How is mesothelioma treated?

If you live in England, your hospital should aim to start treatment within one month of diagnosis. If you live in the rest of the UK, you should start treatment within one month of the decision to treat. This should be within two months of your original urgent referral.

In some cases, it can take longer to diagnose or treat your condition. Waiting for tests and results can be frustrating and upsetting. Remember that it’s important to get the right treatment as well as getting treatment quickly.

What should I expect?

Although there have been advances in the treatment of mesothelioma, it’s still usually regarded as a terminal condition. Sadly, only around 5% to 10% of people diagnosed with mesothelioma will survive for five years or more. The condition is often diagnosed at an advanced stage, and people with mesothelioma are often elderly and have other health problems.

Treatments are usually aimed at easing your symptoms and improving your quality of life, as well as trying to prolong your life. Your specialist doctor or nurse can talk to you about your outlook in more detail, but it’s not always possible to be totally accurate.

Choosing the best treatment

Once you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, the members of your care team will study your case to consider what treatment it would be best to recommend. The choices will depend on your symptoms and your age and general health.

Unlike some types of cancer, there’s not a clear medical agreement about treatment for mesothelioma. You’ll be offered the treatment that seems best for you. With any treatment, you have to balance the risks and side effects with the possible benefits. You might want to talk to your family or a doctor you know well before you make a decision. Your doctor and nurse will be able to discuss the options in detail with you and will respect your views at every step.

The four main types of treatment for mesothelioma are:

You may also be offered treatment for pleural effusion.

Clinical trials

There’s still a lack of evidence about the best treatments for mesothelioma. You might be invited to take part in a medical study, also called a clinical trial, to investigate new treatments.

As well as trials looking into the role of surgery in mesothelioma, there are a large number of clinical trials looking into new drug treatments, including assessing the role of immunotherapy that has been very successful in other cancers.

It’s not an option for everyone but if you want to know more, ask your doctor or nurse. If you decide not to join a clinical trial, you’ll still receive the best possible care. You can also leave a clinical trial at any time if you change your mind.

You might also be asked to donate a sample of your tumour to help future research into mesothelioma. This is a choice – you don’t have to say yes – and you might wish to discuss this with your family and your health care team before you decide.

Next: Support for mesothelioma >

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Last medically reviewed: November 2017. Due for review: November 2020

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.