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Mesothelioma treatments

Mesothelioma is often hard to treat because it usually spreads along surfaces instead of growing as a single tumor mass like many other cancers. We target mesothelioma with a variety of therapies, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy and targeted therapy:


For patients with stage IV pleural mesothelioma, and for mesothelioma patients whose cancer cannot be surgically removed, chemotherapy is often used to fight the disease. For earlier-stage pleural mesothelioma, patients’ treatment regimen may consist of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC), a highly concentrated, heated chemotherapy delivered directly to the abdomen during surgery, also may be used to treat certain types of mesothelioma.


Immunotherapy drugs, either alone or in combination with other immunotherapy drugs or therapies, may be used to treat mesothelioma in certain patients who have already received chemotherapy.

Radiation therapy

For patients with mesothelioma, radiation therapy may be used to destroy undetectable cancer cells left behind after surgery. In some cases, radiation therapy may also be used to alleviate chest pain and other symptoms of mesothelioma, such as shortness of breath and trouble swallowing.


Surgery, often a first-line treatment with mesothelioma, is used to remove tumors and provide relief from symptoms. A variety of surgical procedures may be used to treat mesothelioma, with surgeons’ recommendations generally depending on the type of mesothelioma involved. For instance, if a patient has pleural mesothelioma, the surgeon may choose one of the following operations:

Extrapleural pneumonectomy: In this procedure, the surgeon removes the lung on the side of the body affected by the cancer, as well as the pleura lining the chest wall on that side, the diaphragm on that side, the pericardium, which is the sac around the heart, and the surrounding lymph nodes.

Pleurectomy/decortication: The surgeon removes all the pleura lining the chest wall on the side of the body affected by the cancer, along with the pleura lining the affected lung, the mediastinum, which is a membrane that divides two body cavities or two parts of an organ, and the diaphragm.

Debulking: The surgeon removes as much of the cancer as possible.

If a patient has peritoneal mesothelioma, the surgeon may perform a debulking procedure or an omentectomy, which removes the omentum, a layer of fatty tissue that covers the organs in the abdomen.

Targeted therapy

Several targeted therapy drugs are approved to treat certain types of mesothelioma, some of which work by depriving a tumor of oxygen.

Next topic: What are the facts about mesothelioma?

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