What treatment options are available?

Mesothelioma is an aggressive tumour without a recognized or accepted curative treatment. As a result, it is one of the few cancers where no consensus standard of care exists. This means that a mesothelioma patient is often presented with a variety of treatment options depending on the type of mesothelioma diagnosed, the location and size of the tumour(s), the cancer stage, and the age and overall physical condition of the patient.

The goal of mesothelioma treatment is either to try and cure the cancer (curative intent) or to try and control the cancer and associated symptoms (palliative intent). Curative intent treatment is often more aggressive, since the goal is to eradicate all of the tumour cells. Palliative therapy is best thought of as long-term pain and symptom control, with a focus on maintaining quality of life. Palliative therapy is an important option for a subset of patients who suffer from increasing pain as their disease course progresses. You and your family should choose a treatment plan based on your desires and expectations.

Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or some combination thereof. Your doctor may also suggest immunotherapy, a type of treatment that helps the immune system fight cancer. Another potential treatment option for consideration is the participation in a clinical trial. There are specific criteria for admission into a clinical trial, as not every clinical trial is necessarily appropriate for all patients with mesothelioma. Some are designed for newly diagnosed, limited disease, whereas others might be for patients with more advanced disease or for those who have already been treated. There are a number of ongoing clinical trials targeting mesothelioma in North America.

You should discuss all available treatment options with your expert care provider at length with either your surgeon or a 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 what you desire. 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 and will depend on the type of mesothelioma diagnosed, the location and size of the tumour(s), the staging of the cancer, and the patient’s age and overall physical condition.

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. This is your treatment plan – take your time, talk to family and friends, and consider your options carefully. 

For more information and a brief description of treatment options, please see the links in the navigation menu on the left-hand side of this page.