Mesothelioma Glossary of Terms

Last Modified September 1, 2022

If you or a loved one is dealing with mesothelioma, you may have discovered how much jargon medical experts tend to use. It can be confusing to navigate the diagnosis and treatment options without a good explanation of the technical terms. To help make your journey a little easier, we are providing this glossary of common terms related to mesothelioma and its treatment.

Actinolite Asbestos

A subtype of amphibole asbestos. It has a dark color when viewed under a microscope due to the presence of certain minerals within the asbestos. This type is found in products like drywall, insulation, and sealant.

Adjuvant Therapy

An additional cancer treatment that is used after surgery to target any remaining cancer cells and reduce the chances that the cancer will recur. For mesothelioma, common examples of adjuvant therapy include chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Patients might also receive neoadjuvant therapy, which is given before surgery.

Amosite Asbestos

A subtype of amphibole asbestos. This is the second most commonly used type of asbestos after chrysotile and is found in a variety of building materials in the United States. Examples include ceiling tiles, electrical insulation, and fireproof products. It is considered one of the most hazardous types of asbestos.

Amphibole Asbestos

A type of asbestos made up of straight fibers with sharp ends. There are five types of amphibole asbestos: actinolite, amosite, anthophyllite, crocidolite, and tremolite.

Anthophyllite Asbestos

A subtype of amphibole asbestos. It is brown or yellow when viewed under a microscope and is found in certain building materials such as cement, insulation, and rubber.


A type of mineral made up of very thin, microscopic fibers. Multiple types of asbestos exist with slightly different properties. When asbestos is inhaled or swallowed, it can cause several different diseases, including asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Although the use of asbestos is now heavily regulated in the United States, it is not completely banned, and asbestos imports continue to occur.

Asbestos Abatement

The process of identifying and removing asbestos from a structure as safely as possible. This generally involves sealing off the affected area of the building, then following stringent procedures to contain the asbestos as it is removed. Asbestos abatement may be performed during maintenance on parts of the building that contain asbestos or when a concern arises that asbestos fibers are at risk of becoming airborne in the building. Additionally, buildings that contain asbestos and are scheduled for demolition generally must have asbestos abatement performed first to avoid aerosolizing the asbestos into the surrounding air during the demolition process.


A noncancerous disease that results from inhaling asbestos fibers. Prolonged exposure leads to significant scarring of the lung tissue. This causes symptoms like chest pain and difficulty breathing. Asbestosis indicates that patients have had significant asbestos exposure, which raises the risk that they will develop mesothelioma or lung cancer.


A buildup of fluid inside of the abdomen. This can lead to uncomfortable abdominal swelling, along with symptoms such as digestive problems or swelling in the legs. Doctors can treat ascites using a procedure called paracentesis, in which the fluid is drained. Asbestos exposure is the most recognized risk factor for developing this disease.


One of the three main cell types of mesothelioma. This cell type contains a mixture of epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells. In terms of the prognosis and the treatment options, biphasic mesothelioma is intermediate between these other two cell types.


A common treatment option for mesothelioma and other cancers, which uses medications to attack cancer cells. These medications are typically given through an IV. In general, chemotherapy medications target cells that are growing quickly, including cancer cells. However, healthy cells in your body that grow quickly can also be affected by chemotherapy, leading to the side effects that this treatment can produce.

Chrysotile Asbestos

The only known subtype of serpentine asbestos. Because it is both highly heat resistant and flexible, this type of asbestos was very widely used in a variety of products to provide insulation and fireproofing. Chrysotile accounts for approximately 95% of asbestos used in the United States.

Crocidolite Asbestos

A subtype of amphibole asbestos. It is blue when viewed under a microscope. It was used most often in insulation, acid storage battery casings, and ceiling tiles. This is considered the most dangerous type of asbestos in the amphibole family because its fibers are extremely fine and sharp and easy to inhale.


An acronym that stands for cytoreductive surgery. This is a type of procedure commonly used for peritoneal mesothelioma. The surgeon removes as much visible cancer tissue as possible from within the abdomen; this can involve removing certain organs or parts of organs (such as the spleen, gallbladder, appendix, bladder, and intestines). The specifics of tissue removal are different from patient to patient, depending on where cancer tissue is found. CRS is typically combined with HIPEC (hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy).


One of the three main cell types of mesothelioma. It is also known as epithelial. In general, epithelioid mesothelioma has the best prognosis and is the easiest to treat of the three cell types. Multiple subtypes of epithelioid mesothelioma exist.


An acronym that stands for extrapleural pneumonectomy. This surgical procedure is used for pleural mesothelioma. The surgeon removes the entire lung along with other tissues on the affected side.

External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT)

The most common type of radiation therapy used for mesothelioma. Multiple beams of radiation are aimed at the tumor from different directions. These cross at the site of the tumor, allowing the treatment to deliver a high dose of radiation to the cancer cells while causing less damage to surrounding healthy tissues.


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