Palliative Treatment for Pleural Mesothelioma

Quick Summary

Palliative care can allow pleural mesothelioma patients to enhance their health and well-being after diagnosis and live a full life for longer. Palliative treatment is not end-of-life care. The goals of palliative care are to alleviate pain and reduce symptoms through surgical and non-surgical treatments while the patient remains active.

Palliative Treatment for Pleural Mesothelioma Overview

If you have been diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, here is an overview of palliative treatment for improving your prognosis:

  • Allows patients to live a full life for a longer period of time
  • Treatments range from in-patient surgeries to simpler options
  • Procedures to reduce symptoms like chest pain and difficulty breathing
  • Aims to stop cancer from spreading further
  • Enhancing overall quality of life may extend patients’ lives

What Is Palliative Treatment for Pleural Mesothelioma?

Palliative treatment for pleural mesothelioma provides pain relief and eases difficult symptoms. Palliative treatment is not “curative” in nature. Instead, its primary goal is to allow patients to continue living their pre-diagnosis life for as long as possible.

Improving a patient’s general health can, in some cases, extend their life.

Palliative treatment is not end-of-life care. Patients who receive palliative treatment for pleural mesothelioma are still active and with treatment have the potential to perform most of their activities.

Palliative Treatment Update

Pleural mesothelioma patients opt for palliative treatment when they are no longer candidates for curative treatments (such as invasive surgeries with extensive recovery times). Pleural mesothelioma is often diagnosed when the disease is in advanced stages, so many patients begin with palliative treatment.

Goals of Palliative Treatment for Pleural Mesothelioma

There are several goals and potential benefits of palliative treatment for pleural mesothelioma. The chief goals are to relieve pain and alleviate burdensome symptoms. The overall mission is to raise your quality of life to a level that allows you to continue doing the things you love for a more extended time.

While there is currently no cure for pleural mesothelioma, palliative treatment that improves health and wellbeing has proven to extend some patients’ lives.

Relieving Chest and Other Pain

Pleural mesothelioma pain can be debilitating. Reducing pain in the chest, lower back, shoulders and elsewhere in the body is a focus of palliative treatment. Pain in pleural mesothelioma patients is often caused by tumors putting pressure on the chest wall.

Treatment options like chemotherapy, radiation and surgical procedures aim to shrink or remove tumors.

Pain can be managed with painkillers and other medications. While receiving palliative treatment for pain, some patients also opt for complementary treatment options. Breathing exercises, massages and physical therapy can help ease pain when used alongside a broader treatment.

Alleviating Difficult Symptoms

Pleural mesothelioma has other difficult signs and symptoms. A common symptom is shortness of breath, caused by a buildup of excess fluid in the pleural space (known as pleural effusion).

Treatments are available to drain pleural fluid so you can breathe easier again.

As tumors grow, they put pressure on your body internally. In addition to pain, tumor compression on the lungs can cause constant hoarseness, a recurring cough and other respiratory problems. Pressure on the esophagus may cause difficulty swallowing, leading to appetite and digestive issues.

Treatment to shrink tumors may benefit some patients.

What Treatments Are Right for Your Mesothelioma Diagnosis?

Mesothelioma is a complex disease requiring specialized treatments. The Mesothelioma Help Guide helps patients understand their diagnosis and get the best treatments to improve prognosis.

Request Your Free Mesothelioma Help Guide Now

Enhancing Quality of Life

By diminishing pain and other symptoms, pleural mesothelioma patients can resume a normal and productive life for longer than they would without palliative treatment. For patients with advanced mesothelioma, palliative care lets them live their remaining time in greater comfort.

Various therapy options help patients deal with their diagnosis and the psychological issues that arise after a diagnosis.

Palliative treatment is not only for physical care. A pleural mesothelioma diagnosis is a lot to cope with and can strain patients’ mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Anxiety, depression, uncertainty and irritability are not uncommon.

Palliative Treatment Options for Pleural Mesothelioma

There is a wide range of options for palliative treatment for pleural mesothelioma. Depending on your disease stage, overall health and other factors, some options may be better for you than others.

Procedures to Drain Fluid Build-up

Many mesothelioma patients experience pleural effusion. This happens when excessive fluid collects in the pleural space (the area between the lung and chest wall) and causes chest pain and other symptoms.

Options for removing the excess fluid and stopping fluid build-ups from recurring include:

  • Pleurodesis: A procedure that seals the pleural space by connecting the lung to the chest wall. A drug is delivered through a chest tube to the pleural space, making the chest wall and lung exterior sticky and facilitating the connection. The goal of pleurodesis is to stop further fluid build-ups and the resulting discomfort. Pleurodesis is successful in 70% of cases.
  • Thoracentesis: Sometimes called pleurocentesis, this procedure involves removing excess fluid through a hollow needle. The chest wall is numbed before the needle is guided into the pleural space. Thoracentesis is less invasive than pleurodesis but does not provide a permanent solution. The procedure is effective in 90% of patients.
  • Catheters and Shunts: A small tube is inserted into the pleural space to drain or divert excess fluid. Catheters remove fluid from the body and shunts move fluid from the pleural space to the peritoneum in the abdominal cavity. Patients often use these devices when they are not eligible for other procedures. They are effective in most cases.


A moderate palliative chemotherapy regimen has shown to decrease pain and troublesome symptoms in pleural mesothelioma patients. The drugs are administered into the bloodstream through an IV over the course of multiple treatment sessions.

Chemotherapy treatment usually has side effects that vary in severity, such as exhaustion, nausea and weight loss. Depending on each patient’s factors, side effects may subside soon after treatment while for others they could last for several weeks. Patients should discuss these side effects with their doctor when choosing a palliative treatment plan.


Radiation allows doctors to apply treatment with precision accuracy to tumors, causing them to shrink. This process alleviates chest pain and other symptoms by reducing pressure on the lungs.

Radiation is administered in varying doses depending on each patient’s specific case. Side effects are fewer and less severe than with chemotherapy. Patients may experience short-term fatigue and nausea following treatment. Radiation might also cause skin irritation around the treatment area.

Over 66% of patients who opt for palliative radiation treatment feel chest pain relief after having radiation.

Find the Right Specialist for Your Diagnosis

Pleural mesothelioma doctors across the country are accepting new mesothelioma patients now. Our Doctor Match Program connects you with a nearby specialist.

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Pain Management

Your doctor may recommend vitamins or over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen for pain relief. For worsening pain in the chest, lower back or elsewhere, doctors prescribe stronger painkillers.

Mesothelioma specialists may also prescribe medications for nerve pain, fatigue, constipation and mental health symptoms.

Complementary and natural treatments have proven to ease mesothelioma symptoms in some patients. Therapies like acupuncture and yoga can increase energy, strengthen muscles and improve overall well-being.

Palliative Therapy Update

While it is difficult to hear doctors say “get more exercise” when you’re exhausted, physical activity or physiotherapy can subdue symptoms.


Some patients with advanced-stage pleural mesothelioma may be eligible for major surgeries like extrapleural pneumonectomy and pleurectomy with decortication. These procedures ease difficult symptoms and enhance overall quality of life. However, patients must be healthy enough to withstand the demanding surgery and lengthy recovery period.

Clinical Trials

Physicians around the world are operating pleural mesothelioma clinical trials. In the United States, many are currently accepting new patients. Some of these trials are testing new drugs and procedures that could result in symptom relief and other palliative benefits.

Ask your pleural mesothelioma specialist for a list of clinical trials in your area.

Seeking Palliative Treatment for Pleural Mesothelioma

Pleural mesothelioma patients who are not eligible for curative treatment can enhance their overall quality of life with palliative treatment. A variety of treatment options are available to alleviate troublesome symptoms like chest pain and difficulty breathing.

To learn more about the benefits of palliative treatment for pleural mesothelioma and to connect with a treatment specialist, contact a Patient Advocate today. Call us at (800) 584-4151 or request a FREE Mesothelioma Help Guide to understand your full range of treatment options.

View Author and Sources

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  2., “Search of: Mesothelioma | Recruiting; Not yet recruiting.” Retrieved from: Accessed on May 30, 2018.
  3. Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Oncology, “High‐dose palliative radiotherapy for malignant pleural mesothelioma.” Retrieved from: Accessed on May 30, 2018.
  4. Medscape, “Mesothelioma.” Retrieved from: Accessed on May 30, 2018.
  5. Oxford University Hospitals, “Pleurodesis.” Retrieved from: Accessed on May 30, 2018.

Last modified: October 24, 2018