How treatment is planned

The most common treatments for pleural mesothelioma are chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Your treatment will be planned by a team of doctors and other healthcare professionals with experience in treating mesothelioma. They will take into account what type of mesothelioma you have, its stage and your general health.

Usually the aim of treatment is to slow the growth of cancer, reduce symptoms and improve quality of life. In this situation it’s important that the possible benefits of treatment are balanced against any side effects that the treatment may cause.

Asking questions can help you make decisions about your treatment. You can ask your doctor about the aims of any treatment you are offered and about the possible advantages and disadvantages of having it. Your doctor or nurse can also tell you what they can do to control side effects you may have during treatment. Many people find it helps to bring a relative or friend with them to hospital appointments to help them remember what was said. You can also make a list of questions to take to your appointment.

Planning your treatment

For most people, treatment is given to help control symptoms and to slow the growth of the pleural mesothelioma.

Treatments for pleural mesothelioma may include chemotherapy, radiotherapy and other treatments, sometimes known as supportive therapies.

Very occasionally, if mesothelioma is diagnosed before it has spread or if it has only spread to nearby tissues, surgery may be an option. Sometimes treatments can be given as part in a clinical trial.

Multidisciplinary team

If your tests show that you have mesothelioma, a team of specialists, called a multidisciplinary team (MDT) will plan your treatment and care. In a number of areas of the UK there are regional specialist mesothelioma MDTs. This team 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
  • specialist nurses who give information and support
  • symptom-control specialists
  • radiologists who help 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 take a number of factors into account when planning your treatment and care. These include the type and stage of your mesothelioma and your general health.

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.

Benefits and disadvantages of treatment

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 upon 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 cancer. This can lead to an improvement in symptoms and to a better quality of life. However, for some people, the treatment will have no effect on the cancer and they will get side effects of the treatment with little benefit.

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.

Giving your consent

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 are 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 your treatment is first explained to you.

You are 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.

Back to Who will be involved in my treatment decision?

Getting a second opinion

There are many reasons for wanting a second opinion about your treatment. Speak to your specialist or GP.

Making a complaint

Making a complaint may help you to get answers about what went wrong.