Malignant Mesothelioma

​Malignant mesothelioma is a type of cancer. It grows in the thin layers of tissue that line your chest cavity and cover the lungs.

Causes of mesothelioma include:

  • Repeated exposure to asbestos fibers
  • Living with a person who works near exposed asbestos fibers
  • Exposure to other industrial fibers
  • Exposure to ionizing radiation

Symptoms of Malignant Mesothelioma

This cancer can take up to 20-40 years to develop. Early signs include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Long-lasting cough
  • Pain under the rib cage or in the abdomen
  • Pain while breathing
  • Weight loss and fatigue

To diagnose your condition, we'll need to perform tests like:

  • Chest X-ray
  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
  • Blood tests
  • Biopsy: fine-needle aspiration biopsy; thoracoscopy; thoracotomy; laparotomy; open biopsy


We usually treat mesothelioma with:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation
  • Surgery

Avoiding Asbestos

The only known way to prevent this cancer is to avoid asbestos or other fibers. Asbestos shows up in old building insulation, roofing materials and tiles. People at risk of asbestos exposure at work include:

  • Miners
  • Factory workers
  • Insulation workers
  • Railroad workers
  • Ship builders
  • Makers of gas masks
  • Construction workers

Family members of workers can also get this cancer. Workers can bring asbestos fibers home. This type of exposure is just as dangerous.

To avoid exposure to asbestos:

  • Use proper safety equipment and precautions at work
  • Follow safety measures to avoid bringing asbestos dust home on your clothing
  • Make sure experts check areas of exposed asbestos
  • Seal off or remove exposed areas
  • Don't remove asbestos without proper training


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.