Surgery for Mesothelioma

OncoLink Team
The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: May 7, 2013


Can surgery be done for mesothelioma? What are the side effects and recovery like?


Joe Friedberg, MD, Thoracic Surgeon at Penn Medicine, responds:

Although most patients with mesothelioma do not undergo a definitive surgery with the intent of removing all sites of cancer, surgery can be done for some patients with mesothelioma, depending on the physical condition of the patient, the extent of their disease, and the desires of the patient. Surgery is most appropriate for healthy patients who have cancer that is limited to the lining of the lung and nearly lymph nodes all on only one side of the chest. The side effects depend on the extent of the surgery and the patient's health going into the surgery, but most commonly can include intraoperative bleeding and postoperative blood clots, pneumonias or other difficulties with breathing function, and temporary heart beat abnormalities. Surgery, however, does have a primary role in diagnosing mesothelioma. Furthermore, less aggressive surgery is also commonly used for mesothelioma to place a catheter in the chest to drain excess fluid that often accumulates, to remove bulky areas of tumor, or to free lung that may be trapped and not functioning due to tumor growth, all of which can symptomatically make patients breathing better.

Learn more about the surgeries for mesothelioma on the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation website. You may also be interested in Dr. Friedberg's presentation on surgical procedures for Mesothelioma at the Focus on Mesothelioma Conference.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. View the entire Focus on Mesothelioma transcript.


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