Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, heart, or abdomen. Caused primarily by the inhalation of asbestos fibers, mesothelioma is most commonly diagnosed in older individuals who worked with asbestos in an industrial setting. Prognosis for mesothelioma is poor, but early detection and newer treatment methods have given many patients hope for survival.

To learn more about this deadly disease, browse our site below. If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you have treatment options and legal rights.

Free 2018 Mesothelioma Guide

Quick Facts

Exposure to asbestos
  • About 3,000 new diagnoses each year
  • Symptoms appear 10 – 50 years after exposure
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fluid buildup in lungs
  • Average life expectancy is 6 – 12 months
  • 33% of patients live longer than a year

Risk Factors

Shipyard workers, electricians, plumbers, construction workers, pipefitters, boilermakers, mechanics, and other industrial jobs.
Most people are diagnosed between 50 and 70 years old
Military Service
About one-third of mesothelioma patients are veterans
Asbestos Exposure
Type of asbestos and amount of exposure affect the chances of developing mesothelioma

Types of Mesothelioma

There are three main types of mesothelioma, named for the areas of the body where they originate: pleural (lungs), peritoneal (abdomen), and pericardial (heart). Learn more.

Pleural Diagram
Pleural Mesothelioma


  • The most common type
  • Forms in the lining of the lungs
  • About 2,500 new cases per year
Read More
Peritoneal Diagram
Peritoneal Mesothelioma


  • Relatively rare type
  • Affects the abdominal lining
  • About 500 new cases per year
Read More
Pericardial Diagram
Pericardial Mesothelioma


  • The least common type
  • Develops in the lining of the heart
  • Less than 50 new cases per year
Read More

Diagnosing and Living With Mesothelioma

One of the first things people want to know is: How does mesothelioma affect me? The prognosis for mesothelioma is poor; however, early diagnosis and emerging treatments can help patients survive longer than ever.



Prognosis refers to how doctors expect the cancer to progress in mesothelioma patients. It is determined by a number of different factors based on the disease characteristics and the patient’s medical history. The prognosis for mesothelioma is almost always poor, as it is so often diagnosed at a late stage.

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Once someone starts experiencing mesothelioma symptoms, a doctor will order tests to learn more. Diagnosis usually starts with taking images (X-ray, MRI, etc.) and may include blood tests. However, the only 100% accurate way to determine if mesothelioma is present is to do a biopsy.

Diagnosis helps doctors ascertain how the disease is likely to progress and decide what types of treatment will be most effective.

Learn More About Mesothelioma Diagnosis


The long-term survival of mesothelioma patients is rare. However, new detection methods and emerging treatments are giving people better chances of surviving longer after diagnosis.

Everyone defines survivorship differently. The most important thing for all survivors is making sure they know what it means for themselves. This means accessing resources to help you survive through — and beyond — this terrible disease.

Read Mesothelioma Survivor Stories

Survival Factors

Patient Factors
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Overall health
  • Asbestos exposure history

Causes of Mesothelioma

The only known cause of mesothelioma is asbestos. Asbestos is found in many buildings, products, and construction materials.

High-Risk Occupations for Asbestos Exposure
Learn How Asbestos Causes Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma Treatment

Available treatment options depend on the type of mesothelioma a person has, as well as their age, the stage of the disease, and overall health.

Doctors and Treatment Centers

Doctors and Treatment Centers

Mesothelioma patients will often need to speak with many different specialists, from oncologists (doctors who specialize in cancer treatment and diagnosis) to thoracic surgeons and others. Many of these doctors practice and conduct research at cancer clinics, some of which are centers that treat a variety of cancers, while others focus specifically on mesothelioma. These clinics also conduct trials to find new ways to diagnose, treat, and care for patients who have mesothelioma.

Browse our Database of Mesothelioma Specialists
Conventional Treatments

Conventional Treatments

In most cases, by the time mesothelioma is caught, it has spread to other parts of the body from where it originated, making it hard to remove all the cancerous tissue by surgery. For that reason, standard mesothelioma treatment uses a multimodal approach, combining surgery, chemotherapy, and possibly radiation. Each of these methods has its benefits and drawbacks, but together they can treat the disease with some effectiveness.

In cases where there is little hope for a complete cure, conventional treatments may also be used to help relieve symptoms.

Understand Your Treatment Options
Emerging Treatments

Emerging Treatments

Emerging therapies offer a hope for many patients, especially when conventional treatments may not be possible or effective. These newer treatments are often still undergoing trials, but in some cases, such as immunotherapy and gene therapy, the treatments are advanced enough to have shown promise as effective ways to combat mesothelioma.

Talk With Someone About New Treatment Options

Financial Support

The cost of mesothelioma treatment can be extremely high. Plus, patients may need to travel to cancer centers, make up for lost income, and still pay everyday bills. Fortunately, there are are a number of financial assistance options available to mesothelioma patients.

$30 Billion has been set aside in asbestos trust funds for mesothelioma victims.
Are You Eligible For Financial Help?
Learn more about mesothelioma lawsuits
Financial Quick Facts
  • Medical Insurance will often pay a significant portion of necessary medical costs.
  • Medicare / Medicaid can help those who are older or who have limited financial means.
  • Clinical Trials are often funded through grants and other means.
  • Veterans’ Benefits are available to individuals exposed while serving their country.
  • Worker’s Compensation may pay for care if you were exposed to asbestos on the job.
  • Legal Claims allow you to seek compensation through legal means.
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Medically Reviewed By A/Prof. Tom John A/Prof. Tom John

Dr. Tom John is a medical oncologist, associate professor, and senior clinical research fellow at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia.