According to the American Cancer Society, between 2,000 and 3,000 people in the United States are diagnosed each year with mesothelioma, a rare and dangerous cancer.

Mesothelioma starts in the mesothelium, which includes:

  • Pleura, the thin layer of tissue that lines the lungs
  • Pericardium, the sac around the heart
  • Peritoneum, the membrane that lines the abdomen

Mesothelioma usually starts in the pleura. This type of mesothelioma also is called malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM).

Mesothelioma almost always is caused by past exposure to fibers of asbestos. Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that in the past was used in the construction, automotive, military, marine and manufacturing industries.

When tiny particles of asbestos are made or disturbed, they can float in the air. People can breathe in the asbestos or swallow it. This may lead to serious health conditions such as cancers of the lung, larynx and kidney. It also can cause asbestosis, a non-cancerous, chronic lung disease.

In some people, asbestos fibers cause genetic changes in the pleura, the thin layer of tissue that lines the lungs. These changes may lead to mesothelioma. It can occur 20 to 50 years after a person has come in contact with asbestos.

At Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center, stomach cancer is treated with a multidisciplinary approach in which a team of experts including medical, surgical and radiation oncologists work together to develop an individual treatment plan based on each patient’s unique needs.

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There are three types of mesothelioma:

  • Epithelioid: 60 to 70 percent of cases, usually has the best outcome
  • Sarcomatoid: 10 to 15 percent of cases, more aggressive
  • Biphasic or mixed: 10 to 15 percent of cases, extremely aggressive

Risk Factors

Cancer risk factors include exposure to chemicals or other substances, as well as certain behaviors. They also include things people cannot control, like age and family history.

Mesothelioma risk factors


Most cancers have the same symptoms as other, less serious conditions. Still, it’s important to know the signs.

Mesothelioma symptoms


Common cancer treatments include chemotherapy, radiation treatment and surgery. Doctors select the treatment for mesothelioma based on your diagnosis and disease stage.

Mesothelioma treatment