Asbestos Cancer or Malignant Mesothelioma

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You have been seen by a Duke provider for mesothelioma care within the last three years or you need to reschedule an appointment.

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Duke offers fast-tracked testing and treatment if you are suspected of having mesothelioma or already suffer from the cancer in your lungs, heart, or abdomen. If you are a patient at Duke, our specialists will quickly work to confirm your condition. If you’re coming to Duke from another hospital, we’ll collaborate with your doctors on your treatment before, during, and after your stay with us. Our goal is to evaluate your needs for surgery, chemotherapy, and/or immunotherapy as soon as possible to enhance your quality of life and help you live longer. Duke's oncologists and surgeons are experts in mesothelioma and annually provide care for hundreds of patients suffering from the disease.

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Risk Factors for Mesothelioma

This type of cancer is closely associated with prolonged exposure to asbestos, so we’ll want to know more about your personal history and past work to accurately diagnose mesothelioma. This cancer is most often found in people who have worked where asbestos was once present. That includes auto factories, construction sites, and chemical processing plants. Veterans who served in the armed forces from the 1940s to 1970s may also have exposure because asbestos was widely used at bases and naval yards during that time.

Who Mesothelioma Impacts Most
Older Americans are most often diagnosed with mesothelioma because the cancer takes a long time to form in your body, and a diagnosis may not be possible until decades after exposure to asbestos. The average person diagnosed with mesothelioma is in their mid-70s. Our goal is to start treatment as soon as possible. We focus on your comfort and providing you with added time and quality of life.

Duke Cancer Center

Duke Health providers treat your mesothelioma at the Duke Cancer Center in Durham.

Your Time at the Duke Cancer Center

Our experts in diagnosing and treating mesothelioma are based in Durham at the Duke Cancer Center. If you’re not within a short driving distance, you’ll want to arrive in Durham the night before scheduled tests and treatment. The Duke Health concierge office can help you secure a room at a nearby hotel.

On the day you see our care team, you may begin tests as early as 7:30 am. You should expect to spend much of the day having tests and meeting with our specialists. You will review your options with a surgical oncologist and medical oncologist, who will talk to you about options for surgery, chemotherapy, and/or immune therapy. Many people who see us for mesothelioma have surgery. If surgery is part of your treatment plan, we’ll schedule it to take place as soon as possible.  You’ll spend at least one night in Duke University Hospital’s intensive care unit and may need to stay at the hospital for up to a week as you recover.

New Patient Appointment

Mesothelioma Testing

When meet our team of mesothelioma experts, it’s likely you’ve already had tests performed by oncologists at Duke or another hospital. Our patient navigators will collect all your previous test results to share with our doctors. We may run similar tests to confirm findings and new tests that will help us fully understand the extent of the cancer’s spread.

Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan

An advanced X-ray that can create 3-D and 4-D images of your organs, giving providers a more thorough assessment of your cancer.

PET Scan

Because people suspected of having mesothelioma have already received a series of scanning tests before seeing our specialists, we’ll start with a PET scan. This imaging test allows us to pinpoint the location, size, and stage of your tumor.

Pulmonary Function Test

A series of breathing tests determine your total lung function. In intervals, you’ll hold your breath and then breathe into a machine to show doctors the health of your lungs. This test can be modified if you’re on oxygen therapy.

Nuclear Medicine Ventilation Perfusion Scan (NM Scan or VQ Scan)

A specialized X-ray measures air flow and blood movement in your lungs, allowing doctors to pinpoint the spread of mesothelioma and which sections of your lungs are most impacted. This test is required if you require surgery to remove cancerous parts of your lungs.

Stress Echocardiography (ECHO) Scan

Ultrasound imaging evaluates the strength of your heart and if your cancer has affected its ability to fully function. Sometimes mesothelioma can spread to your heart, straining its muscles and causing fluid to build up.

Best Cancer Hospital in North Carolina

Where you receive your cancer care is important. Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why our cancer program is nationally ranked, and the highest-ranked program in North Carolina, according to U.S. News & World Report for 2024–2025.

Mesothelioma Treatments

Mesothelioma can spread quickly to invade your lungs and nearby organs. Even after tumors are removed, the cancer may regrow in the same location. We’ll evaluate whether you would benefit most from surgery, chemotherapy, or immunotherapy, and whether all or some of your treatments can take place at Duke or closer to home if you're traveling for treatment at the Duke Cancer Center.

Pleurectomy Decortication Surgery

The goal of this procedure is to save as much of your lungs as possible. During this open surgery, doctors scrape away the tumor from your lungs, diaphragm, and/or heart.

Extrapleural Pneumonectomy Surgery

If you have significant damage to one of your lungs, this procedure will remove it along with a layer of your heart’s outer lining and a portion of your diaphragm on the same side as the diseased lung. A patch will be used to keep your organs in place after surgery. This surgery is rarely needed.


These drugs help boost your body's ability to fight cancer. Immunotherapy can be an option if surgery is not ideal to treat your mesothelioma, and you’ll be considered for these cycles before surgery as part consultation with your care team.


You may receive multiple cycles of chemotherapy before or after your surgery. Our medical oncologists will create a personalized care plan based on the severity of your cancer and outcome of your surgery. If you traveled to Duke for surgery, we’ll coordinate with your local oncologist so you can receive treatment closer to home.

Support for You and Your Family

Our cancer support services help you cope with the emotional and psychological effects of diagnosis and treatment.

Why Choose Duke

Time-Sensitive Testing Process for Treatment of Mesothelioma
As one of the highest volume cancer centers on the East Coast, we regularly receive referrals from out of state. Our patient navigators will coordinate with you and your doctors ahead of time to schedule all tests on one day with pulmonologists, oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, and others on our care team.

Providing You with Meaningful Time 
Mesothelioma has a low long-term cure rate. Most patients can expect to have at least a year of quality life, but the speed and success of treatment may improve your timeline. Mesothelioma is rarely cured, and the amount of time you have after treatment will depend on your age, gender, and the stage of your cancer.

Shared Expertise Across Your Care Team
When receiving treatment at the Duke Cancer Center, your care may include medical and surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and nurses who focus on cancer. This team, along with nutritionists, social workers, counselors, and more, will work with you to ensure you get the individualized care you need.

Care and Support During Challenging Times
Duke Palliative Care is available for you and your loved ones to help you through your treatment. Our providers and staff can connect with you shortly after you've arrived at Duke and provide support and relief as you receive treatment and are faced with decisions about maintaining your quality of life.

The Duke Cancer Institute
Our cancer services fall under the umbrella of the Duke Cancer Institute, which brings together the extensive resources of Duke University, Duke Health, and the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center. We are committed to making innovative discoveries, developing new ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer, and delivering those therapies in a patient- and family-centric way.

This page was medically reviewed on 11/01/2023 by