Mesothelioma Symptoms

Quick Summary

Symptoms of mesothelioma often go unnoticed because the cancer takes several decades to develop. When a patient does begin to show symptoms, they’re usually mild but worsen over time as the cancer spreads throughout the body. Early detection of mesothelioma symptoms helps patients start on a treatment plan to extend their life.

Detecting Symptoms of Mesothelioma

Most malignant mesothelioma cases start with mild symptoms that persist and worsen over time. In fact, patients rarely notice symptoms of mesothelioma during the early stages of the cancer.

It can take 20-50 years for mesothelioma symptoms to present and for a patient to recognize that something is wrong.

Video Summary: Dr. Michael Milano, a radiation oncologist, discusses the symptoms of mesothelioma. View Transcript.
Dr. Micahael Milano explains mesothelioma and its symptoms. Mesothelioma is a cancer, it's a malignancy. What a malignancy is, is it's a growth that can spread, can invade organs, and can metastasize. Symptoms may not appear until many decades often 30-50 years after a patient's initial asbestos exposure. The underlying cause of the symptoms is either fluid or a mass surrounding the lungs. Mesothelioma symptoms can either be chest pain, shortness of breath, cough, hemoptysis which is coughing up of blood. They can also have non-specific symptoms such as fatigue or weight loss. Often victims of mesothelioma do have their symptoms but they don't realize that it's from a cancer. Symptoms can go on for many months unchecked by a physician just because they're common symptoms that relate to common ailments.

Common signs of mesothelioma include:

  • Abdominal or chest pain
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight loss

As is true with all cancers, early detection offers the best chance for a positive outcome. Patients who think they are experiencing symptoms of mesothelioma — especially those with a history of asbestos exposure — should inform their doctor immediately.

Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms

In general, mesothelioma symptoms vary depending on where in the body the cancer first develops. Since malignant pleural mesothelioma begins in the lining of the lungs (pleura), its symptoms mainly affect the chest area and respiratory system.

Early Symptoms of Pleural Mesothelioma

During the earliest stages of pleural mesothelioma (stages 1 and 2), patients usually experience mild symptoms. Some individuals may not even notice symptoms.

Early pleural mesothelioma symptoms include:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Fluid buildup in the chest
  • Weight loss

Symptoms of Advanced Pleural Mesothelioma

Late-stage (stages 3 and 4) symptoms of pleural mesothelioma are typically more severe, uncomfortable, and noticeable.

Advanced pleural mesothelioma symptoms include:

  • Coughing up blood (hemoptysis)
  • Chronic fever
  • Night sweats
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fatigue
  • Increased difficulty breathing
  • Pain in the ribcage and spine
  • Severe weight loss, malnutrition, and loss of appetite
  • Shortness of breath when lying down
Mary Hesdorffer, NP,<span class='cite-title'/>Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation
Mary Hesdorffer, NP,Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation

“Patients typically present with pneumonia that doesn’t resolve, a cough. Sometimes they have some chest pain. Very often they have night sweats.”

Diagnosing Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms

Patients experiencing any of the mesothelioma symptoms listed above should see their doctor to get a physical exam and imaging tests, like X-rays or CT scans, to determine the cause of the symptoms.

If imaging tests show a mass in the lung area, fluid buildup in the lungs (pleural effusions), or other potential signs of pleural mesothelioma, a tissue biopsy will be performed to make a proper mesothelioma diagnosis.

How to Manage Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms

Patients with pleural mesothelioma can access palliative treatment options created to relieve their pain and discomfort.

Palliative care for pleural mesothelioma may include:

  • Chemotherapy and radiation: Both chemotherapy and radiation therapy can be used to shrink pleural mesothelioma tumors that cause chest pain and breathing issues.
  • Pleurodesis: During pleurodesis, extra fluid is removed from the lining of the lung, which is then sealed to prevent further fluid buildup.
  • Thoracentesis: This procedure drains fluid buildup between the pleura and the lungs to relieve chest pain, coughing, and shortness of breath.
  • BD PleurX™ catheter: This catheter is permanently inserted into a patient’s body, allowing them to drain uncomfortable lung fluid buildup at home instead of going to a doctor.

“Before I had the PleurX catheter, it was hard for me to count on keeping appointments and dates. It would improve my mood, certainly, whenever I would drain. It was easier for me to sit up […] I wasn’t short of breath.”

– Dr. Lawrence R., PleurX Patient Testimonial

Patients may also take pain medication, participate in clinical trials, or practice nonmedical therapies like massage and acupuncture to help manage symptoms of pleural mesothelioma.

Sokolove Law can help patients learn about the latest and most promising mesothelioma treatments and clinical trials. For more information, contact us now.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms

Peritoneal mesothelioma develops in the lining of the abdomen (peritoneum). As a result, symptoms of this rare type of mesothelioma usually affect the stomach area, leading to problems with appetite, bloating, and digestion.

Common symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating and swelling in the stomach
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Diarrhea and constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Fever and excessive sweating
  • Buildup of fluid in the abdomen (ascites)
  • Malnutrition and loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weight loss

Diagnosing Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms

Diagnosis of peritoneal mesothelioma usually involves a physical exam, imaging scans of the abdominal cavity, and a tissue biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.

Individuals who have been exposed to asbestos fibers should contact their doctors if they experience any of the symptoms listed above.

How to Manage Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms

Palliative care for peritoneal mesothelioma reduces uncomfortable or painful symptoms through surgery, chemotherapy, and other means.

Palliative care for peritoneal mesothelioma may include:

  • Cytoreduction: This surgery involves partial removal of a patient’s tumors to help relieve symptoms.
  • Paracentesis: This procedure is used to drain fluid from the abdomen, reducing bloating, loss of appetite, and other symptoms.
  • Chemotherapy and radiation: Chemotherapy and/or radiation may be used to shrink a patient’s tumors, especially if surgery is too risky.
  • Pain medication: Painkillers can help peritoneal mesothelioma patients manage pain caused by their cancer or treatment.

Many peritoneal mesothelioma patients also find symptom relief or increased peace of mind through alternative therapies, however, these therapies are not substitutes for medical treatment options.

Symptoms of Less Common Types of Mesothelioma

Pericardial Mesothelioma Symptoms

Pericardial mesothelioma affects the lining surrounding the heart (pericardium).

Symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma include:

  • Pain in the chest wall
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fluid buildup in the heart
  • Heart palpitations and heart murmurs
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Pericardial thickening
  • Tightness in the chest

Pericardial mesothelioma often remains undiagnosed until after a patient passes away and undergoes an autopsy. If a patient does seek medical attention, this type of cancer is usually mistaken for heart disease or other heart-related conditions.

Testicular Mesothelioma Symptoms

Testicular mesothelioma develops in the lining of the testes (tunica vaginalis).

Symptoms of testicular mesothelioma include:

  • Lumps on the testicles
  • Fluid buildup in the scrotum
  • Swelling of the testicles

Due to its rarity, this form of mesothelioma is often misdiagnosed as a hernia.

Get Connected With a Mesothelioma Specialist

If you or your loved one are displaying symptoms of mesothelioma, consult your doctor as soon as possible. Early detection is one of the most important ways to increase the life expectancy of someone with mesothelioma.

To help you access the best treatment techniques for mesothelioma, you will need to see a mesothelioma specialist who has experience diagnosing and treating your form of cancer.

Contact Sokolove Law

Sokolove Law can help you find a mesothelioma cancer center or doctor near you. Contact our team today for assistance.

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Author:Sokolove Law Team
Sokolove Law Team

Contributing Authors

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

Last modified: July 22, 2020

View 5 Sources
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  2. The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team. (2018). Can Malignant Mesothelioma Be Found Early? Retrieved June 15, 2020, from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/malignant-mesothelioma/detection-diagnosis-staging/found-early.html

  3. The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team. (2018) Malignant Mesothelioma Stages. Retrieved June 15, 2020, from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/malignant-mesothelioma/detection-diagnosis-staging/staging.html

  4. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2019). Mesothelioma. Retrieved June 15, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mesothelioma/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20375028#:~:text=Diagnosis,abdomen%2C%20to%20look%20for%20abnormalities

  5. [BD]. (2020, April 6). BD PleurX™ Drainage System Patient Testimonial: Lawrence [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7HKlj01Da8