Controlling symptoms

For most people with mesothelioma, the main aim of treatment is to control symptoms.

There are many different treatments that can help to control the symptoms of pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma.

There are also many different people who can help you manage your symptoms, including your:

  • hospital consultant
  • nurse specialist
  • GP.

They may suggest referring you to a palliative care team. These teams specialise in managing symptoms and giving emotional support to you and your family. Many palliative care teams have specialist nurses who can visit you at home.

Treatment to control symptoms of pleural mesothelioma

Breathlessness is a common symptom of pleural mesothelioma. It is often caused by a build-up of the fluid between the two layers of the pleura (the membranes that cover the lungs). This is called a pleural effusion.


Coughing is also a common symptom of mesothelioma. This can be difficult to cope with as it can sometimes cause other symptoms, such as pain, vomiting and tiredness.

Your doctor may be able to give you medicines such as a low dose of morphine painkiller to help. You may also find it helpful to:

  • sleep in a different position – maybe propped up with pillows
  • use steam inhalations or saline nebulisers – a nebuliser is a small machine that turns saline into a fine mist, so you can breathe it deep into your lungs.

Treatment to control symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma


Peritoneal mesothelioma can cause a build-up of fluid in the tummy (abdomen). This is known as ascites. Your tummy becomes swollen and you may have pain, and feel sick and breathless. We have more information about ascites and how it is treated.

Bowel obstruction

Occasionally, peritoneal mesothelioma may cause the bowel to block. Symptoms may include:

  • pain
  • tummy bloating
  • sickness
  • constipation.

If this happens, tell you doctor straight away. They will give you medicines to control your symptoms. They may also suggest treatments that will help rest your bowel for a while and help with the blockage.

Treatments to control other symptoms of mesothelioma


Pain is a common symptom of mesothelioma. Let your doctors or specialist nurse know if you have pain so that they can treat it early on. We have information about managing pain and different types of painkillers.

Night sweats

Mesothelioma can cause some people to sweat a lot at night. This can be distressing, especially if you wake up at night with damp pyjamas and bedding. Let your doctor know if this happens as they may be able to give you medicines to help. You may also find the following tips helpful:

  • Try to avoid drinks that contain caffeine before you go to bed or in the night.
  • Keep the room temperature cool or use a fan.
  • Avoid using duvets or blankets that make you too hot.
  • Lie on a towel so that you avoid getting your bedding damp.
  • Use cotton sheets and pyjamas, and have some spare so that you can change them in the night if you need to.

Loss of appetite

Mesothelioma and some cancer treatments can cause problems with eating and digestion. We have more information and tips about coping with a reduced appetite.


Many people with mesothelioma feel tired and have less energy to do the things they normally do. This may be due to the illness or it may be a side effect of treatment. We have more information about coping with tiredness.

Complementary therapies

Some people feel that complementary therapies, such as acupuncture, massage, aromatherapy and relaxation techniques, are helpful. Many hospitals and hospices offer these therapies.

If you would like to try a complementary therapy, check with your cancer specialist or GP first. This is important because some complementary therapies should be avoided during, and for a short time after, cancer treatments.