Mesothelioma is a deadly type of cancer that develops from the thin layer of tissue that covers many internal organs. One of the most common areas affected by mesothelioma is the lining of the lungs and chest wall.



This is a rare type of cancer that develops in the mesothelium, a layer of protective tissue that covers most internal organs. It progresses quickly and has no cure, but early treatment helps people live longer, fuller lives.

This is caused by asbestos exposure. The average life expectancy is 18–31 months. Symptoms of this type of cancer include chest pain, fatigue, and shortness of breath.


It is an aggressive and mortal type of cancer. There are treatments available, but for many mesothelioma patients, a cure is not very feasible. This cancer mainly affects the lining of the lungs (pleural mesothelioma), although it can also affect the lining of the tummy (peritoneal mesothelioma), heart, or testicles.

More than 2,700 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year in the UK. Most cases are diagnosed in people aged 75 and over, and men are affected more commonly than women. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to cure mesothelioma, although treatment can help control the symptoms.

Types of Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is an aggressive and deadly form of cancer. Its treatments are available, but for many people with mesothelioma, a cure isn’t possible. Doctors divide it into different types based on what part of the mesothelium is affected.

It most often affects the tissue that surrounds the lungs (pleura). This type is called pleural mesothelioma. However, in general, there are four types of mesothelioma, and we will be discussing them in this section of this article. Kindly read on to learn more.

Pleural Mesothelioma

Pleural mesothelioma, or malignant pleural mesothelioma, is a rare cancer that grows in the membrane (pleura) that lines the walls of your chest and lungs. The condition gets its name from the mesothelium, a lining that protects your internal organs.

The most common cause of pleural mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Though mesothelioma is rare, pleural mesothelioma is the most common type of mesothelioma. Approximately 3,300 people in the United States receive a mesothelioma diagnosis each year. Pleural mesothelioma accounts for about 80% of these diagnoses.

The symptoms set in slowly. It can take up to 50 years for it to develop after asbestos exposure. Early signs of pleural mesothelioma can be bothersome but easy to dismiss. Symptoms of pleural cancer include

Pleural mesothelioma is difficult to treat because the cancer can spread along nerves, blood vessels, and tissues. Often, healthcare providers who treat cancer, or oncologists, recommend a combination of treatments for pleural cancer. Treatments may include surgery, chemotherapy, palliative care, clinical trials, and radiation therapy.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma

This is a malignant cancer caused by ingesting asbestos fibres. It is also known as abdominal mesothelioma because it develops in the peritoneum, or the tissue lining the abdomen. This type of cancer affects the lining that protects the contents of the abdomen and also provides lubricating fluid to enable the organs to move and work properly.

The peritoneum is made up of two parts: the visceral and parietal peritoneum. The visceral peritoneum covers the internal organs and makes up most of the outer layer of the intestinal tract. Covering the abdominal cavity is the parietal peritoneum.

It is a rare type of cancer affecting the peritoneum. Your peritoneum is a membrane that lines your abdominal cavity and organs, like your liver and intestines. Like other types of mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma can be related to prior asbestos exposure.

Asbestos is the most common risk factor for peritoneal cancer. Individuals who have been exposed to asbestos are more likely to develop peritoneal mesothelioma later in life. High-risk groups include blue-collar workers, veterans, and those who live near asbestos mines or natural deposits.

Symptoms include

  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Anaemia
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Blood clotting’
  • Abdominal pain
  • Swelling due to the buildup of fluid in the abdomen
  • Loss of appetite

The best treatment methods for this type of cancer involve surgery and heated chemotherapy drugs to destroy cancer cells in the abdomen. Your doctor will be able to determine which type of treatment will work best for your specific case.

Pericardial Mesothelioma

It is an extremely rare type of cancer that forms in the lining of the heart, called the pericardium. Cardiac (heart) tumours are very rare. When they do occur, it is often a result of metastasis from cancer elsewhere in the body.

This cancer usually affects people between 50 and 70 years of age. It also occurs more often in men than women. Symptoms appear at a later stage and can mimic other heart disorders. These can include chest pain, fatigue, and shortness of breath. The diagnosis is challenging due to these similar symptoms.

The symptoms include:

  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Heart palpitations or an irregular heartbeat
  • Fever
  • Murmurs
  • Night sweats
  • Cough

Mesothelioma treatment for pericardial mesothelioma includes surgery and chemotherapy. The heart lining rests close to the heart and limits treatment options. Surgery is the most effective treatment for this cancer; however, more than half of patients are not eligible.

Testicular Mesothelioma

This is a rare cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. It forms in the lining of the testes and is less common than pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma. Symptoms include a buildup of fluid and painful swelling of the testes. The 5-year survival rate for testicular mesothelioma is 49%.

This form accounts for less than 1% of cases and is linked to asbestos exposure. Testicular cancer forms in the tunica vaginalis membrane that surrounds the testis. Testicular mesothelioma can cause painful symptoms, including excessive swelling. However, it has a slightly better prognosis than mesothelioma which forms in the lining of the lungs, abdominal cavity, or heart.

The average life expectancy of a patient diagnosed with testicular mesothelioma is 46.7 months. However, if the cancer is detected early enough, patients can seek surgery and other treatments to increase their survival time. In fact, 49% of testicular mesothelioma patients live 5 years or longer after their initial diagnosis.

Symptoms include

  • Enlargement of the scrotum
  • Hydrocele
  • Inguinal mass
  • Solid scrotal mass
  • Spermatocele
  • Painful swelling of the testicle

It does not yet have clear treatment guidelines because it is so rare. More common forms of mesothelioma do have treatment guidelines. Surgery appears to be the most common and effective treatment for testicular mesothelioma. After surgery, some patients may undergo additional treatments. Most times, doctors may recommend chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and/or radiation.

Mesothelioma by Cell Type

This cancer can be further characterised by cell type. The disease is generally divided into three cell subtype categories that differ in aggressiveness.

Epithelioid Mesothelioma

This is cancer caused by asbestos exposure that occurs when malignant epithelial cells spread in the lining of the lungs. It is also referred to as epithelial mesothelioma. Malignant epithelioid mesothelioma leads to tumour formation and symptoms such as coughing and shortness of breath.

It is cancer caused by asbestos. The epithelial cell subtype is the most common mesothelioma cell type, accounting for 50%–70% of cases. With treatment, life expectancy generally ranges from 1.5 to 6.5 years, depending on the tumour’s location.

Sarcomatiod Mesothelioma

Sarcomatoid cancer is a rare form of cancer caused by asbestos. This cancer can affect the lungs, heart, abdomen, or testes. Sarcomatoid refers to the tumour cell type. These cells make up most of the tumours in this type of cancer. A pathology stain showing sarcomatoid cancer cells under a microscope

Sarcomatoid mesothelioma, sometimes referred to as spindle cell mesothelioma, is recognised by its oval, spindle shape. This cell type typically forms in separate nodes or lesions and can metastasize, or spread, quickly to distant organs. It is also the most difficult cell type to treat, with an average prognosis of six months.

Biphasic Mesothelioma

Biphasic mesothelioma, also known as mixed mesothelioma, is caused by asbestos exposure. 10–20% of all mesothelioma cancers are biphasic. The tumours are a combination of epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells. Symptoms, treatment, and prognosis vary depending on which of the two cell types is dominant.

It occurs when a patient’s cancer tumour contains both of the two main cancer cell types (epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells). If there are more epithelioid cells present, a patient’s biphasic mesothelioma will be easier to treat.

Common Symptoms of Mesothelioma

The severity and type of mesothelioma symptoms vary for each patient. Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fluid buildup
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing (dyspnea)
  • Fatigue
  • Fever and night sweats
  • Muscle weakness
  • Unexplained weight loss


This latency period and delay in symptom reporting may complicate the diagnostic process. If you or a loved one have a history of asbestos exposure, it can be helpful to disclose that exposure to a doctor who can do periodic checkups. This may lead to an earlier diagnosis and treatment plan.

What is the main cause?

Asbestos exposure is the primary risk factor for mesothelioma. It accounts for up to 80 percent of all cases. Living with someone who works with asbestos may also increase an individual’s risk of developing mesothelioma because asbestos particles can travel on skin and clothing.

What are the early warning signs?
  • Symptoms
  • Chest pain.
  • Painful coughing.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Unusual lumps of tissue under the skin on your chest.
  • Unexplained weight loss
Is mesothelioma cancer curable?

Mesothelioma Survivors: While there is no cure for this, many patients have had success reducing their symptoms by coupling traditional treatments with alternative treatment options such as optimal nutrition, body-stress reduction techniques, and palliative therapies.

What virus causes mesothelioma?

Simian virus 40 (SV40) is a DNA tumour virus capable of infecting and transforming human mesothelial (HM) cells in vitro. Hamsters injected intracardially to expose most tissue types to SV40 preferentially develop mesotheliomas.

What organs are affected?

It mainly affects the lining of the lungs (pleural mesothelioma), although it can also affect the lining of the tummy (peritoneal mesothelioma), heart, or testicles.

What is the deadliest cancer?

Lung and bronchial cancers are responsible for the most deaths, with 127,070 people expected to die from this disease. That is nearly three times the 52,550 deaths due to colorectal cancer, which is the second most common cause of cancer death. Pancreatic cancer is the third deadliest cancer, causing 50,550 deaths.


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