What is Mesothelioma?

Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma (MPM) is a rare form of cancer that occurs either in the thin layer of tissue that lines the chest cavity and covers the lungs or in the peritoneum which is the thin layer of tissue that lines the abdomen and covers the internal organs. Mesothelioma treatment in Singapore by a specialist is the only way to prevent this cancer from spreading and treat the existing condition in the patient.

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer and occurs because of exposure to asbestos fibres which happen during the developmental phases of each country. In Singapore, the exposure peaked between 1960-1990, and in other parts of ASEAN it still has ongoing exposure as the countries grow at different rates.

Asbestos is still commonly found in the structures of some older buildings. If these structures are unstable and disturbed, these damaging fibres can be released into the air. It is also important to note that asbestos is still used as a manufacturing part of brake pads, roofing material, vinyl tiles, and some cement piping. Asbestos can also be found in certain rock formations that can be released during mining.

Causes of Mesothelioma

It is usually caused by inhalation of the asbestos fibres and it can happen as part of the individual’s occupation such as shipbuilding, spray-painting, plumbing, and auto industries. There are 2 types of fibres, the blue fibres [amphibolic fibres] are the ones that cause the most damage as they can burrow into the tissue. Mesothelioma can develop anywhere between 10-80 years after exposure.

What are the symptoms of Mesothelioma?

Unfortunately, symptoms of mesothelioma rarely show in the early stages. Most patients would experience these in the later stages of cancer. The symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath caused due to fluid buildup in the lungs (pleural effusion)
  • Dull chest ache or pain under the rib cage
  • Pain or swelling in the abdomen (belly)
  • Lumps in the abdomen
  • Weight loss for no known reason


Physical Exam And History

There will be a general assessment of patient’s general health to look for signs of disease, such as lumps or any other unusual symptoms. The doctor will ask questions about health habits, exposure to asbestos, past illnesses, occupational history and treatments. 

CT Scan

Checks for abnormal growths or thickening of tissue inside the chest cavity and evidence of effusion.

PET Scan

Checks for the extent to which the disease has spread and for evidence of any evidence of metastasis (where the cancer cells spread to other parts of the body).


The removal of sample tissue from the lining of the chest or abdomen for a clinical test under the microscope. The doctor will be looking for any abnormal cell activity. A biopsy can be done by either using a thin needle or by making a small cut to take out the tissue needed. Some times, the doctor would require a video-assisted surgical biopsy


The bronchoscope is a tube-like device with a light and a lens for viewing structures inside the airways. It is also used in obtaining samples from the lungs.


The Pleural effusion fluid is collected from the chest cavity and is visualized under the microscope to look for cancer cells.


The treatment of mesothelioma requires a muti-disciplinary approach from an experienced team of doctors. It is usually the combination of Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation that yields the best results. You need to visit a Mesothelioma specialist who can guide you well in this condition and give you the best Mesothelioma treatment in Singapore.


This involves the removal of the pleura which lines the lungs and chest wall coupled with the removal and reconstruction of the diaphragm and sometimes the pericardium [tissue covering of the heart]. If the chest wall is involved, part of it may be removed and reconstructed.
Your surgeon will be able to demonstrate with the aid of schematic diagrams and videos as to how it is done.


This is usually a combined treatment of both oral and injectable medication administered over weeks or months. These are extremely strong drugs used to kill the cancer cells and can be used pre-surgery to shrink cancer or post-surgery if the doctor suspects there to be any residual cancer cells.


This form of treatment involves the use of X-rays and protons to generate powerful beams of energy that will be precisely directed to the locations of the cancer cells to kill it. This is usually administered post-surgery into areas where there may be a need to kill cancer cells which may be left behind or to prevent a recurrence.

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