There are many mesothelioma treatment options that can significantly prolong life expectancy and improve quality of life. Your treatment options will depend on a number of factors, including the type of mesothelioma you’ve been diagnosed with (usually pleural, peritoneal, or pericardial), the cell type present in the tumors (epithelioid, sarcomatoid, or biphasic), and the stage (1–4). Your demographics (gender, age) and your overall health will also impact your options and prognosis.
Patients diagnosed at stages 1 or 2 are sometimes candidates for curative treatment options that aim to remove as much of the cancer as possible. Because curative treatments can be aggressive — often involving a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation — they are usually only recommended for patients who are otherwise in good health. For later-stage patients and those who are not in good health, doctors generally focus on palliative care to relieve pain and discomfort and mitigate symptoms (such as breathing difficulties).
Your Cancer Care Team
Because of its rarity, you should work with a doctor who specializes in treating mesothelioma. Together, you will be able to craft a custom treatment plan. Find mesothelioma specialists and treatment centers in your area.
You’ll also interact with many other health care professionals, from nurses to surgeons to mental health workers. Meet the rest of your cancer care team.
Phases of Mesothelioma Treatment
Doctors tailor treatment plans to the individual patient, but most mesothelioma patients pursue multimodal therapy, which involves a combination of treatment types. This often involves a three-step process (also known as trimodal therapy) of neoadjuvant therapy, primary therapy, and adjuvant therapy.
Neoadjuvant therapy occurs before the primary treatment in order to improve results. Neoadjuvant therapy for mesothelioma often includes radiation and/or chemotherapy.
Primary therapy is the main treatment for an illness. The primary therapy for mesothelioma is usually surgery. The primary therapy for peritoneal mesothelioma often also includes heated chemotherapy administered during surgery.
Adjuvant therapy occurs after the primary treatment in order to improve results, prevent recurrence, and relieve pain or other symptoms. Adjuvant therapy for mesothelioma often includes radiation and/or chemotherapy.
Mesothelioma Treatment Options
There are multiple treatment options for mesothelioma, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapy, as well as clinical trials to test emerging treatments. Doctors also employ palliative care to relieve symptoms and improve the patient’s quality of life.
Surgery is primarily a curative treatment option, used to remove as much of the mesothelioma tumor as possible, though less-invasive surgical procedures may also be used as palliative treatments. Learn more about mesothelioma surgery.
Chemotherapy is often administered after surgery as a curative treatment to eradicate any remaining mesothelioma cancer cells. Your mesothelioma doctor may also use chemotherapy as a palliative to slow the spread of the cancer and extend your life expectancy. Learn more about chemotherapy for mesothelioma.
Radiation oncologists use radiation to shrink cancer cells and prevent them from spreading throughout the body. It can be used alone or as part of a multimodal treatment program in combination with chemotherapy or surgery. Learn more about radiation therapy for mesothelioma.
Immunotherapy is becoming increasingly common in the treatment of mesothelioma. Also called biotherapy, immunotherapy enhances the body’s own immune system to help it fight the spread or recurrence of mesothelioma. Learn more about immunotherapy for mesothelioma.
Many mesothelioma patients are candidates for clinical trials. These may involve access to emerging or new versions of current treatments, such as chemotherapy drugs or types of immunotherapy. Learn more about clinical trials for mesothelioma.
Palliative care relieves pain and discomfort caused by the disease and its accompanying symptoms. It can also be combined with curative treatment to provide relief from both the symptoms of mesothelioma and the side effects of therapy. Learn more about palliative care for mesothelioma.
Improving Your Prognosis
The healthier you are, the better you will respond to your treatment plan. Learn how simple lifestyle changes can improve your mesothelioma prognosis.