Putting our region's cancer needs first


There are 2,718 new cases of mesothelioma each year, which translates to more than 7 cases a day. Mesothelioma accounts for less than 1% of all new cancer cases among the UK.


There are 2 main types of mesothelioma. These are mesothelioma in the:

  • covering of the lung (pleural mesothelioma)
  • lining of the tummy (peritoneal mesothelioma)

​Pleural mesothelioma starts in the sheets of tissue that cover the lungs. These are called the pleura. Peritoneal mesothelioma grows in the tissue lining the inside of the tummy (abdomen). This is called the peritoneum.

Pleural mesothelioma is much more common than peritoneal mesothelioma.

Rarely, you can also get mesothelioma in other places such as the lining of the heart (pericardium).


The symptoms of mesothelioma tend to develop gradually over time. They typically do not appear until several decades after exposure to asbestos.

Symptoms of mesothelioma in the lining of the lungs include:

  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • fatigue (extreme tiredness)
  • a high temperature and sweating, particularly at night
  • a persistent cough
  • loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss
  • clubbed (swollen) fingertips

Symptoms of mesothelioma in the lining of the tummy include:

  • tummy pain or swelling
  • feeling or being sick
  • loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss
  • diarrhoea or constipation


Mesothelioma, a rare but aggressive cancer primarily affecting the lining of the lungs, has a well-established connection to asbestos exposure. In the UK, asbestos is recognized as the leading cause of mesothelioma. However, several other risk factors can also contribute to the development of this disease, underscoring the importance of comprehensive awareness and preventive measures.

Asbestos, a group of naturally occurring fibrous minerals, has been extensively used in construction, insulation, and various industries due to its durability and resistance to heat. Inhalation of asbestos fibres can lead to their accumulation in the lungs, causing inflammation and scarring over time. This prolonged exposure is the primary driver of mesothelioma, often manifesting decades after the initial contact.


If your GP suspects mesothelioma, they will refer you to a hospital specialist for further tests. These may include:

  • Chest or Abdominal X-ray: To check for abnormalities.
  • CT Scan: Multiple X-ray images create a detailed picture of the inside of the body.
  • Fluid Drainage: A needle is used to remove a fluid sample from around the lungs or abdomen for analysis.
  • Thoracoscopy or Laparoscopy: A small camera examines the inside of the chest or abdomen through a minor incision under sedation or anaesthesia; a tissue sample (biopsy) may also be taken for analysis.

These tests can help diagnose mesothelioma and determine how far it has spread.


The best treatment for mesothelioma depends on several factors, including how far the cancer has spread and your general health.

As mesothelioma is often diagnosed at an advanced stage, treatment is usually focused on controlling the symptoms and prolonging life for as long as possible.

Possible treatments include:

  • chemotherapy – this is the main treatment for mesothelioma and involves using medicine to help shrink the cancer
  • radiotherapy – this involves using high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells; it may be used to slow the cancer down and keep it under control
  • surgery – an operation to remove the cancerous area can be done if mesothelioma is detected at a very early stage, although it is not clear whether surgery is helpful
  • immunotherapy – this involves using a combination of 2 medicines to help stimulate the immune system to attack cancer cells; immunotherapy cannot cure mesothelioma, but it can slow the spread of the disease and prolong lifespan

You will also probably have treatment for your individual symptoms to help you feel as comfortable as possible.

If you have any concerns about the signs and symptoms of breast mesothelioma, please visit your GP.

Support Life-Saving Research

Donate Now