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Clinical Specialties - Cancer

Mesothelioma

Lung Cancer MDT

In the body there are spaces, called cavities or sacs, that hold different internal organs. For example, the lungs sit in the pleural cavity, the stomach in the peritoneal cavity and the heart in the pericardium sac. All of these cavities are lined with a membrane called the mesothelium. This thin lining produces fluids that lubricate the space between the organ and the cavity wall, which allows for movement during processes like breathing, when the lungs fill up with air. Mesothelioma is a cancer that affects these linings.

The mesothelioma experts at Sydney Adventist Hospital use several methods to confirm your diagnosis and determine the stage of your disease. They have experience with early-stage as well as complex cancer; have access to advanced diagnostic tools and a wide range of treatments, including clinical trials. At the same time, our supportive clinicians help you manage side effects to support your quality of life. Explore this section to learn more about mesothelioma, its side effects and your treatment options.

About Mesothelioma

Every mesothelioma patient is different. The cancer experts at Sydney Adventist Hospital have extensive experience in properly staging and diagnosing the disease, and developing a treatment plan that's tailored to your specific type of mesothelioma.

The various types of mesothelioma are often named after the cavity they develop in.

  • Pleural mesothelioma develops in the outer lining of the lungs and internal chest wall
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma develops in the lining of the abdominal cavity
  • Pericardial mesothelioma develops in the space surrounding the heart
  • Testicular mesothelioma develops in the lining that surrounds the testicles.

The most common mesothelioma type is pleural mesothelioma, which accounts for approximately three out of every four cases. Both pericardial mesothelioma and testicular mesothelioma are extremely rare forms of the disease.

According to the Cancer Council, Australia has one of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world, with 732 Australians diagnosed in 2014. Of these, more than 93% had pleural mesothelioma, about 6% had peritoneal mesothelioma, and about 1% had a rarer type.

Men are over three times more likely than women to be diagnosed with mesothelioma, probably because many cases have been caused by exposure to asbestos at work. Mesothelioma is more common in people over the age of 65, but can occur in younger people.

What are the symptoms of mesothelioma ?

Signs and symptoms of mesothelioma vary depending on where the cancer occurs.

Pleural mesothelioma, which affects the tissue that surrounds the lungs, causes signs and symptoms that may include:

  • Chest pain under the rib cage
  • Painful coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unusual lumps of tissue under the skin on your chest
  • Unexplained weight loss


Peritoneal mesothelioma, which occurs in tissue in the abdomen, causes signs and symptoms that may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Lumps of tissue in the abdomen
  • Unexplained weight loss


Other forms of mesothelioma

  • Signs and symptoms of other types of mesothelioma are unclear, since these forms of the disease are very rare.
  • Pericardial mesothelioma, which affects tissue that surrounds the heart, can cause signs and symptoms such as breathing difficulty and chest pains.
  • Mesothelioma of tunica vaginalis, which affects tissue surrounding the testicles, may be first detected as swelling or a mass on a testicle.

It is important to remember that these symptoms may be attributed to a number of conditions other than cancer. If you are concerned, consult with your general practitioner (GP).

How is mesothelioma diagnosed?

If you have signs and symptoms that might indicate mesothelioma, your doctor will conduct a physical exam to check for any lumps or other unusual signs.

Your doctor may order imaging scans, such as a chest X-ray and a computerised tomography (CT) scan of your chest or abdomen, to look for abnormalities.

Based on the findings, you may undergo further testing to determine whether mesothelioma or another disease is causing your signs and symptoms.

What are my treatment options for mesothelioma?

A thorough and accurate cancer diagnosis is the first step in developing a mesothelioma treatment plan. Your multidisciplinary team of mesothelioma experts will use advanced diagnostic tests and tools to evaluate the disease, and plan your tailored treatment. Throughout your treatment, we'll use imaging and laboratory tests to track the size of the tumours, monitor your response to treatment, and modify your plan when needed.

Some of the tests may include:

  • Biopsy
  • MRI scan
  • CT scan
  • PET scan

If you have mesothelioma, discuss your treatment plan with your doctor and ask about what resources are available to you during and after treatment, such as rehabilitation and other support services.

Resources and useful mesothelioma links
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