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Pleural Mesothelioma

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 1, 2023.


Pleural mesothelioma

is a rare type of cancer that develops in a protective covering for your lungs called the pleura. The pleura is piece of tissue with 2 layers. One layer lines your chest cavity and the other covers your lungs.

The Lungs

Signs and symptoms of pleural mesothelioma

develop slowly, over a long period of time:

  • Shortness of breath
  • A cough that continues
  • Pain in your chest, under your rib cage
  • Weight loss without trying, or loss of appetite
  • Fever or sweating

Seek care immediately if:

  • You have severe pain and it is not time to take your pain medicine yet.
  • You have chest pain when you take a deep breath or cough.
  • You cough up blood.
  • You cannot think clearly.
  • Your lips or nails look blue or pale.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have moderate pain and it is not time to take your pain medicine yet.
  • You have pain even after you take your pain medicine.
  • You have a new pain or the pain seems different than before.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


may include any of the following:

  • Surgery may be used to remove the mesothelioma cells. Part of the pleura may also be removed. A whole lung may be removed, along with part of the lining of the chest.
  • Radiation is used to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. You may also need radiation after surgery to prevent the cancer from coming back.
  • Chemotherapy uses drugs to stop cancer cells from growing. You may also need chemotherapy before surgery to make the tumor smaller. You may need it after surgery to prevent the cancer from coming back.
  • Targeted therapy is used to kill only cancer cells but leave healthy tissue. Medicines may bind to the mesothelioma cells and kill them or prevent them from dividing. Some medicines may be used to destroy blood vessels that are connected to the tumor. This prevents the tumor from getting oxygen and nutrients it needs to grow.

Manage or prevent pleural mesothelioma:

  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can irritate your lungs and make breathing more difficult. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
  • Ask about vaccines you may need. Pleural mesothelioma increases your risk for pneumonia and influenza (the flu). Vaccines are available to help protect you. The flu vaccine is offered every year starting in early fall. Get the vaccine as soon as it is available. The pneumonia vaccine is usually given every 5 years. Ask your provider about any other vaccines you may need.
  • Test your home for asbestos. You can decrease your exposure to asbestos by having your home tested and treated, if needed. Ask your healthcare provider how to get your home tested. If asbestos is found in your home, do not try to remove it yourself. Have a professional remove it.
  • Limit your exposure to harmful chemicals in the workplace. Asbestos and other harmful chemicals can be found in mines, mills, textile plants, and shipyards. Follow procedures and policies to protect yourself at work. Use protective equipment such as masks to decrease your risk of inhaling harmful chemicals.

Manage your symptoms:

  • Sit near a running fan when you have shortness of breath. This can help relieve the feeling that you are not getting enough air.
  • Keep your head elevated. You may be able to breathe better if you lie down with the head of your bed up.
  • Use exercises to clear your airway clearance as directed. The exercises help remove mucus so you can breathe more easily. Your healthcare provider will show you how to do the exercises.
  • Drink liquids as directed. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. Liquids help thin your mucus, which may make it easier for you to cough it up.
  • Use a cool mist humidifier. A humidifier will help increase air moisture in your home. This may make it easier for you to breathe and help decrease your cough.
  • Ask about ways to help relieve pain. Your provider may recommend medicines to prevent or relieve pain. He or she may also recommend ways to control pain without medicine. Examples include a heat or ice pack, or listening to music. Ask for more information on ways to control your pain.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.