Pleural Mesothelioma


is it?

Pleural mesothelioma is mesothelioma that affects the lining of the lungs, called the pleural lining. 

The pleural lining has two layers: the visceral (inner) layer is next to the lung and the parietal (outer) layer lines the chest wall. The pleura produces fluid that lubricates the space between the two layers, this allows the two layers to slide comfortably over each other as we breathe in and out.  

Pleural mesothelioma causes the pleura to thicken. This thickening of the pleura might begin to press onto the lungs or attach itself to the inside of the chest wall. In either case the expansion of the lung becomes progressively restricted by the tumour. Fluid, sometimes several litres, can collect between the two layers of the pleura; this affects the lungs ability to expand and causes the person to feel breathless. This is known as a pleural effusion. 

An audit was conducted by The Royal College of Physicians and Mesothelioma UK between 2016 and 2018. Out of 7,210 individual patients diagnosed:

cases were pleural mesothelioma

cases were peritoneal mesothelioma


of pleural mesothelioma patients were male

years was the average age at the time of diagnosis

How is it diagnosed?

Mesothelioma is not an easy disease to diagnose. Often a number of investigations and hospital visits are required and even then, it is not always possible to be certain that mesothelioma is present. 

The first step to being diagnosed with mesothelioma is usually an x-ray. If you have pleural mesothelioma, your x-ray might show that you have a build-up of fluid on your chest, which is known as a pleural effusion. You may then be referred for further tests which may include a CT scan, a biopsy, and blood tests.  

More detailed information on living with the effects of mesothelioma can be found here. 

What are the symptoms?

The main symptoms of pleural mesothelioma are: 

  • shortness of breath 
  • chest pain 
  • cough 
  • sweating 
  • loss of appetite 
  • weight loss 
  • fatigue and lethargy 

More detailed information on how to manage the effects of mesothelioma can be found here.   

What treatment is available? 

The treatment of mesothelioma depends on a number of things including the type of mesothelioma, how advanced the disease is, the general health and fitness of the patient and their personal preferences. There are various treatments used to treat mesothelioma and control any symptoms including medication, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery. Some of these are given as part of a trial. Not all patients are suitable for every treatment. None offer a cure but they aim to minimise symptoms, maximise quality of life and for some, lengthen life. Some treatments are available through clinical trials, ask your consultant or specialist nurse for information. 

In the same 2014 – 2016 audit, the data showed that:


of patients had a pathological subtype recorded


of patients had anti-cancer treatment


of patients had chemotherapy treatment


of patients had radical surgical treatment

What is a multidisciplinary team?  

To assist in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, hospitals have teams of doctors and nurses, each with their own areas of expertise, who work together to try and provide the best care for patients. 

These are known as Multi-Disciplinary Teams (MDTs). These teams are made up of Consultant doctors, radiologists, pathologists, oncologists (doctors who treat cancers using chemotherapy and radiotherapy), surgeons and specialist nurses.  These teams meet regularly to discuss the cases of individual patients, with confirmed or suspected mesothelioma, to agree on the likelihood of the diagnosis being correct, on the stage of the disease and best treatment strategy. The wishes of the patient are taken into close consideration when treatment plans are discussed. Following MDT discussion, treatment options will be explained to the patient and referrals will be made as necessary. 

Some centres in the UK now have regional mesothelioma MDTs where complex cases can be discussed, although for most patients, discussion will be held in a lung cancer (pleural mesothelioma) or gastro-intestinal (peritoneal mesothelioma) MDT. 

What support is available?

Receiving a diagnosis of mesothelioma can be a frightening and overwhelming time for both the patient and their loved ones. There are a range of support services available. 

For clinical advice about treatments or symptoms please call our Freephone Support Line on 0800 169 2409 to speak to a mesothelioma clinical nurse specialist.  

Many local areas have dedicated patient support groups, often run by local Asbestos Support Groups. Find the group nearest to you here. The groups offer benefits advice, support and often meet on a regular basis.  

For benefits advice, either contact your local support group, or if you are in Leicester or Newcastle, Mesothelioma UK funds specialist advisors in both areas. You can contact the Mesothelioma UK specialist benefits advisor on our Freephone Support Line on 0800 169 2409 

If you were a member of the armed forces and would like to speak to someone about the effects that might have on your benefits, please call our Freephone Support Line on 0800 169 2409 

If you are seeking legal advice around compensation, Mesothelioma UK has a panel of legal firms that are experts in dealing with mesothelioma cases. More information can be found here.  

Downloadable Resources

For downloadable information on all of the above, please see our resources page.