Asbestos cancer / mesothelioma

Mesothelioma, also known as pleural or asbestos cancer, is a malignant cancer type in the pleural cavity or lungs and airways. 85% of mesothelioma cases are caused by inhaling asbestos fibers, which led to the name “asbestos cancer”.

At the NKI Lung Cancer Center, our specialists excel at thoracic oncology: lung cancer and tumors in the lungs, airways, pleural cavity, and thymus, including mesothelioma/asbestos cancer and neuroendocrine tumors in the lungs. The Netherlands Cancer Institute is an expert center for mesothelioma in the Netherlands. 

Find out more about the symptoms and the most commonly used diagnostic tests and treatment types for asbestos cancer on this page.

Causes and symptoms asbestos cancer

Asbestos exposure is often a result of professional activities surrounding asbestos (carpentry, shipbuilding, railroad workers, plumbers). Problems related to exposure tend to arise 20 to 50 years after exposure. Mesothelioma occurs more often in men than in women. Smoking cigarettes, pipe, or cigars after asbestos exposure can increase the risk of lung cancer.

Mesothelioma won’t cause any symptoms right away. Some issues you might experience are:

  • shortness of breath;
  • edema behind the lungs;
  • pain when deeply exhaling;
  • loss of appetite and weight loss.


The following tests may be done to confirm or rule out mesothelioma:

Treatment options asbestos cancer

Your exact treatment options will depend on the tumor type and stage. Your overall health and shape will also affect your options. We will inform you about the process beforehand, and you will have plenty of time to ask questions. Your treatment will most likely consist of one or more of the following options:

Read more about scheduling an appointment or second opinion

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