Treatment for mesothelioma is given by cancer specialists (oncologists). Some specialize in surgery, some in radiation therapy and others in chemotherapy (drugs). These doctors work with the person with cancer to decide on a treatment plan.
Treatment plans are designed to meet the unique needs of each person with cancer. Treatment decisions for mesothelioma are based on:
- location of the mesothelioma
- stage of the cancer
- whether the cancer can be completely removed by surgery (resectable)
- symptoms the cancer is causing
- person’s overall health and performance statusperformance statusThe measure of how well a person is able to perform ordinary tasks and carry out daily activities.
- person’s age
Treatment options for mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is difficult to treat because many people are not diagnosed until their disease is advanced and has already spread. Often a combination of treatments is used for mesothelioma.
- Surgery to completely remove the cancer is an option for a small number of people with mesothelioma. In other cases, surgery may be done to relieve symptoms caused by the cancer.
- A pleurectomy and decortication removes the pleura. It may be an option for people with pleural mesothelioma.
- Extrapleural pneumonectomy is a major operation that removes the pleura, an entire lung, a portion of the diaphragm and the lining of the sac around the heart (pericardium). It may be an option for some people with pleural mesothelioma.
- A peritonectomy removes the lining around the abdominal organs (peritoneum). It may be an option for some people with peritoneal mesothelioma.
- Surgical debulking (or cytoreductive surgery) is done to remove as much of the tumour as possible. It includes pleurectomy and decortication, extrapleural pneumonectomy and peritonectomy. Surgical debulking may be an option for people with mesothelioma.
- Procedures are often done to drain fluid that has collected in the chest or abdomen because of mesothelioma.
- Chemotherapy may be given after surgery to reduce the chance of mesothelioma recurring.
- Chemotherapy may be an option for people whose mesothelioma cannot be removed with surgery (unresectable). It is used to relieve symptoms caused by advanced cancer.
- radiation therapy
- External beam radiation therapy may be given after surgery in some cases to reduce the chance of mesothelioma recurring.
- External beam radiation therapy may be an option for people whose mesothelioma cannot be removed with surgery (unresectable). It is used to relieve symptoms caused by advanced cancer.
- follow-up after treatment is finished
- It is important to have regular follow-up visits after treatment for mesothelioma.
- Follow-up for mesothelioma varies depending on the treatments used and the person’s particular needs.
Clinical trials investigate new and better ways to prevent, detect and treat cancer. There are some clinical trials in Canada that are open to people with mesothelioma. For more information, go to clinical trials.
See a list of questions to ask your doctor about treatment.