‘ve not talked about mesothelioma before.

But with Action Mesothelioma day having taken place just last month, and after coming across this article stating that the death toll from asbestos exposure has reached crisis levels in Britain, we thought it might be the right time to take a look at this condition, what it is and how physiotherapy can help ease your symptoms.

What is mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is an asbestos-related cancer affecting the linings of the lungs or abdomen. Specifically it is a type of cancer that begins to grow in the pleural membrane.

There are two thin layers of cells in your chest called pleura or the pleural membrane: an outer layer lining the inside of your rib cage and an inner layer that covers your lungs. They are incredibly thin, about the thickness of the skin of a balloon.

Between the two layers is the pleural space which normally holds a small amount of fluid which helps keep the two surfaces lubricated, allowing your lungs and chest wall to expand and move as you inhale and exhale.

Mesothelioma can cause one large tumour or a number of smaller tumours in your pleural membrane, which causes the membrane to thicken.

What causes it?

The main cause of mesothelioma is breathing in asbestos dust, with 9 out of 10 men and 8 out of 10 women diagnosed having been exposed to asbestos.

There are three main types of asbestos – blue, brown and white.Asbestos was widely used in the post-war years as an insulating material due to its effectiveness in heat and fire resistance but in 1999 the manufacture and supply of all asbestos products was made illegal in the UK. Despite the ban it is still present in many buildings, including homes, schools and hospitals.

The tiny fibres that make up asbestos are breathed in as you work with the material. These fibres then irritate the pleura and can cause gene changes (mutations) that lead to the growth of cancer.

What treatment options are there?

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma is recommended that you begin physiotherapy as early as possible, even if you have already undergone surgery, chemo, and/or radiation.

Treatment for mesothelioma brings the specialist skills of both respiratory physiotherapy and oncology physiotherapy together. Your individual circumstances will be evaluated and a treatment programme devised that will help you manage your shortness of breath, offer exercises that will help you maintain your strength and provide advice on how to prevent chest infections.

The aim is to keep you as physically independent as possible as well as manage the symptoms of this form of cancer, so that you can enjoy the highest quality of life possible.

The British Lung Foundation


The British Lung Foundation is working tirelessly to help those diagnosed with mesothelioma and their families. Their website has a whole host of information to help better understand this rare type of cancer and what to look out for. Their support page is particularly useful as it has all the details you need for emotional, practical and legal advice on mesothelioma. If you’d like to sign up to donate to The British Lung Foundation who support so many other lung-related health issues, you can do so here.