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Pleural Mesothelioma

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Pleural Mesothelioma


Pleural mesothelioma is cancer of the lining (pleura) of the lungs. It affects the lining outside of the lungs and the inside of the chest.

Pleura of the Lungs.

Pleura of the Lungshttp://services.epnet.com/getimage.aspx?imageiid=77267726si55551434.jpgsi55551434.jpgNULLjpgsi55551434.jpgNULL\\hgfiler01a\intellect\images\si55551434.jpgNULL54NULL2008-12-102503837726_96788Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


Cancer happens when cells in the body divide without control or order. A mass of tissue can form when this happens. It is called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant tumors. They can invade nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body.

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer. It is almost always caused by being around asbestos. This is a loose mineral that is found in building materials and car parts.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk are:

  • Repeat exposure to asbestos, usually on the job
  • Living with a person who works near asbestos
  • Being around other hazardous fibers, such as erionite
  • Exposure to ionizing radiation


This cancer can take up to 40 years to happen. It may cause:

  • Problems breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing
  • A lump in the chest wall
  • Weight loss
  • Tiredness
  • Sweating


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. The doctor may also ask about exposure to asbestos. A physical exam will be done. The person may be referred to a doctor who treats lung problems or cancer.

Blood tests may be done to look for signs of cancer.

Images will be taken of the chest or abdomen. This can be done with:

A biopsy will be done to confirm the diagnosis. A sample of tissue will be taken and tested. Fluid from the chest cavity may also be tested.

More tests will be needed to find out if the cancer has spread. This is called staging. It helps guide treatment.


Treatment will be based on the stage of cancer. The plan will often have more than one type of therapy. Options are:

  • Surgery to remove the tumor and some tissue around it
  • Chemotherapy to kill cancer cells using drugs
  • Radiation therapy to kill cancer cells, shrink tumors, and ease pain

Pleural fluid caused by the tumor will be removed to ease breathing. This is repeated as needed.


The only known way to prevent this cancer is to avoid asbestos and harmful fibers.

To avoid exposure:

  • Use safety equipment and precautions on the job.
  • Take steps to avoid bringing asbestos dust home on clothing.
  • Hire a professional to remove asbestos material in the home.




  • Malignant mesothelioma treatment (adult). National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/types/mesothelioma/patient/mesothelioma-treatment-pdq.
  • Malignant pleural mesothelioma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/malignant-pleural-mesothelioma.
  • Mesothelioma. American Lung Association website. Available at: http://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/mesothelioma.
  • Song KJ, Flores RM, et al. Taken together: effective multimodal approaches for malignant pleural mesothelioma. Thorac Surg Clin. 2020;30(4):481-487.


  • Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.