Mesothelioma is a type of cancer affecting the mesothelial cells. These cells cover most organs inside the body. They form a coating known as the mesothelium.

The mesothelium makes a lubricating fluid that helps protect the organs as well as allowing them to move around. For example, this fluid makes it easier for the lungs to move inside the chest when you breathe.

The mesothelium is called the pleura in the chest area. Mesothelioma in the chest is called pleural mesothelioma. This is the most common type of mesothelioma.

The mesothelium is called the peritoneum in the abdomen. This mesothelioma is called peritoneal mesothelioma. This is a less common type of mesothelioma.

As with most types of cancer, the earlier someone is diagnosed, the better the outcome usually is.

Although there is no proven cure for mesothelioma, in the past few years there have been several major advances in treating the disease. These include:

  • more accurate staging methods
  • earlier diagnosis
  • improvements in surgical techniques and post-surgery care
  • using different chemotherapy combinations
  • combining chemotherapy with newer treatments
  • new radiotherapy techniques.

These advances mean more people have received better symptom relief and may survive for longer. The aim of treatment is to make sure patients have good quality of life for as long as possible.

All treatments have risks and you should talk these over with your Radiation Oncologist.

Treatment for mesothelioma may include a combination of:

  • surgery
  • radiotherapy
  • chemotherapy
  • supportive care (palliative care).

People diagnosed in the earlier stages may be offered surgery followed by chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy. Surgery can also be used to reduce the size of a tumour, which may help relieve symptoms in people with advanced stage disease.

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy can shrink the mesothelioma and also relieve symptoms such as pain.

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