Mesothelioma

Jump menu

Overview

According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, it is estimated that about 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year in the United States. Mesothelioma occurs more often in men. The average age for a pleural mesothelioma diagnosis is 69.
At City of Hope, some of the world’s top experts on mesothelioma join forces across disciplines to take an aggressive approach to fighting the disease. Inspired by a commitment to compassion, the mesothelioma team sees you not just as a patient, but as a whole person.
 
This philosophy drives us to customize therapy based on your needs as an individual. Our approach to comprehensive care means you have a team of talented practitioners working with you at every step of your treatment. It means you have access to leading-edge techniques for surgery, radiation therapy and clinical trials. And it means strong support for you and your family through it all.

Request an appointment

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you can make an appointment or seek a second opinion by  requesting an appointment online or contacting us at 800-826-4673. Please visit Making Your First Appointment for more information.

City of Hope, located in Southern California, is home to world experts on the treatment of mesothelioma. These professionals collaborate freely and work urgently to ensure that you get the very best caliber of care. We are a leader in precision medicine, evaluating the specific characteristics of the disease to pinpoint the best options for therapy.

Our focus on translating science into patient impact includes clinical trials that are designed to find new and more effective drug combinations targeted to mesothelioma cells.

Here are some highlights of our program:

  • Multidisciplinary care that includes input from leading cancer experts at all stages of your treatment
  • For pleural mesothelioma, lung experts who regularly treat aggressive and late-stage cancer, including complicated cases other institutions may have deemed untreatable
  • Minimally invasive techniques, including laparoscopic and robotic surgery, that harm the body less and speed up recovery
  • Compassionate care from staff who communicate openly and truly listen to patient and family concerns
  • Exceptional family and survivorship programs

When we treat cancer at City of Hope, we are not just focused on high-quality care and innovation — we are working to make you whole again.

Internationally recognized

City of Hope is internationally recognized for its research and breakthrough treatments, has been named one of America’s top cancer hospitals by U.S. News & World Report for more than a decade running and is a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center.

NEWS & BREAKTHROUGHS

What is mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer — only around 3,000 new cases are diagnosed each year in the United States according to the American Cancer Society. It is a disease that affects the cells that line certain organs, called mesothelial cells. Mesothelioma affects four regions of the body:

  • Pleural mesothelioma affects the cells that line the lungs.
  • Peritoneal mesotheliomas affect the cells lining organs in the abdominal region.
  • Pericardial mesotheliomas are rare and found in mesothelial cells around the heart.
  • Mesotheliomas of the tunica vaginalis are extremely rare and affect cells lining the testicles.

Mesotheliomas are grouped according to the way the cells look under a microscope. Most mesotheliomas are epitheliod — the rest are either sarcomatoid or a combination of the two (mixed or biphasic type). Mesothelial tumors most often affect the chest and abdominal regions.

What increases your risk of mesothelioma?

  • Asbestos exposure is the most common risk factor for mesothelioma. Tiny fibers of asbestos can be breathed in and become lodged in lung tissue. Until a few decades ago, asbestos was a common ingredient in things like building materials, steam pipes, vehicle brake shoes and plastics. Using asbestos in new materials was banned decades ago, but it still is present in the environment.

    Being exposed to asbestos is the leading cause of pleural mesothelioma and may also lead to peritoneal mesothelioma. Many people may have been exposed and do not even know about it. Sources can include home remodels or the use of talcum powder in the years before inspection standards improved.
  • Radiation exposure directed at the chest or abdomen, most often as a result of previous cancer treatment, increases risk of mesothelioma.
  • S40 (simian virus 40) exposure may be associated with developing mesothelioma. Some polio virus vaccines administered in the 1950s and '60s were contaminated with S40.
  • Older age makes you more likely to get cancer. Close to two-thirds of people diagnosed with mesothelioma are 65 or older, although in rare cases children may develop this disease.
  • Gender is a risk factor; men are more often diagnosed with mesothelioma.

What are the signs and symptoms of Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma symptoms vary based on the region affected. Pleural mesothelioma symptoms include:

  • a cough that does not go away
  • shortness of breath
  • pain in the chest or low back
  • sweating excessively
  • trouble swallowing
  • fatigue
  • fever
  • weight loss that you cannot explain
  • a hoarse voice
  • face and arm swelling

Peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms include:

  • swelling in the abdomen
  • pain the abdomen
  • constipation
  • weight loss that you cannot explain
  • nausea and vomiting

Symptoms of mesothelioma tend to mirror other illnesses and, as a result, may be confused for other more benign conditions for months or longer before diagnosis. If you are treated for those conditions, or if your symptoms last for several weeks despite medical treatment, you may need further consultation to rule out mesothelioma.

 

Our team of specialists combines deep expertise and advanced technology to provide you with the most accurate diagnosis — leading to the most effective treatment.

Testing for mesothelioma

One or a combination of tests may be used to diagnose mesothelioma and depend on the area of the body affected:

  • Blood chemistry studies may be ordered to check whether certain substances in the bloodstream are either too low or too high.
  • Needle biopsy uses a thin, hollow needle to pick up cells in areas affected by mesothelioma, including the lung, abdomen and heart. A pathologist looks at the sample under a microscope to check for cancer.
  • Endoscopic biopsy involves removing tissue or cells to be viewed later under a microscope by a pathologist, and usually is done during an endoscopy.       
  • Endobronchial ultrasound uses a narrow, flexible camera that is guided into the airway. This allows the surgeon to see lymph nodes through the windpipe and take a sample with a needle.
  • Echocardiogram is a test that uses sound waves to gauge the health and functioning of the heart.

Imaging tests are often used to gauge the extent of disease and whether it has spread to distant organs.

  • Low-dose spiral CT (computed tomography) scanning uses low dose X-rays to scan the body in a spiral path. The images that come out of this scan appear as “slices” of the body from different points of view.
  • Chest X-rays look for any masses or spots on the lungs.
  • PET (positron emission tomography) imaging uses a radioactive tracer to locate cancer cells and measure their activity.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) uses magnets and radio waves to create a series of pictures of the sites where mesothelioma tends to grow.

Other tests, such as a pulmonary exam, may be performed to determine how well the lungs are functioning prior to surgery.
 

Treatments and clinical trials available for mesothelioma

At the heart of your treatment at City of Hope is your individuality. We understand that you — and your specific type of mesothelioma — are unique, and we act on that knowledge to identify the right therapy for you.

Surgical specialists

At City of Hope, deeply experienced thoracic specialists perform advanced procedures not available at other centers — and are among the best when it comes to high quality, minimally invasive thoracic surgery for conditions such as pleural mesothelioma.

Surgery on the lung is delicate, and preserving as much tissue as possible requires both experience and skill. Our surgical team includes highly trained leaders in lung surgery who regularly take on more complex cases — including some deemed untreatable at other facilities. At the same time, we attack mesothelioma as aggressively as feasible, attempting to remove all tumors.

Advanced radiation therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may be used alone or with chemotherapy to treat mesothelioma. City of Hope uses leading-edge radiation therapy  techniques:

  • Helical TomoTherapy directs radiation at a tumor from many different directions. It uses the highest radiation dose possible to kill cancer cells while sparing normal tissue nearby.
  • Four-dimensional computed tomography scanning takes into account breathing during radiation treatment. Four-dimensional CT scanning more accurately targets cancer cells and reduces side effects.
  • Intensity modulated radiation therapy and image-guided radiation therapy direct radiation directly at a tumor while protecting normal tissue around it.
  • Stereotactic body radiation is a new technology that delivers a very high dose of focused and precise radiation treatment while taking into account breathing motion. It often is done alongside image-guided radiation therapy.

Clinical trials

City of Hope consistently stands among the leaders in clinical trials for mesothelioma. We participate in trials of advanced immunotherapy and other targeted treatments, yielding rapid access to promising investigational strategies.

We also push our homegrown research into the clinic as quickly and efficiently. Treating you as an individual starts with assembling an experienced care team led by world leaders in the biology of cancer. At City of Hope, breakthroughs from our internationally renowned research team often are available to our patients before they are offered anywhere else.

Care of the highest caliber

At City of Hope our surgeons, oncologists, radiologists, supportive care and pain management specialists — and other team members — are in frequent communication about the best path for your treatment so that you receive care of the highest caliber. And your care continues long after treatment is completed — we are committed to helping you and your loved ones manage your recovery.

City of Hope’s renowned physicians and researchers use the latest in technology and innovation to treat mesothelioma, coupled with an enduring belief in providing unparalleled compassionate care.

Diagnostic Radiology

Arnold J. Rotter, M.D.

Clinical Specialties

  • Diagnostic Radiology

Medical Oncology

Mihaela C. Cristea, M.D.

Clinical Specialties

  • Medical Oncology
Marianna Koczywas, M.D.

Clinical Specialties

  • Medical Oncology
Erminia Massarelli, M.D., Ph.D., M.S.

Clinical Specialties

  • Medical Oncology
  • Head and Neck Cancers
  • Lung Cancers
Karen Reckamp, M.D., M.S.

Clinical Specialties

  • Medical Oncology
Ravi Salgia, M.D., Ph.D.

Clinical Specialties

  • Medical Oncology

Radiation Oncology

Arya Amini, M.D.

Clinical Specialties

  • Radiation Oncology
Sagus Sampath, M.D.

Clinical Specialties

  • Radiation Oncology

Thoracic Surgery

Jae Y. Kim, M.D.

Clinical Specialties

  • Thoracic Surgery
Dan J. Raz, M.D., M.A.S.

Clinical Specialties

  • Thoracic Surgery

Living with mesothelioma

Being diagnosed with mesothelioma can be frightening. Getting through it and figuring out how to live a long life takes layers of support.

When you come to City of Hope, you get access to a strong support network, including staff to help you and your family at every step in your journey. That includes everything from talk therapy to meditation to being connected with a patient navigator. Supportive care is not just about improving your mood and quality of life — it has been shown in studies to extend life.

We can help with concerns including:

  • Managing side effects
  • Pain management
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation to improve breathing
  • Navigating the health care system
  • Your emotional, social and spiritual health
  • Handling and coping with stress
  • Staying healthy and active
  • Healthy cooking and eating
  • Healing arts
  • Caregiver skills
  • Restoring normalcy in your family, job or school routine

Learn more about these resources at our Living with Cancer or Supportive Care Medicine sites.
 

Support the mesothelioma program

We deliver exquisite care at the leading edge of cancer treatment. It takes the help of a lot of caring people to make hope a reality for our patients. City of Hope started with the philanthropic efforts of caring individuals more than 100 years ago. Their generosity — and those of our supporters today — built the foundation for the care we provide and the research we conduct.
 
For more information on supporting the mesothelioma program, please call Donor Relations at 800-667-5310.