Metastatic Mesothelioma: Understanding the Diagnosis, Treatment, and Survival Rates :

Hi there! Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that affects the mesothelium tissue lining the lungs, heart, and abdomen. This form of cancer often occurs due to prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers, which are widely used in industrial settings. In this article, we will focus on metastatic mesothelioma, a type of mesothelioma that has spread to other parts of the body beyond the original site of the tumor. We will explore the symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and survival rates associated with this aggressive form of cancer.

What is Metastatic Mesothelioma?

Metastatic mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer that develops when mesothelioma cells spread from the primary tumor site to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes, liver, bones, or brain. The cancer cells travel through the bloodstream or lymphatic system to reach distant organs or tissues, where they form new tumors, called metastases.

There are three main types of mesothelioma that can metastasize:

Types of Mesothelioma Primary Tumor Site Distant Metastasis Sites
Pleural Mesothelioma Lungs and chest cavity Liver, brain, bones, and lymph nodes
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Abdomen and pelvis Liver, lungs, brain, and lymph nodes
Pericardial Mesothelioma Heart and chest cavity Liver, lungs, and lymph nodes

What are the Symptoms of Metastatic Mesothelioma?

The symptoms of metastatic mesothelioma can vary depending on the location and extent of the metastases, as well as the primary tumor. Common symptoms of metastatic mesothelioma may include:

  • Pain in the affected area or bone
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Loss of appetite or unintended weight loss
  • Nausea, vomiting, or constipation
  • Swelling or fluid buildup in the affected area
  • Jaundice or yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • Changes in bowel or bladder function
  • Headaches or seizures

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor for an evaluation, especially if you have a history of asbestos exposure or mesothelioma.

How is Metastatic Mesothelioma Diagnosed?

Diagnosing metastatic mesothelioma can be challenging, as it often involves multiple diagnostic tests and imaging studies to determine the extent and location of the metastases. Your doctor may perform the following tests to diagnose metastatic mesothelioma:

  • Physical exam and medical history
  • Imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, MRI, or PET scans
  • Tissue biopsy to confirm the presence of mesothelioma cells
  • Blood tests to check for biomarkers associated with mesothelioma

After a confirmed diagnosis of metastatic mesothelioma, the next step is to determine the stage of cancer and the best treatment options for the patient.

Treatments for Metastatic Mesothelioma

Metastatic mesothelioma is a complex and challenging disease to treat, as the spread of cancer can make it difficult to remove all cancerous tissue. The goal of treatment is to minimize symptoms, slow the progression of cancer, and improve quality of life for the patient.


Surgery is often the first-line treatment for mesothelioma, but it is typically not an option for patients with metastatic mesothelioma, as it often involves removing multiple organs or tissues affected by cancer. However, in some cases, surgery may be used to remove a single metastasis, such as a brain tumor or a bone lesion, to relieve symptoms or prevent further complications.


Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells throughout the body. Chemotherapy is often used to treat metastatic mesothelioma, as it can reduce the size of tumors and slow the growth of cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be delivered intravenously or directly into the affected area, such as the abdomen or chest cavity, depending on the location of the metastases.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation therapy can be used to treat metastatic mesothelioma, especially if the metastases are localized and causing pain or discomfort. Radiation therapy can be delivered externally or internally, using a device called a brachytherapy implant.


Immunotherapy is a newer form of cancer treatment that harnesses the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells. Immunotherapy drugs work by targeting specific proteins or biomarkers on cancer cells, making them more vulnerable to attack by the immune system. Immunotherapy is still being studied for its effectiveness in treating metastatic mesothelioma, but early results are promising.

Palliative Care

Palliative care is an important aspect of treating metastatic mesothelioma, as it focuses on managing pain, symptoms, and emotional distress caused by cancer. Palliative care can be provided alongside other treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and can be delivered in a hospital, hospice, or home setting.

Survival Rates and Prognosis

The prognosis for metastatic mesothelioma is generally poor, as the spread of cancer makes it difficult to treat and manage. However, survival rates vary depending on the location and extent of the metastases, as well as the patient’s overall health and response to treatment.

Survival Rates

According to the American Cancer Society, the overall five-year survival rate for mesothelioma is around 10%, but this number may be lower for metastatic mesothelioma. The survival rates for metastatic mesothelioma vary depending on the location of the primary tumor and the extent of the metastases.

Metastatic Mesothelioma Survival Rates Primary Tumor Site Median Survival Time
Pleural Mesothelioma Lungs and chest cavity 6-9 months
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Abdomen and pelvis 1-2 years
Pericardial Mesothelioma Heart and chest cavity 6-10 months

Factors Affecting Prognosis

The following factors may affect the prognosis for metastatic mesothelioma:

  • The location and extent of the metastases
  • The stage and histology of the primary tumor
  • The patient’s age, overall health, and immune system function
  • The response to treatment and the ability to manage symptoms
  • The presence of other medical conditions or complications

FAQs about Metastatic Mesothelioma

Q: What causes metastatic mesothelioma?

A: Metastatic mesothelioma is caused by the spread of cancer cells from the primary tumor site. The primary tumor is often caused by exposure to asbestos, a mineral fiber used in many industrial and construction products.

Q: What are the risk factors for metastatic mesothelioma?

A: The main risk factor for metastatic mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos fibers. Other risk factors may include smoking, radiation exposure, and a family history of mesothelioma.

Q: How is metastatic mesothelioma different from localized mesothelioma?

A: Metastatic mesothelioma involves the spread of cancer cells beyond the original site of the tumor, while localized mesothelioma is confined to a specific area or organ. Metastatic mesothelioma is often more difficult to treat and has a poorer prognosis.

Q: Can metastatic mesothelioma be cured?

A: There is currently no cure for metastatic mesothelioma, but treatment options can help manage symptoms and slow the progression of cancer.

Q: What are the most common sites of metastasis in mesothelioma?

A: The most common sites of metastasis in mesothelioma are the lymph nodes, liver, lungs, bones, and brain.

Q: Can immunotherapy be used to treat metastatic mesothelioma?

A: Yes, immunotherapy is being studied as a potential treatment for metastatic mesothelioma, but its effectiveness is still being evaluated.


Metastatic mesothelioma is a complex and aggressive form of cancer that can be challenging to diagnose and treat. Understanding the symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, and survival rates associated with this disease can help patients and their families make informed decisions about their care. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with metastatic mesothelioma, it is important to seek the expertise of experienced medical professionals to ensure the best possible outcome.

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