ON THIS PAGE: You will find some basic information about this disease and the parts of the body it may affect. This is the first page of Cancer.Net’s Guide to Mesothelioma. To see other pages, use the menu. Think of that menu as a roadmap to this full guide.
Cancer begins when healthy cells change and grow out of control, forming a mass called a tumor. A tumor can be cancerous or benign. A cancerous tumor is malignant, meaning it can grow and spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor means the tumor can grow but will not spread.
Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that begins in the lining of different internal organs of the body.
Approximately 75% to 80% of mesotheliomas begin in the lining surrounding the lungs, called pleural mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma begins in the chest cavity, but it does not start in the lungs. As such, it is often incorrectly grouped with lung cancer.
Peritoneal mesothelioma makes up about 10% to 20% of mesotheliomas. This type of mesothelioma begins in the tissue surrounding the abdominal area, called the peritoneum.
The rarest types of mesothelioma include:
Mesothelioma that begins in the lining around the heart, called the pericardium
Mesothelioma that begins in the lining around a man’s testicles, called the tunica vaginalis
Types of mesothelioma
There are 3 main types of mesothelioma:
Epithelioid type. About 70% of people diagnosed with mesothelioma have the epithelioid type. Epithelioid mesothelioma may grow slower and chemotherapy often works better for this type.
Sarcomatoid type. Between 7% to 15% of people diagnosed with mesothelioma have the sarcomatoid type. People with this type often have a lower chance of having treatment work compared with the other 2 types. Standard chemotherapy for sarcomatoid mesothelioma often does not work well.
Mixed, or biphasic, type. Between 10% to 20% of people diagnosed with mesothelioma have the mixed type. The term “mixed” or “biphasic” means that the cancer contains both epithelioid and sarcomatoid types. Treatment does not work as well for this type when compared with the epithelioid type. However, treatment for this type often works better than for the sarcomatoid type.
The next section in this guide is Statistics. It helps explain how many people are diagnosed with this disease and general survival rates. Or, use the menu to choose another section to continue reading this guide.