What treatment options are available?

Treatment options for malignant mesothelioma patients should be discussed at length with either your surgeon or medical oncologist. It is the responsibility of your primary care physician, or your cancer specialist, to refer you to someone with expertise in treating mesothelioma, if this is desired. Although there are a number of websites that can provide additional and supporting information (including this one), each treatment plan will be unique to the patient depending on the type of mesothelioma diagnosed, the location and size of the tumour(s), the staging of the cancer, and the age and overall physical condition of the patient.

A mesothelioma diagnosis can be overwhelming and discussion of possible treatment options intimidating. When discussing treatment options, consider taking a notebook to the first few appointments with your primary care physician or oncologist, or alternatively, bring an able family member, loved one or friend to help keep notes. If possible, do some research in advance and prepare a list of questions for the doctor.  Do not hesitate to ask the doctor to slow down, to repeat themselves, or to further clarify anything that you do not understand – as this is your treatment plan, take your time, talk to family and friends, and consider your options carefully. 

Treatment options for mesothelioma typically include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or some combination thereof. Mesothelioma is one of the few cancers in which no consensus standard of care exists. This means that there will be a variety of treatment options presented to a patient, even amongst mesothelioma experts. The patient and the family should choose a treatment plan based on their desires and expectations.

Mesothelioma therapy can either be “curative” or “palliative”. Treatment for a curative intent is bound to be more aggressive, since the goal is to remove all of the tumour, both at its local source and at distant sites. Palliative therapy is best thought of as long term pain relief. It is a very important option for a subset of patients who suffer from increasing pain as their disease course progresses. See links to the left for a brief description of treatment options.