Resources for Patients and their Families

Mesothelioma Cancer

Mesothelioma is a rare, aggressive form of cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart. Caused by asbestos, mesothelioma has no known cure and has a very poor prognosis.

According to a 2017 report by the Centers for Disease Control, 2,400 – 2,800 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma in the United States each year. People who have worked with or been exposed to asbestos have the highest risk of developing mesothelioma. After being exposed to asbestos, mesothelioma symptoms can take 20 – 50 years to appear.

The life expectancy for mesothelioma patients is poor, as there is no cure for the disease.

Mesothelioma Resources for Patients and Families

The stage of the disease, cell type, and location of the tumor(s) are the most important factors for a patient’s survival. Factors such as the patient’s overall health, age, and whether the cancer has spread also impact prognosis.

After receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis, there are a number of vital decisions that must be made. The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance is dedicated to providing patients with the best resources available on current treatment, stories of survival and hope, and financial assistance.

Mesothelioma Survivorship and Life Expectancy
How a disease will progress. A prognosis can be good or bad, and may include a life expectancy estimate.
Life Expectancy
Life Expectancy
How long a patient can expect to survive. This may change with treatment and other developments.
Survival Rate
Survival Rate
A statistic (percentage or ratio) indicating how many people live a certain amount of time after diagnosis.

Heather Von St. James – Mesothelioma Survivor

Watch Heather's Story

Heather Von St. James is a 12-year pleural mesothelioma survivor who has become a spokeswoman for mesothelioma awareness and a proponent of banning asbestos.

She also works with newly diagnosed mesothelioma patients as a mentor and advocate, helping them understand their treatment and legal options.

Heather offers valuable insights into her successful treatment approach with Dr. David Sugarbaker. She has a unique perspective on life after surviving a mesothelioma diagnosis and enjoys sharing her story. Click here to connect with Heather.

Types of Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is most commonly classified by the location in the body where it develops. Specifically, the cancer forms in the lining of certain organs or spaces within the body, known as the mesothelium. Mesothelioma typically develops in one of three specific areas.

Diagnosing Mesothelioma Symptoms

Mesothelioma symptoms can take 20 – 50 years to appear after the first exposure to asbestos. The signs of mesothelioma often look like those of other diseases, which can lead to misdiagnosis.

When someone exhibits mesothelioma symptoms, doctors perform a variety of tests to rule out other diseases. It normally takes weeks or months for doctors to arrive at an accurate mesothelioma diagnosis.

Doctors will use a number of different tests and techniques including blood tests, imaging and biopsies to diagnose the cancer and assign it a stage. The stage and other diagnostic details are used to determine your prognosis and to predict what your life expectancy may be.

Common Symptoms of Mesothelioma

  • Trouble breathing or chest pain.
  • Effusion (fluid buildup) in the lungs or abdomen.
  • Anemia (especially in women).
  • Nausea / vomiting.
  • Loss of weight.

Stages of Mesothelioma

Upon diagnosis, the doctor will categorize the disease into one of four stages. While there are several staging systems, the TNM System — which stands for tumor, lymph nodes, and metastasis — is the most commonly used.

Stage 1

The mesothelioma tumor is located in only one area and has not spread to other parts of the body.

Stage 2

A large tumor may have progressed to nearby areas and/or the lymph nodes, but has not gone on any further.

Stage 3

Tumors have typically spread beyond the local area to several nearby locations and the lymph nodes.

Stage 4

The tumors have spread into multiple areas and throughout the lymphatic system, invading other organs throughout the body.

Typically, Stage 1 and Stage 2 mesothelioma can be treated effectively with surgery and other forms of therapy. However, Stage 3 and Stage 4 mesothelioma are often treated palliatively.

Treating Mesothelioma

Treatment for mesothelioma is similar to other types of cancer. The most common treatments are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Newer treatments are being studied as part of clinical trials and may be available for some patients who do not respond to conventional therapies.

In some cases, treatment can improve a patient's prognosis, extending his/her life significantly. Treatment can also be used palliatively to reduce pain and discomfort caused by the symptoms of mesothelioma.

Top Mesothelioma Doctors in the Country
Raja M. Flores, M.D.

Raja M. Flores, M.D.

Chief, Thoracic Surgery Map Marker Mount Sinai Medical Center
Raphael Bueno, M.D.

Raphael Bueno, M.D.

Chief, Division of Thoracic Surgery; Co-Director, The Lung Center Map Marker Brigham and Women's Hospital

Mesothelioma Financial Assistance

The costs of treating mesothelioma are significant. If you were exposed to asbestos on the job, in your home, or elsewhere, you have the right to recover these expenses from those responsible for the exposure.

Financial assistance is available to help offset the high cost of mesothelioma treatment. The primary ways mesothelioma patients and their families can receive compensation are:

Support a Loved One

Those who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or other types of terminal cancer can find tremendous comfort in the support they get from family, friends and caregivers.

The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance is also part of the larger community dedicated to promoting mesothelioma research and preventing new cases through a worldwide asbestos ban.


Help Find a Cure

FREE Mesothelioma Awareness Wristbands and Treatment Guide.

Your Support is Needed:

  • Wear an Awareness Wristband
  • Learn About Treatment Options
  • Spread Hope!

We work with and donate to the following organizations whose missions complement our own: Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, National Foundation for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, American Society of Clinical Oncology and the Cancer Research Institute. The mesothelioma community gets together often at various events around the country.

Upcoming Mesothelioma Events

Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday is an annual event held on the first Tuesday following Thanksgiving in the U.S. Building off the excitement of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday encourages people to support their local and national charities throughout the holiday season. For more information, please visit the Giving Tuesday site via the link below.

National Council for Occupational Safety and Health Conference (COSH) 2018

National Council for Occupational Safety and Health Conference (COSH) 2018

Each year, the National Conference on Worker Safety and Health (COSH) brings together an inclusive and diverse group of people to address several common goals, including worker empowerment, reducing on-the-job injuries and deaths, and making workplaces safer. For more information, please visit the National COSH’s conference site via the link below.

  • When: 12/4/2018 - 12/6/2018
  • Where: Maritime Center - Baltimore, MD
  • More Info: Event Page

Author: Linda Molinari

Editor in Chief, Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

Linda Molinari

Reviewer: Annette Charlevois

Patient Support Coordinator

Annette Charlevois

JM Mazurek; G Syamlal; JM Wood; SA Hendricks, A Weston. U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Malignant Mesothelioma Mortality — United States, 1999–2015. March 3, 2017:66(8);214–218. DOI: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6608a3

National Cancer Institute – Malignant Mesothelioma (Source)

Wagner, J.C., Sleggs, C.A., and Marchand, Paul. “Diffuse Pleural Mesothelioma and Asbestos Exposure in the North Western Cape Province.” Department of Thoracic Surgery: University of The Witswatersrand. Johannesburg, South Africa. 1960.

Grondin, Sean C., Sugarbaker, David J. “Pleuropneumonectomy in the Treatment of Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma” Chest December 1999 116:suppl 3 450S-454S;

Rusch, Valerie W. “Indications for pneumoctomy. Extrapleural pneumonectomy”

Roggli VL, Sharma A, Butnor KJ, Sporn T, Vollmer RT (2002). "Malignant mesothelioma and occupational exposure to asbestos: a clinicopathological correlation of 1445 cases". Ultrastruct Pathol 26(2): 55–65.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital – International Mesothelioma Program (Source)

Mesothelioma Treatment Guide

Free Mesothelioma Treatment Guide

Please fill in the form below to request our FREE Mesothelioma Treatment Guide. It will be sent to you within 24 hours.

Have you or someone you know been diagnosed with mesothelioma?

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