Mesothelioma Video-Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery for Veterans

3 Min Read

older man in hospital bed

Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) is increasingly becoming a more common type of surgery for patients with mesothelioma. VATS is less invasive than other forms of mesothelioma treatment and allows for an easier and quicker recovery process.

What Is VATS for Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) is a minimally-invasive surgery for patients with mesothelioma. It can be used to diagnose, monitor, or remove cancerous tumors in the chest and lungs.

Doctors began using VATS, also known as thoracoscopy, for mesothelioma patients because the procedure isn’t as invasive as other treatment options, giving patients a faster recovery.

Specifically, VATS is often preferred to thoracotomies, which involve opening up the entire chest cavity. Thoracotomies are more expensive and take longer to recover from, while VATS can be done with just a small incision. After the incision is made, the scope or camera is inserted which allows the doctor to see inside the body during the procedure.

How Can VATS Help Cancer Patients?

VATS offers a range of benefits for mesothelioma patients, which are detailed below.

  • Diagnosing mesothelioma: Doctors can diagnose mesothelioma through the VATS procedure. Doctors can take tissue samples from around the lungs for a biopsy which can determine the nature of a growth or tumor.
  • Monitoring the progression of mesothelioma: In addition to diagnosing mesothelioma, VATS can also be used by doctors to evaluate the progression of the disease. Doctors can use the camera or scope during the procedure to view the development of cancerous lesions near the lungs.
  • Treating mesothelioma: Although VATS is typically used for diagnosis and monitoring the progression of mesothelioma, doctors can utilize the procedure for mesothelioma treatment. VATS is often used to treat pleural effusion, a condition that occurs when fluid builds up between the tissues lining the lungs and chest, which can be a symptom of mesothelioma. The procedure can also be used to help doctors perform major surgeries such as pleurectomy and pneumonectomy.

How Mesothelioma Patients Can Receive VATS

Mesothelioma patients can receive the VATS procedure from a variety of different medical providers.

The mesothelioma VATS procedure is done at facilities such as:

Mesothelioma video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery is also covered by the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs (the VA) for veterans who have served in the military.

Most veterans who were not dishonorably discharged are eligible for VA health care, which in most cases is free or low-cost. If a case of mesothelioma resulted from a veteran’s military service, the VA will pay for all of their health care costs.

The VA has its own doctors and health care system but in some cases will pay for surgeries that are performed outside their system if the veteran cannot receive them anywhere else.

Clinical Trials Testing Mesothelioma VATS

There are a few open clinical trials studying mesothelioma and VATS, the most prominent of them listed below.

BAP1 Gene Monitoring Study

This study is being conducted by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The researchers are using the VATS procedure to see if patients with the BAP1 gene can be better monitored for mesothelioma progression over time. Doctors have found that the BAP1 gene is linked to the development of mesothelioma and other forms of cancer.

The trial is open to men and women over the age of 30 who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and also carry the BAP1 gene.

Malignant Pleural Effusion Study

In this trial, researchers are studying how the addition of the GL-ONC1 vaccinia virus impacts malignant pleural effusion. Pleural effusion is the buildup of fluid and cancer cells in between the lining of the lungs and chest. The GL-ONC1 vaccinia virus will be administered through the VATS technique.

The researchers are recruiting patients with lung cancer, but the results will also be applicable to mesothelioma since it can also cause malignant pleural effusion.

Explore VATS and Other Treatment Options

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, it is important to explore all your treatment options. VATS could be the right choice for you, and you may be able to receive this procedure from one of the country’s top doctors.

Some of the best mesothelioma doctors are found within the VA, but there are also other specialists outside of this organization. We can help connect you with doctors who specialize in VATS and other important methods used to diagnose and treat mesothelioma.

For help finding a specialist near you, contact us today.

Veterans Support Team
Christopher Dryfoos PhotoWritten by:

Contributing Author

Christopher Dryfoos is a journalist and member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). As the grandson of the U.S. Navy’s first forensic pathologist, he aims to help veterans with mesothelioma access needed care.

  1. Ali, Jason M., and Correspondence to: Jason M. Ali. Department of Thoracic Surgery. “Video-Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery in the Management of Mesothelioma.” Shanghai Chest,
  2. “Diagnosing Chest and Lung Problems: Surgical Procedures.” Veterans Health Library...Your Source for Health Information,,40151_VA.
  3. Perikleous, Periklis, and David A Waller. “Video Assisted Thoracoscopic and Open Chest Surgery in Diagnosis and Treatment of Malignant Pleural Diseases.” Journal of Visualized Surgery, AME Publishing Company, 22 June 2017,
  4. Surgery, Department of Cardiothoracic. “Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma.” Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery,
  5. VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “ Veterans Affairs.” Mesothelioma Cancer Treatment, 15 July 2014,
  6. “What Is Mesothelioma?” Mesothelioma Overview - Brigham and Women's Hospital,