About Mesothelioma


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Mesothelioma is a disease in which cancerous cells form in the lining of the chest or abdomen.

Signs & Symptoms

These are signs of mesothelioma:

  • Difficult breathing
  • Coughing
  • Pain under the rib cage
  • Pain or swelling in the abdomen
  • Lumps in the abdomen
  • Constipation
  • Blood clots that form when they shouldn’t
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Feeling unusually tired

Many other health problems can also cause these signs. If you have any of these signs, see your doctor as soon as possible.

Learn more about mesothelioma from the National Cancer Institute.

Image of Sites Where Mesothelioma Can Happen

anatomical drawing of sites of mesothelioma

Malignant mesothelioma forms in the thin layer of tissue that covers the lung, chest wall, abdomen, heart, or testicles.

Specialties & Treatments

Huntsman Cancer Institute offers different types of treatment for people with mesothelioma.

The treatment or combination of treatments each patient has depends on the stage of the cancer, recommendations of the care team, and the patient’s wishes. These are the most common types of treatment: 

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy

Learn more about types of cancer treatments.

Find a Mesothelioma Doctor

Causes & Risk Factors

Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean you are sure to get cancer. It means your chances are higher than the average person’s. Talk with your doctor to learn more about your cancer risk.

Being exposed to asbestos can increase your chances of getting mesothelioma.

Learn more about ways to prevent cancer and about cancer screenings.

Diagnosis & Stages

Diagnosis of Mesothelioma

Doctors use these tests to diagnose mesothelioma:

  • Physical exam and history: A health care provider examines your body for signs of disease. Your personal health habits, past illnesses, and symptoms help guide the exam.
  • Imaging tests (including chest x-rays): Using dyes, x-rays, magnets, radio waves, and/or computer technology, your health care provider can create detailed images of internal organs. Your health care provider may inject or have you swallow a dye to help see the images.
  • Biopsy: The health care provider removes cell or tissue samples so they can be viewed under a microscope to check for signs of cancer.

Stages of Mesothelioma

Cancer stages show whether cancer has spread within or around the lung or to other parts of the body. Cancer spreads in the body in three ways: through tissue, the lymph system, or the blood.

These are the stages used for mesothelioma:

  • Stage I (IA & IB localized): Cancer is found in one side of the chest and has not spread past the lining of the chest wall or lungs.
  • Stage II (advanced): Cancer is found in one side of the chest, but has spread to the lung tissue and/or diaphragm.
  • Stage III (advanced): Cancer is found in one side of the chest and has spread to other parts of the chest nearby.
  • Stage IV (advanced): Cancer is found in one or both sides of the chest and may have spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body.

When cancer spreads from where it started to another part of the body, it is called metastasis. These metastatic cancer cells are the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if mesothelioma spreads to the bone, the cancer cells in the bone are actually mesothelioma cells. The disease is metastatic mesothelioma, not bone cancer.

Learn more about the stages of mesothelioma from the National Cancer Institute.