NCCN Malignant Mesothelioma: Understanding the Disease, Symptoms, and Treatment

The Silent Killer of Asbestos Exposure: NCCN Malignant Mesothelioma

Every year, thousands of individuals are diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, a rare but deadly cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Most of these cases are linked to occupational exposure in industries such as mining, construction, and manufacturing, but cases of non-occupational exposure are also reported. In this article, we will discuss malignant mesothelioma, focusing on the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines for its diagnosis, treatment, and management.

The Basics: What is NCCN Malignant Mesothelioma?

Malignant mesothelioma is a type of cancer that occurs in the mesothelium, the thin layer of tissue that lines the surface of most of our internal organs. It is caused by exposure to asbestos, a group of minerals commonly used in construction materials due to their fire-retardant properties. When asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested, they can accumulate in the mesothelium, causing inflammation and damage that can lead to the development of cancerous cells.

Malignant mesothelioma can affect different parts of the body, but the most common type is pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the lungs. Other types include peritoneal mesothelioma (affecting the lining of the abdomen), pericardial mesothelioma (affecting the lining of the heart), and testicular mesothelioma (affecting the lining of the testicles).

NCCN Malignant Mesothelioma refers to the cancer that is diagnosed, treated, and managed according to the guidelines developed by the NCCN, a not-for-profit alliance of leading cancer centers in the United States.

The Symptoms of NCCN Malignant Mesothelioma

The symptoms of malignant mesothelioma can vary depending on the type and stage of the cancer, but they commonly include:

Symptom Description
Chest pain Pain in the chest or rib area
Shortness of breath Difficulty breathing, even at rest
Persistent cough Cough that doesn’t go away or gets worse over time
Fatigue Feeling tired or weak
Fever Low-grade fever
Unintentional weight loss Losing weight without trying
Night sweats Sweating at night, often soaking the bedclothes

If you experience any of these symptoms and have a history of asbestos exposure, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Diagnosis of NCCN Malignant Mesothelioma

Diagnosing malignant mesothelioma can be difficult, as the symptoms are similar to those of other respiratory and heart conditions. To confirm a diagnosis, doctors may perform:

Imaging tests:

such as X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, and PET scans can help detect abnormalities in the mesothelium.


A tissue sample from the affected area is taken and tested for cancer cells to confirm the diagnosis.

NCCN Guidelines for Treatment of Malignant Mesothelioma

The NCCN guidelines for the treatment of malignant mesothelioma are based on several factors, including the stage and location of the cancer, the patient’s age and overall health, and the type of treatment that is most appropriate for them. The NCCN guidelines recommend the following treatments:


Removing the tumor and surrounding tissue is often the first line of treatment for early stage malignant mesothelioma. Types of surgery include:

  • Pleurectomy/decortication (P/D): removal of the pleural lining and any visible tumors
  • Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP): removal of the entire affected lung, pleura, and diaphragm
  • Peritonectomy: removal of the peritoneum and any visible tumors


Using drugs to kill cancer cells can help shrink tumors and slow the progression of malignant mesothelioma. Chemotherapy can be administered orally, intravenously, or directly into the affected area (intracavitary chemotherapy).

Radiation therapy:

Using high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells can help relieve pain and control symptoms. Radiation therapy can be administered externally (external beam radiation) or internally (brachytherapy).


Stimulating the immune system to fight cancer cells can help slow the progression of malignant mesothelioma. Immunotherapy can be administered through intravenous infusion or injection.

Management of NCCN Malignant Mesothelioma

Even with successful treatment, mesothelioma may recur or spread to other areas of the body. The NCCN guidelines recommend the following strategies to manage the disease:

Close monitoring:

Regular check-ups and imaging tests can help detect any recurrence or progression of the cancer early.

Symptom management:

Managing symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, and cough can improve the patient’s quality of life.

Palliative care:

Providing supportive care that addresses the patient’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs can help them cope with the disease and its impact on their life.

FAQs about NCCN Malignant Mesothelioma

1. Can malignant mesothelioma be cured?

There is currently no cure for malignant mesothelioma, but treatment can help control the cancer and improve the patient’s quality of life.

2. How long does it take for malignant mesothelioma to develop?

The latency period of malignant mesothelioma can be anywhere from 20 to 50 years, which means that symptoms may not appear until decades after exposure to asbestos.

3. Who is at risk of developing malignant mesothelioma?

Individuals who have been exposed to asbestos, either directly or indirectly, are at risk of developing malignant mesothelioma. This includes workers in industries such as mining, construction, and manufacturing, as well as those who live with or have close contact with these workers.

4. What is the prognosis for malignant mesothelioma?

The prognosis for malignant mesothelioma depends on several factors, including the stage and location of the cancer, the patient’s age and overall health, and the type of treatment that is administered. Despite advances in treatment, the overall survival rate for malignant mesothelioma is still relatively low.

5. Is there a screening test for malignant mesothelioma?

Currently, there is no screening test for malignant mesothelioma that is recommended for the general population. However, individuals who have been exposed to asbestos may undergo regular check-ups and imaging tests to detect any abnormalities early.

6. Is malignant mesothelioma hereditary?

Malignant mesothelioma is not considered a hereditary disease, but some genetic mutations may increase a person’s susceptibility to asbestos-related cancers.

7. Can lifestyle changes help prevent malignant mesothelioma?

There is no known way to prevent malignant mesothelioma, but avoiding exposure to asbestos is the most effective way to reduce the risk of developing the disease.

Conclusion: Taking Action Against NCCN Malignant Mesothelioma

Malignant mesothelioma is a devastating disease that affects thousands of people every year. However, with early detection and proper treatment according to NCCN guidelines, patients can improve their chances of survival and quality of life. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with NCCN malignant mesothelioma, seek medical attention immediately and explore your treatment options with a qualified healthcare provider. Remember, early intervention is key to fighting this silent killer.

Take Action Today:

  • Get informed about the risks of asbestos exposure and how to protect yourself and your loved ones.
  • Advocate for stricter regulations on the use and handling of asbestos in workplaces and public spaces.
  • Support research into the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of NCCN malignant mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

Closing Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Always consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making any changes to your healthcare regimen or starting any new treatments. The authors and publishers of this article are not responsible for any errors or omissions or for any consequences resulting from the use or reliance on any information contained herein.