Small Cell Mesothelioma

Small cell mesothelioma is considered a rare subtype of epitheliod mesothelioma (this form accounts for 50-60 percent of mesotheliomas diagnosed). Under the microscope this variant of mesothelioma can be seen as a pattern of uniform small, round cells. Small cell mesothelioma is sometimes mistaken for other types of cancer.


Whether it is found in the chest (pleura) or the abdomen (peritoneum), mesothelioma doesn’t have many symptoms in its early stages. It’s only usually after the cancer grows large enough to affect organs or nerves that patients feel that something is wrong. Symptoms vary for each major type of mesothelioma:

Symptoms of Pleural Mesothelioma

  • Pain in the lower back or the side of the chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating and high temperatures
  • A persistent cough
  • Losing more than 10% of body weight without dieting
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • A hoarse or husky voice

Symptoms of Peritoneal Mesothelioma

  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Swelling in the abdomen
  • Feeling or being sick
  • Poor appetite
  • Losing more than 10% of body weight without dieting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
If you have any of these symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor as soon as possible. If you’ve been exposed to asbestos in the past, it’s also critical to share this information with your doctor.


In general, mesothelioma is challenging to diagnose. Small cell mesothelioma is diagnosed in the same manner as the more common types of mesothelioma. Diagnosis of small cell mesothelioma may include the following steps.
  • A visit to your physician. Your doctor will examine you, ask questions about your symptoms, and listen to your chest for signs of fluid. If concerned, they’ll proceed with testing at the hospital or through a specialist.
  • Blood tests. Results provide a good read of your general health.
  • More testing if your doctor thinks you may have mesothelioma. X-ray, CT scan, and
thoracoscopy are the three most important tests in diagnosing mesothelioma. However, your specialist may run other tests if your diagnosis is unclear.
  • X-rays: Can show fluid build-up in chest or lung
    • Ultrasounds: Look for abnormal masses in the abdomen
    • CT scans: Show abnormal swelling in organs or lymph nodes
    • Thoracoscopy: Biopsies the pleura (tissues covering lungs) to look for presence of cancer cells


Treatment approaches for those with small cell mesothelioma are no different than those for other types of mesothelioma. Unfortunately, mesothelioma is usually diagnosed when it’s quite advanced, so the outlook is generally poor. However, depending on your overall health and the stage of your cancer, treatment options will vary. Mesothelioma treatments are aimed at controlling the disease for as long as possible and keeping symptoms under control.
  • Chemotherapy: Anti-cancer drugs are administered to control symptoms and slow down the growth of the cancer. Chemotherapy can be used with or without or before or after surgery.
  • Radiotherapy:  High energy rays are used to kill cancer cells to slow down the growth of tumors or to keep the cancer from coming back after surgery.
  • Surgery: Mesothelioma tumors are removed by either removing the pleura (lining) from the lung or removing both the pleura and the lung to relieve symptoms.
References: Cancer Research UK Archives of Pathology American Cancer Society