How Effective is Chemotherapy for Mesothelioma?

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  • Written By: Amy Hunter
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 11 September 2019
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Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer with a poor prognosis. Chemotherapy for mesothelioma treatment is used to shrink tumors before surgery, to kill cancer cells in the hope of avoiding surgery, and after surgery to kill stray cancer cells and prevent a recurrence of cancer. Chemotherapy can also be combined with radiation for mesothelioma treatment. Chemotherapy is an effective treatment for mesothelioma, however, mesothelioma is an aggressive, difficult to treat cancer, and so, the treatment is not always successful.

Mesothelioma develops in the lining of different tissues in the body, most commonly the lungs, but it can also develop in the abdominal cavity or, rarely, the lining surrounding the heart. The most common cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos, with between 70 and 80 percent of people suffering from mesothelioma reporting asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma does not have symptoms in the early stages, and is often in advanced stages by the time it is diagnosed.


Mesothelioma is difficult to diagnose because many of the symptoms can be confused for other, more benign, ailments, such as a cold or allergies. By the time symptoms begin to affect quality of life, the cancer is often advanced. To diagnose mesothelioma, the healthcare provider will take a detailed patient history, including a history of where the patient worked to determine if asbestos exposure was likely, perform a physical examination, a chest xray, and lung function tests. If the results of this examination point toward mesothelioma, the doctor will perform an MRI or CT scan. The doctor can also test the fluid that accumulates in the affected area, and, for a definitive diagnosis, perform a biopsy.

Chemotherapy for mesothelioma is used in various ways. Chemotherapy drugs can be administered intravenously, where they will travel through the body. This kills cancer cells, but kills healthy cells as well. Targeted chemotherapy for mesothelioma involves injecting chemotherapy drugs directly into the abdomen or chest, depending on the location of the mesothelioma. This places the chemotherapy in the best position to kill the cancer cells without attacking healthy body cells.

Mesothelioma is a difficult cancer to cure, and treatments are often aimed at controlling the symptoms of the disease and preventing the cancer from spreading. Early detection can increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy for mesothelioma treatment. Symptoms of mesothelioma include cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, and weight loss.



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