. Hedy Lee Kindler

    Peritoneal mesothelioma specialist and Director of the Mesothelioma Program at the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center.

  • Dr. Robert Cameron

    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.


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:

Find Mesothelioma Treatment Near You

Getting proper mesothelioma treatment can help to relieve symptoms, kill cancer cells, and improve your life expectancy.

There are plenty of mesothelioma treatment options available to help you fight this asbestos-related disease. Top mesothelioma doctors can determine which treatments work best for your diagnosis.

Thankfully, many patients can access these treatments at cancer centers in their area. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, use our free Mesothelioma Doctor Match program to find a specialist near you 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 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.

Working with a mesothelioma specialist may help give you peace of mind knowing you are receiving the most effective treatment possible.

Is mesothelioma always fatal?

No. Although a patient’s mesothelioma prognosis is often poor, many people go on to survive their disease with the help of curative treatment.

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?

The latest developments in mesothelioma treatment often come from clinical trials 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 photodynamic therapy, which uses high-intensity light to destroy cancer cells, and epigenetic therapy, which alters the expression of genes in histones to eliminate cancer cells.

Reviewed by:Dr. Mark Levin

Certified Oncologist and Hematologist

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Mark Levin, MD has nearly 30 years of experience in academic and community hematology and oncology. In addition to serving as Chief or Director at four different teaching institutions throughout his life, he is also still a practicing clinician, has taught and designed formal education programs, and has authored numerous publications in various fields related to hematology and oncology.

Dr. Mark Levin is an independently paid medical reviewer.

Mesothelioma Hope was founded by a team of passionate health advocates to educate people about this aggressive form of cancer. Mesothelioma affects thousands of people each year. Our team works tirelessly to give hope to those impacted by mesothelioma. Learn more about operating principles and our Editorial Guidelines.

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