Malignant mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that affects the mesothelium, a lining inside of the body. Mesothelioma cancer tumors can appear in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, heart, or testicles. This cancer is caused by asbestos exposure. You may be able to get medical treatment and financial aid for mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

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Written and Fact-Checked by: Lung Cancer Group

What Is Mesothelioma?

A black and white chest X-ray.Mesothelioma is a cancer that develops in the lining of major organs. It’s a rare cancer, with around 3,000 new cases each year. It’s also very aggressive. Most mesothelioma patients only live for 12-21 months after they are diagnosed.

Sadly, many mesothelioma cases could have been prevented. The only known cause of this cancer is exposure to asbestos fibers.

Asbestos is a highly durable substance that was once used in thousands of products. Makers of asbestos-based products knew the health risks as far back as the 1930s but hid the dangers for decades to keep profits high.

Mesothelioma takes decades to develop after asbestos exposure. This is why thousands develop mesothelioma each year even though the use of asbestos has been restricted since the early 1980s.

A mesothelioma cancer diagnosis can be very scary, but help is available. You can pursue treatment and financial compensation after a diagnosis.

The patient advocates at Lung Cancer Group can help you and your loved ones find medical care and secure financial aid. Call (877) 446-5767 to get started.

Mesothelioma vs. Lung Cancer

Both lung cancer and mesothelioma could be caused by asbestos exposure. Malignant mesothelioma is sometimes mistaken for lung cancer, but the two conditions aren’t the same.

Mesothelioma first forms in the lining of organs. Most cases of mesothelioma affect the lung lining. Lung cancer affects the lung itself.

Further, lung cancer might be caused by smoking, asbestos exposure, radon exposure, and many other factors. Only asbestos exposure causes mesothelioma.

Thankfully, you can get medical treatment and financial payouts for both lung cancer or mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma Symptoms

Mesothelioma symptoms typically appear 10-50 years after asbestos exposure.

Symptoms of mesothelioma include:
  • Abdominal pain or chest pain
  • Appetite loss
  • Blood clots
  • Cough (or coughing up blood)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss

Symptoms can vary depending on where the cancer develops. For example, pleural mesothelioma affects the lung lining. These patients may experience pleural effusions (buildups of fluid in the lung lining).

Common Mesothelioma Symptoms

The most common symptoms of mesothelioma include chest pain, a cough that won’t go away, and shortness of breath.

See a doctor immediately if you were exposed to asbestos decades ago and now have any possible mesothelioma symptoms.

Getting symptoms of mesothelioma diagnosed early is crucial. You might be able to catch the cancer before it spreads, meaning it’ll be easier to treat and you can live longer.

Mesothelioma Causes

The only known cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure.

Asbestos fibers are microscopic but very strong. If a product made with asbestos wears out, breaks down, or is otherwise disturbed, asbestos fibers can be released into the air. You could then breathe the fibers into your body without noticing.

Your body will have trouble clearing the asbestos fibers, and some could remain behind forever. These fibers can get stuck in the linings of major organs and irritate healthy tissues and cells for decades. Eventually, this irritation can cause healthy cells to mutate into cancerous ones.

Who Is at Risk of Mesothelioma?

Anyone with a history of asbestos exposure is at risk of developing mesothelioma. That said, some are at a higher risk than others.

The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation notes that most people develop mesothelioma due to occupational asbestos exposure.

High-risk mesothelioma jobs included:
  • Boilermakers
  • Construction workers
  • Electricians
  • Mechanics
  • Plumbers
  • Shipyard workers
  • U.S. veterans

Anyone who worked in these roles between the 1930s and early 1980s might’ve encountered asbestos every day. Some (such as construction workers) could still be at risk of mesothelioma as asbestos can still be found in older structures even in the present.

Further, family members or loved ones may have been put at risk of mesothelioma through secondhand asbestos exposure. Those who worked with or around asbestos-based products could have brought stray fibers home with them on their skin, hair, or clothes, putting their loved ones at risk as well.

Financial compensation could be available if you or your loved ones developed mesothelioma after working around asbestos. Find out your eligibility with a free case review.

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Mesothelioma Types

There are four types of mesothelioma, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Each one affects a different area of the body. Learn about each type below.

  • Pleural Mesothelioma

    Malignant pleural mesothelioma is the most common mesothelioma type. It accounts for 80 to 85% of all mesothelioma cases.

    Pleural mesothelioma develops in the lining of the lungs (pleura) before spreading to other parts of the body. Doctors often treat pleural mesothelioma by removing the cancer tumors, lung lining, and possibly the lung closest to the cancer.

  • Peritoneal Mesothelioma

    Peritoneal mesothelioma is the second-most common type. About 10 to 15% of new mesothelioma cases are peritoneal mesothelioma.

    Peritoneal mesothelioma develops in the lining of the abdominal cavity (peritoneum). Peritoneal mesothelioma patients often live longer than pleural mesothelioma patients thanks to a treatment called cytoreductive surgery with HIPEC (heated chemotherapy).

  • Pericardial Mesothelioma

    Pericardial mesothelioma is a very rare type of mesothelioma. Only a few hundred cases have ever been reported. Pericardial mesothelioma forms in the lining of the heart (pericardium).

    Most cases aren’t diagnosed until the patient has already died. However, surgeries and other treatments can help patients diagnosed before the cancer has spread.

  • Testicular Mesothelioma

    Testicular mesothelioma is the rarest mesothelioma type. Less than 300 cases have ever been reported. Testicular mesothelioma develops in the lining of the testicles (tunica vaginalis).

    Testicular mesothelioma can often be surgically treated if it’s caught early on. Some patients with testicular mesothelioma can live for 10 years or more with treatment.

Mesothelioma Diagnosis

A doctor in blue scrubs looks at an X-ray in a hospital room.Several tests are used to make a mesothelioma diagnosis. Doctors will first want to perform a physical examination to look for possible mesothelioma signs.

Doctors may then use imaging tests like chest X-rays or CT scans to look inside your body. They’ll look for strange growths that could be cancer tumors or other signs of cancer with these scans.

Doctors can then take a biopsy if they think you have cancer after reviewing the results of your imaging tests. Through a biopsy, doctors remove fluid or tissue samples and look at them under a microscope to see if mesothelioma cancer cells may be present.

Mesothelioma Cell Types

Mesothelioma tumors are made up of different types of cells. Some cancer cells are easier to treat than others. For this reason, the type of mesothelioma cells that make up your cancer tumors can greatly affect your overall health outlook.

Learn about each mesothelioma cell type below.

Epithelioid Mesothelioma

Epithelioid (or epithelial) mesothelioma is the most common mesothelioma cell type. Around 70% of all mesothelioma cases are epithelioid.

Epithelial cells grow rapidly but stick together so the cancer actually spreads less quickly. It’s the easiest mesothelioma cell type to treat since it doesn’t spread as fast.

Sarcomatoid Mesothelioma

Sarcomatoid mesothelioma is the least common cell type. It accounts for 10-15% of mesothelioma cases.

Sarcomatoid mesothelioma is hard to treat since these cells spread more quickly than epithelioid mesothelioma cells do. That said, treatments will still be available to reduce symptoms or help you live longer.

Biphasic Mesothelioma

You may have biphasic mesothelioma if your tumor is made up of both epithelial cells and sarcomatoid cells. This is the second most common cell type.

How easily this type is treated depends on the ratio between epithelial cells and sarcomatoid cells.

Treatment is available for mesothelioma, no matter what cell type you have. Learn how you can afford treatment costs by calling (877) 446-5767 right now.

Stages of Mesothelioma

Doctors use stages to describe how far mesothelioma has spread by the time it is diagnosed. What stage the cancer is in greatly impacts your treatment options and overall health outlook.

There are four stages of pleural mesothelioma. The other types are not classified into stages, but doctors may informally say you’re in an early stage or late stage depending on the cancer’s spread.

Stage 1

Stage 1 mesothelioma is the least advanced and easiest to treat. Here, the mesothelioma tumors are contained to the lining of the chest wall near one lung.

Stage 2

Stage 2 mesothelioma has started to spread into the lungs, nearby lymph nodes, or the diaphragm (muscle that controls breathing). However, it still hasn’t spread very far, so doctors can treat it using several different options.

Stage 3

Stage 3 mesothelioma has spread further into the body. Tumors may be found deep in the chest wall, the abdominal lining, the spine, and more lymph nodes than in stage 2. Life-extending mesothelioma surgery may or may not be possible at this point.

Stage 4

Stage 4 mesothelioma is the most advanced stage. Widespread metastasis (cancer spread) has occurred in this stage. The cancer has spread through the body into places like the liver and bones. Major surgeries aren’t usually possible in this stage, but other treatments might be available.

Mesothelioma Prognosis

Mesothelioma prognosis is the expected course your cancer will take. Doctors give a prognosis based on the type of mesothelioma you have, the stage, cell type, and your overall health.

Getting a mesothelioma prognosis can be very emotional. However, you should know that a prognosis is just an estimate. Some mesothelioma patients have lived for decades even though doctors initially gave them a poor prognosis.

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Mesothelioma life expectancy is 12-21 months in most cases. Your life expectancy could be longer or shorter depending on the unique factors in your case.

For example, peritoneal mesothelioma patients live for over 4 years on average if they’re treated with a combination of surgery and chemotherapy.

Mesothelioma Survival Rate

A survival rate is the number of patients still alive after a set period of time has passed (usually years). Mesothelioma has a 5-year survival rate of 10%, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

However, mesothelioma survival rates can vary greatly by type and other factors. Peritoneal mesothelioma and testicular mesothelioma both have 5-year survival rates of nearly 50% if patients get treatment.

Mesothelioma Survivor Stories

Mesothelioma patients can sometimes live for years or even decades longer than expected. These mesothelioma survivors show that this cancer is not a death sentence and offer hope to anyone who’s been diagnosed.

Mesothelioma survivors include:

  • Julie (diagnosed 2006): Julie was diagnosed with mesothelioma in her 30s after being exposed to asbestos as a child. Her father worked around asbestos and came home covered in asbestos dust. He died of asbestos lung cancer a year before Julie’s diagnosis. Thankfully, Julie is still alive today thanks to mesothelioma treatments.
  • Mary Jane (diagnosed 2003): Mary Jane learned she had peritoneal mesothelioma after complaining of abdominal swelling for a year. She was able to fight the cancer and become a long-term survivor thanks to medical treatment. She died in 2018 (15 years later) of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Ernie (diagnosed 2002): Ernie, a former mechanic, had possible symptoms of pleural mesothelioma for almost eight years. Doctors finally diagnosed him in 2002. He bravely fought his cancer until his passing in 2009.

Mesothelioma Treatment Options

Treating mesothelioma is the key to helping you live longer. Cancer treatments allow doctors to shrink or remove tumors and kill mesothelioma cells. Treatments can also ease symptoms if long-term survivorship isn’t possible.

Learn about mesothelioma treatment options below.


Mesothelioma surgeries allow doctors to cut out cancer tumors from the body. Surgeries are typically used on early-stage patients as the cancer hasn’t spread and the patients will be able to recover from the surgery with a lower risk of complications.

Commonly used mesothelioma surgeries include:

  • Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP): Used to treat pleural mesothelioma, this surgery removes all visible tumors, the lung and lung lining closest to the cancer tumors, and parts of other organs that the cancer has invaded.
  • Pleurectomy with decortication (P/D): Also used to treat pleural mesothelioma, this surgery doesn’t remove a lung, but the cancer tumors and lung lining are removed. Sparing a lung allows patients to recover faster than if they received an EPP.
  • Cytoreduction with HIPEC: Used to treat peritoneal mesothelioma, this treatment allows doctors to surgically remove cancer tumors from the abdomen. The surgery site is then flooded with heated chemotherapy to kill any microscopic cancer cells that weren’t removed.

Minor surgeries may also be used to treat late-stage patients as a form of palliative (pain-relieving) care. These surgeries can reduce the size of tumors to ease painful symptoms.


Doctors use chemotherapy (cancer-killing medications) to destroy mesothelioma cancer cells and tumors. It’s the most common mesothelioma treatment, according to ASCO.

Chemotherapy kills both good and bad cells, so it can cause side effects like hair loss, numbness, and fatigue. Doctors typically give chemotherapy in cycles (treatment with breaks in between) to reduce its side effects.

Low doses of chemotherapy may also be used in palliative care to shrink tumors and make patients more comfortable.


Radiation therapy allows doctors to destroy cancer cells using high-powered X-ray beams. Radiation can kill healthy cells, so it must be used selectively to avoid side effects like fatigue.

Doctors may use radiation therapy to boost the effects of other treatments like surgery or as a palliative treatment.

You could qualify for compensation to pay for radiation and other mesothelioma treatments. Get started with a free case review.

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Immunotherapy is a newer mesothelioma treatment. It comes in the form of medications that allow the body to find and destroy cancer cells.

The body’s immune system is naturally trained to destroy the cells of illnesses, but since cancer cells are mutations of healthy ones, they can sometimes escape detection. Immunotherapy prevents this from happening.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a combination of two immunotherapy drugs for use in treating pleural mesothelioma patients in 2020 after years of clinical trials.

Clinical Trials & New Treatments

Doctors use clinical trials to study newer treatments that may be able to help patients. Newer treatments might be used by themselves or alongside existing therapies to improve mesothelioma life expectancies or reduce symptoms.

Newer mesothelioma treatments include:

  • Cryoablation: Use of a spray to freeze and destroy mesothelioma tumors.
  • Photodynamic therapy: Use of light-activated drugs to kill cancer cells.
  • Tumor Treating Fields (TTFs): Use of electrically charged pads to stop the cancer from spreading. Approved as a mainstream mesothelioma treatment in 2019.

“Many of today’s standard treatments for cancer are based on earlier clinical trials. Patients who take part in a clinical trial may receive the standard treatment or be among the first to receive a new treatment.”

— National Cancer Institute

Clinical trials recruit patients that fit a specific set of criteria (such as mesothelioma type, stage, and more). Ask your mesothelioma specialists about clinical trials that you may be able to join.

Finding Mesothelioma Treatment Options

Cancer doctors and hospitals around the U.S. can treat mesothelioma patients like you.

Mesothelioma Doctors

You’ll need to work with mesothelioma oncologists (cancer doctors) after a diagnosis. Mesothelioma is very aggressive, but these oncologists can give you the best chance of living longer.

Our on-staff nurses have relationships with top mesothelioma doctors and can help you get medical care. Call us at (877) 446-5767 to access top mesothelioma treatments faster.

Mesothelioma Cancer Centers

Mesothelioma oncologists and their support staff (nurses, social workers, and more) work at hospitals that are dedicated to treating cancer patients. We can help you find the mesothelioma cancer centers that are closest to you.

Support Options for Mesothelioma Patients & Families

There is a network of support available if you or a loved one has developed mesothelioma. Accessing mesothelioma support can make your cancer fight less stressful.

Mesothelioma support options include:

  • Compensation: You can pursue financial compensation from the makers of asbestos-containing products by working with a mesothelioma lawyer. Attorneys can often secure $1 million on average or more for mesothelioma cases. Seek financial compensation with our help.
  • Medical assistance: Treatment from mesothelioma specialists is key to living longer. We can help you quickly find the best medical care.
  • VA benefits: U.S. veterans are at a greater risk of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Veterans with asbestos-related diseases can get free or low-cost medical treatment and monthly payouts from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Our team can connect you with the resources you need to fight mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other asbestos-related diseases. We’ve seen the effects of mesothelioma and asbestos exposure firsthand and will do everything we can to help you.

Find financial, medical, and veterans-oriented assistance for mesothelioma right now. Call (877) 446-5767 or contact us.

Mesothelioma FAQs

What is the main cause of mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is only caused by asbestos exposure. Asbestos fibers cause mesothelioma by burrowing into the linings of healthy organs and irritating them for decades. The fibers make healthy cells turn cancerous.

Common signs of mesothelioma include shortness of breath, pain in the chest or abdomen, weight loss, and a cough that won’t go away.

See a doctor if you may have been exposed to asbestos decades ago and now have any of these symptoms. Early detection is key to getting treatments that can ease these symptoms and help you live longer.

The average life expectancy for mesothelioma is 12-21 months, but you may be able to live longer depending on factors unique to your case. For example, getting a major mesothelioma surgery might help you live for several years after your diagnosis.

Your doctor can give you a projected life expectancy when your diagnosis is confirmed. Keep in mind that your life expectancy could change for the better if your body responds well to mesothelioma treatments.

Mesothelioma remission is when your cancer goes away. Remission is rare but not unheard of in mesothelioma patients.

The best way to work towards mesothelioma remission is to get treatments that can remove or shrink cancer tumors.

It’s also important to note that your cancer could come back after it enters remission. This is called a recurrence. You can catch a recurrence before the cancer becomes widespread again by getting regular cancer screenings from your doctor during remission.

No. Some mesothelioma patients have lived for years or decades longer than their doctors thought they would.

However, you’ll need to get prompt medical attention if you want to become a mesothelioma survivor. This cancer is very aggressive, and without medical treatment, most patients live for a year or less.

You can get help for mesothelioma by reaching out to top mesothelioma doctors, patient advocates, and attorneys.

Mesothelioma doctors can help you get the right treatments, so you can live longer or have less symptoms. Mesothelioma attorneys will work on your behalf to get financial payouts from the makers of asbestos-based products that harmed you.

Patient advocates (such as the ones on our team) can help you both pursue medical treatment and financial aid. Get started right now by calling (877) 446-5767.

Lung Cancer Group was established by a team of caring advocates so those with lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases can get the help they deserve. Our site provides the most accurate and up-to-date information about lung cancer, its link to asbestos, and financial compensation available to patients. Contact us to learn more and get assistance.

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