How Does Mesothelioma Kill You? Understanding the Cancer’s Later Stages

Doctor looks at lung x-rays

"How Does Mesothelioma Kill You?"

A mesothelioma diagnosis can be overwhelming and lead to many questions. One of the most common and difficult questions that victims and their families ask is, “How does mesothelioma kill you?

The microscopic mineral asbestos is the primary cause of mesothelioma. When inhaled or ingested, its fibers attach to the thin linings of sensitive organs, including the heart, lungs, and abdomen. Asbestos fibers remain in the body, causing cells to turn cancerous 20 to 50 years later.

A patient’s battle with mesothelioma cancer often ends when cancer cells are so prominent in the body that organs begin to lose their ability to function. The spread of cancer throughout the body eventually causes organ failure, leading to death. It's hard to imagine that microscopic asbestos fibers can lead to such a challenging illness.

Understanding how mesothelioma progresses may help you prepare physically and mentally for the potential outcomes. Most importantly, you do not have to prepare for this journey alone — your legal team will stand by to support you and your family.

Accessing support resources and treatment options can help ease symptoms and improve quality of life even in late-stage mesothelioma.

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End-Stage / Late-Stage Mesothelioma Symptoms

In the early stages, mesothelioma symptoms may present as a cough or shortness of breath. However, once the cancer begins to progress, symptoms become more serious. Cancer cells will also spread to other areas within the body, causing additional complications.

Late-stage mesothelioma symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal and lower back pain
  • Digestion issues
  • Fatigue
  • Fluid buildup in the chest
  • Growing pain and tightness in the chest
  • Persistent cough, sometimes resulting in coughing up blood
  • Swelling in various parts of the body, including the abdomen, face, and neck (if spread to lymph nodes)

Symptoms may slowly increase in severity if:

  • Cancer cells continue to grow or spread to distant parts of the body
  • Tumor sizes increase

Additionally, since cancer cells can spread to lymph nodes — important parts of the body’s immune system that remove toxins — many mesothelioma patients may have impaired immune systems, leading to an increased risk of illness.

What to Expect After Diagnosis: Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Since asbestos fibers often go undetected in the body for 20 to 50 years after exposure, the damage to cells may already be advanced by the time symptoms develop. For this reason, the life expectancy for mesothelioma patients is often unfavorable.

The average life expectancy for many patients after a mesothelioma diagnosis is between 12 and 21 months, according to a University of Pittsburgh study.

However, every case of mesothelioma is unique, and patients should consult their mesothelioma specialists for an accurate life expectancy.

Some of the most common factors that may influence a patient’s life expectancy include:

  • Age
  • Overall health
  • Stage of cancer at the time of detection

Some patients have lived for many years when mesothelioma was detected early enough, and the patient was eligible for more intensive treatments.

Mesothelioma Treatment Provides Hope

Pursuing mesothelioma treatment is the most important step after receiving a diagnosis. Mesothelioma specialists can work closely with each patient to develop the best treatment methods.

Mesothelioma treatments may include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgery

Palliative Treatment Aims to Make Patients Comfortable

In addition to life-extending treatment, which aims to reduce the presence of cancer cells and keep them from returning, mesothelioma palliative treatment may help patients manage pain and symptoms.

Sokolove Law Helps Families Before and After Death

A barrier many mesothelioma patients face when pursuing treatment is the cost of critical health care. Medical bills related to mesothelioma can quickly add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.


Average Yearly Cost of Mesothelioma Treatment

Growing Costs: Mesothelioma costs add up quickly. Get a free case review to start getting the help you need.

You shouldn’t be burdened with the cost of life-extending care. As a national mesothelioma law firm, Sokolove Law has dedicated over 40 years to securing financial help for mesothelioma patients and their families.

Our asbestos lawyers have recovered over $5 Billion in settlements and verdicts nationwide for those impacted by asbestos exposure. We strive to make the process as easy as possible by handling all of the legal work on your behalf so that you can focus on your health and family.

Call our team today at (800) 995-1212 to learn more about your legal options and see if we can help you get the care you need.

Sokolove Law Team

Contributing Authors

The Sokolove Law Content Team is made up of writers, editors, and journalists. We work with case managers and attorneys to keep site information up to date and accurate. Our site has a wealth of resources available for victims of wrongdoing and their families.

Last modified: March 10, 2023

  1. American Cancer Society. “Malignant Mesothelioma.” Retrieved from: Accessed on February 9, 2023.
  2. Amin, W., et al. (2017). “Factors influencing malignant mesothelioma survival: a retrospective review of the National Mesothelioma Virtual Bank cohort.” Retrieved from: Accessed on February 9, 2023.
  3. Cedars Sinai. “Mesothelioma.” Retrieved from: Accessed on February 9, 2023.
  4. WebMD. “Mesothelioma.” Retrieved from: Accessed on February 9, 2023.