Written By: Camryn Keeble

Mesothelioma Palliative Care

Palliative care for mesothelioma focuses on improving a patient’s quality of life and providing comprehensive care to address their physical, emotional and psychological needs.

Karen Ritter, RN BSN

Medically Reviewed By

Karen Ritter, RN BSN

Registered Nurse

Karen Ritter, RN BSN

Medically Reviewed By

Karen Ritter, RN BSN

Registered Nurse


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Important Facts About Mesothelioma Pain Management

  • Palliative care for mesothelioma helps manage pain and symptoms, such as fluid buildup and chest pain.
  • Options for palliative care include surgery, chemotherapy, pain management, emotional and psychological support.
  • Palliative care also includes relaxation exercises, nutritional support and spiritual counseling.

Overview of Palliative Care for Mesothelioma

Palliative care is provided alongside life-prolonging treatments and can be initiated at any stage of the disease. It aims to improve the overall well-being of mesothelioma patients and their families by addressing their unique needs and promoting comfort and dignity. 

For mesothelioma, the primary methods of improving quality of life are by reducing pain, managing symptoms and easing the mental and physical stress associated with a cancer diagnosis.

Increased quality of life is accomplished through:

  • Draining fluid from the mesothelium (pleura, peritoneum and pericardium), which allows organs to function properly
  • Improving patient comfort by reducing pressure against the chest, abdomen or heart
  • Providing patients with emotional and psychosocial support to help them cope with their diagnosis
  • Offering support, comfort and guidance to the family, caregivers and loved ones

Palliative care specialists may recommend a combination of medical, spiritual and psychological support to achieve the individual patient’s needs. Some examples include pain management, massage therapy, relaxation techniques, optimizing nutrition, and counseling.

Key Elements of Mesothelioma Palliative Care

Palliative care for mesothelioma involves various methods of symptom and pain management and support options for patients and loved ones. One key element of palliative care is maintaining open communication between patients and physicians, which can enhance a patient’s decision-making skills. 

Mesothelioma palliative care is achieved by:

  • Symptom management – Palliative care focuses on controlling pain, shortness of breath, nausea, and fatigue to help improve quality of life. 
  • Emotional and psychological support – Mesothelioma can be mentally and emotionally challenging for patients and their families. Counseling and support groups can provide coping strategies to help overcome some of the anxiety, depression and grief mesothelioma patients face. 
  • Communication and decision-making – Providing education and open communication with physicians can create a better understanding of mesothelioma, available treatment options and making informed decisions about their care.
  • Support for caregivers Caregivers play a significant role in caring for mesothelioma patients. Providing support and beneficial resources can help caregivers cope with the challenges they face and improve quality of life for both the patient and family.
  • Spiritual support – Chaplains and counselors are often available to provide emotional and spiritual support to patients and families, in accordance with their beliefs and values.
  • Advance care planning Social workers encourage patients to take an active role in discussions and decisions regarding their advanced care plan. This includes developing living wills and other guidelines to ensure the patient’s treatment preferences are respected and followed.

The Difference Between Palliative and Hospice Care

Palliative and hospice care both focus on providing relief of symptoms and improving the quality of life for the mesothelioma patient. The main difference is when each is used. Palliative care should be part of the treatment process for every stage of mesothelioma, whereas hospice care is limited to the end stage of mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma palliative care is available at any point during the cancer journey. Patients can receive palliative care as a stand-alone treatment or in conjunction with aggressive mesothelioma treatment. In fact, it should be an integral part of all mesothelioma patient care.

Hospice care is only available in the last stage of mesothelioma. It is explicitly for patients who have stopped all life-extending treatments. Their prognosis must be six months or less.

Mesothelioma Palliative Care Treatments

There are three primary palliative care treatments for mesothelioma: surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. The surgeries are typically minimally invasive, require small incisions and have short recovery periods.

Palliative Surgeries for Mesothelioma

Palliative surgeries focus on draining fluid, reducing pain and allowing organs near the tumors to function properly. For example, palliative surgeries for pleural mesothelioma allow the lungs to expand normally.

Palliative surgeries used to drain fluid buildup for mesothelioma include:

Other Palliative Care Treatments

Chemotherapy and radiation are mesothelioma palliative care treatments intended to reduce pain, alleviate mesothelioma symptoms and improve the patient’s quality of life. These treatments can slow the progression of the disease, shrink tumors and minimize metastasis. Chemotherapy is used for the treatment of pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma; however, radiation is limited to pleural mesothelioma patients only.

Mesothelioma chemotherapy and radiation have various functions in palliative care:

  • Chemotherapy – In palliative care, chemotherapy can relieve mesothelioma symptoms, shrink tumors and improve quality of life. It can also reduce pain, control fluid accumulation and improve breathing by reducing tumor size. 
  • Radiation therapy – In palliative care, radiation therapy can help shrink mesothelioma tumors, reduce pressure on the lungs and surrounding tissues, improve breathing and ease pain. This treatment is only used for pleural mesothelioma.

These mesothelioma palliative care treatments can be used alone or in combination with other treatment methods, depending on the patient’s specific needs. Palliative care aims to improve symptoms, provide comfort and help relieve the effects of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma specialists consider factors such as the stage of the disease, overall health and individual symptoms when selecting the appropriate mesothelioma palliative care treatments.

Finding Palliative Care for Your Mesothelioma 

Managing symptoms and controlling pain are two important parts of mesothelioma palliative care. Mesothelioma can cause severe discomfort, usually from pressure against the chest or stomach.

This discomfort can be addressed with the proper medical treatment. Contact our registered nurse, Karen Ritter, to learn more about your options for palliative care treatments. karen@mesotheliomaguide.com.

Frequently Asked Questions About Mesothelioma Palliative Care

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What Is Mesothelioma Palliative Care?

Mesothelioma palliative care can help reduce the physical and emotional symptoms of mesothelioma. Surgery is one option to relieve pain, pressure and other troubling mesothelioma symptoms. Doctors can drain fluid from the pleura or peritoneum to reduce pressure against the chest wall, abdominal wall and nearby organs. Other palliative care treatments include pain medication, chemotherapy, radiation and psychosocial support.

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What Is the Difference Between Palliative Care and Hospice Care?

Palliative care and hospice care both focus on improving the quality of life for mesothelioma patients. Mesothelioma palliative care is provided to patients at every stage of treatment and can be offered alone or in conjunction with life extending cancer treatments. Hospice is restricted to patients in the end stages of mesothelioma who have stopped all life preserving treatments.

Sources & Author

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  3. How Early Palliative Care May Benefit Patients With Incurable Cancer. ASCO Post. Retrieved from: https://www.ascopost.com/issues/september-25-2017/how-early-palliative-care-may-benefit-patients-with-incurable-cancer/. Accessed: 01/03/20.
  4. Types of Palliative Care. American Society of Clinical Oncology. Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.net/coping-with-cancer/physical-emotional-and-social-effects-cancer/types-palliative-care. Accessed: 04/22/2021.
  5. Review of malignant pleural mesothelioma survival after talc pleurodesis or surgery. Journal of Thoracic Disease. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5756994/. Accessed: 04/26/2021.
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  7. About Your Paracentesis (Abdominal Tap). Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Retrieved from: https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/patient-education/paracentesis-abdominal-tap. Accessed: 04/26/2021.
  8. Pleurodesis. St. Vincent’s Hospital Lung Health. Retrieved from: https://www.svhlunghealth.com.au/procedures/procedures-treatments/pleurodesis. Accessed: 04/26/2021.
  9. Thoracentesis. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/thoracentesis. Accessed: 04/26/2021.
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  12. Palliative Procedures for Malignant Mesothelioma. American Cancer Society. Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/types/malignant-mesothelioma/treating/palliative-procedures.html. Accessed 5/18/2023.
  13. Chemotherapy for Malignant Mesothelioma. American Cancer Society. Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/types/malignant-mesothelioma/treating/chemotherapy.html. Accessed 5/18/2023.
Camryn Keeble image

About the Writer, Camryn Keeble

Camryn Keeble is the senior content writer and editor for Mesothelioma Guide. She creates informative content to educate mesothelioma patients and their loved ones on news, treatments and more. She also works diligently to raise awareness of the dangers of asbestos exposure and the effects of mesothelioma.