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This page was reviewed under our medical and editorial policy by Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science

This page was updated on July 20, 2022.

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that develops in the lining of the body’s internal organs, called the mesothelium. Up to 80 percent of mesotheliomas begin in the lining of the lungs and are called pleural mesothelioma. Other forms of the disease are found in tissues surrounding the abdomen, in the lining of the heart and in the lining of the testicles.

According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, around 3,000 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year.

No mesothelioma patient is the same. Get personalized treatment.

Treating mesothelioma tumors is historically difficult, although combinations of certain therapies have shown promise. At City of Hope, we offer a variety of treatment options to fight the disease, as well as a wide range of supportive care therapies to help you manage your side effects.

This overview will cover the basic facts about mesothelioma, including:

If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of mesothelioma and want to schedule an appointment for diagnostic testing, or if you’re interested in a second opinion on your mesothelioma diagnosis and treatment plan, call us or chat online with a member of our team.

What causes mesothelioma?

Who gets mesothelioma?

Men develop mesothelioma more often than women do, and the risk for the disease increases with age. The most critical risk factor is exposure to asbestos.

Today, the risk of exposure for workers in the manufacturing industry is much less because asbestos, by and large, is no longer used in the United States. Although the use of asbestos has decreased dramatically since the late 1980s, asbestos may still be found in older buildings and products.

Todd Hardy

Todd H.

Lung Cancer

"When I first heard the diagnosis, I was scared. There is no way to avoid the worst thoughts and fears when you hear this news. But with the help of my wife and the support of City of Hope, I was able to think things through, steady myself for the road ahead, and keep going."


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Mesothelioma types

The types of mesothelioma are named for the cavities in which mesothelioma cancer cells develop. The types are:

  • Pleural mesothelioma, the most common type, which forms in the outer linings of the pleura (lungs) and internal chest wall
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma, which forms in the lining of the abdominal cavity (peritoneum)
  • Pericardial mesothelioma, which forms in the space surrounding the heart (pericardium)
  • Testicular mesothelioma, which forms in the lining that surrounds the testicles

Mesothelioma tumors can contain epithelioid cells or sarcomatoid cells, or they can be biphasic (containing both epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells). The sarcomatoid mesothelioma cell type is the most resistant to treatment.

Learn more about the types of mesothelioma

Mesothelioma symptoms

Diagnosing mesothelioma

Evaluations performed for a mesothelioma diagnosis may include:

Learn more about diagnostic procedures for mesothelioma

Mesothelioma treatment options

City of Hope approach to helping you maintain your quality of life

At City of Hope, our cancer experts target mesothelioma with a variety of therapies, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy and targeted therapy. They also stay up to date on new and emerging treatments and technologies, allowing us to help you make informed decisions about the options available to treat not just the disease but the side effects that may result. Having a team of mesothelioma experts collaborating daily, all under one roof, allows us to assemble a detailed treatment plan more quickly and efficiently.

Mesothelioma patients may experience side effects, either from the disease or its treatments. These may include fatigue, skin reactions, nausea and neuropathy. Our supportive care clinicians help you manage these challenges, so you’re better able to stay on your treatment regimen without interruption and get back to your life.

If your cancer has spread or comes back after treatment is complete, a disease called recurrent cancer, your treatment goals may include supportive care therapies designed to reduce pain and other symptoms from the cancer.