Which Surgery for Mesothelioma?

    The possible operations for pleural mesothelioma are

    Extrapleural pneumonectomy and Pleurectomy

    Surgery is not always the right treatment for mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is often diagnosed too late to make a big operation worthwhile. If pleural mesothelioma is diagnosed early enough, you may be able to have an extrapleural pneumonectomy.

    If the cancer has already spread, a pleurectomy can help to control symptoms. But it will not cure your mesothelioma and may not actually make any difference to how long you live with this disease.

    There is an operation suitable for some situations in peritoneal mesothelioma. This can only be done if it is diagnosed early enough.

    Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP)

    This is major surgery. It means removing the lung on the affected side. The pleura, diaphragm and covering of the heart (pericardium) are removed as well.

    Not everyone is suitable for EPP. You need to be fit enough to walk up and down 2 flights of stairs without becoming breathless. Your cancer must be at an early stage. This means that is must not have spread to lymph nodes. Or to any other major body parts outside the lung.

    To do the operation, your surgeon will open your chest, either at the front or at the side. An opening at the side is called a thoracotomy. An opening at the front is called a sternotomy. You will have a wound about 9 inches long. You will have to stay in hospital for about 2 weeks afterwards.

    Even this type of major surgery is very unlikely to cure mesothelioma. But it can help you to live longer. The people who have lived longest after a diagnosis of mesothelioma have had this operation, together with chemotherapy or radiotherapy.


    You may be offered pleurectomy to help control symptoms. It can help to control fluid build up in the chest. This is a major operation, but can be done using keyhole surgery. If you have it done this way, you will have 3 wounds, each about an inch long (2cm).

    The surgeon will take away as much of the tumour as possible. This means removing the outside covering of the lung - the pleura - on one side. You will have to stay in hospital for about 7 days afterwards.