Pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma are treated in different ways. We have split the information about treatment into two sections, so that you find the information that's relevant to your type of mesothelioma.
Find out more about treatment for pleural mesothelioma. Find out more about treatment for peritoneal mesothelioma.
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If your tests show that you have mesothelioma, you’ll be looked after by a multidisciplinary team (MDT). This is a team of people who specialise in treating mesothelioma and in giving information and support.
It will normally include:
chest physicians – doctors experienced in lung disease (if you have pleural mesothelioma)
oncologists – doctors experienced in using chemotherapy and radiotherapy to treat mesothelioma
surgeons experienced in chest surgery (if you have pleural mesothelioma)
specialist nurses who give information and support
radiologists who help to analyse x-rays
pathologists who advise on the type and extent of cancer.
It may also include other healthcare professionals, such as a physiotherapist, counsellor, psychologist, social worker or dietitian.
The MDT will work together to plan the best treatment for you. When planning your treatment, they will take a number of factors into account, including your general health and the stage of the mesothelioma.
Occasionally, you may be offered a choice of treatments. If this happens, make sure you have enough information about the different treatments, what’s involved and the possible side effects, to help you make the right decision.
If you have any questions about your treatment, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor or nurse. It often helps to make a list of questions and to take a relative or close friend with you.
Before you have any treatment, your doctor will explain its aims. They will usually ask you to sign a form saying that you give permission (consent) for the hospital staff to give you the treatment. No medical treatment can be given without your consent, and before you’re asked to sign the form you should be given full information about:
the type and extent of the treatment
its advantages and disadvantages
any significant risks or side effects
any other treatments that may be available.
If you don’t understand what you’ve been told, let the staff know straight away, so they can explain again. Some cancer treatments are complex, so it’s not unusual to need repeated explanations.
It’s a good idea to have a relative or friend with you when the treatment is explained, to help you remember the discussion. You may also find it useful to write a list of questions before your appointment.
People sometimes feel that hospital staff are too busy to answer their questions, but it’s important for you to know how the treatment is likely to affect you. The staff should be willing to make time for your questions.
You can always ask for more time if you feel that you can’t make a decision when the treatment is first explained to you.
You’re also free to choose not to have the treatment. The staff can explain what may happen if you don’t have it. It’s essential to tell a doctor or the nurse in charge, so they can record your decision in your medical notes. You don’t have to give a reason for not wanting treatment, but it can help to let the staff know your concerns so they can give you the best advice.
The benefits and disadvantages of treatment
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Many people are frightened at the idea of having cancer treatments, particularly because of the side effects that can occur. However, these can usually be controlled with medicines. Treatment can be given for different reasons and the potential benefits will vary depending on your individual situation.
For many people with mesothelioma, the cancer has already spread when it’s diagnosed and treatment is given with the aim of slowing the growth of the cancer. This can lead to an improvement in symptoms and a better quality of life. However, for some people, the treatment will have no effect on the cancer and they will get the side effects of the treatment with little benefit.
If you’ve been offered treatment that aims to cure the cancer, deciding whether to accept it may not be difficult. However, if a cure is not possible and the purpose of treatment is to control the cancer for a period of time, it may be more difficult to decide whether to go ahead.
Making decisions about treatment in these circumstances is always difficult, and you may need to discuss in detail with your doctor whether you wish to have treatment. If you choose not to have it, you can still be given supportive (palliative) care with medicines to control any symptoms.
It’s important that you ask your doctors and nurses any questions you have about your treatment. The more you understand about your treatment, the easier it will be for you and them.
We have more information about making treatment decisions.
Your multidisciplinary team (MDT) uses national treatment guidelines to decide the most suitable treatment for you.
Even so, you may want another medical opinion. If you feel it will be helpful, you can ask either your specialist or GP to refer you to another specialist for a second opinion. Getting a second opinion may delay the start of your treatment, so you and your doctor need to be confident that it will give you useful information. If you do go for a second opinion, it may be a good idea to take a relative or friend with you, and have a list of questions ready, so that you can make sure your concerns are covered during the discussion.