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Signs & Symptoms of Mesothelioma

Signs & Symptoms of Mesothelioma

People rarely notice their symptoms during the early stages of mesothelioma. In fact, it can take 20 to 50 years for the symptoms to present and for a person to recognize that something is wrong. Often, the disease is not diagnosed until it has progressed into its more advanced stages—and then it’s more difficult to treat.

Early detection offers the best chance for a positive outcome. If mesothelioma is caught soon enough, and the cancer has not spread, the tumor may be surgically removed. In this case, patients must be monitored by a doctor and undergo follow-up testing on a regular basis.

The major challenge: How can doctors diagnose mesothelioma earlier when there are no obvious symptoms in the beginning stages of the disease?

The only known cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. If you have ever had direct or indirect exposure (secondhand) to asbestos, see your doctor immediately if you begin to notice any of these symptoms.

Pleural Mesothelioma – 75% of cases

Occurs in the lungs. Symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Cough
  • Weight loss
  • General fatigue
  • Fever

The most common symptom of pleural mesothelioma is shortness of breath. This happens when fluid from a tumor collects around the lung, making it impossible for the lung to fully expand. As a result, it can be difficult to breathe normally. Shortness of breath is usually the first symptom to be noticed. It is usually followed by other warning signs that can be easily mistaken for illnesses like pneumonia or even a cold or the flu. Pleural mesothelioma symptoms may change during the 4 stages of the disease.

Symptoms in Stages 1-2

  • Shortness of breath and chest pain (60% to 90% of patients)
  • Night sweats
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Fever

Symptoms in Stages 3-4

  • Chest pain becomes more painful
  • Fluid develops in the abdomen
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • A lump may develop in the chest or abdominal area

Need More Information? Learn more about Pleural Mesothelioma.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma – 20% of cases

Occurs in the lining of the abdomen. Symptoms include:

  • Abdominal distension (swelling), often described as “feeling bloated”
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Elevated white blood count

Peritoneal mesothelioma is caused by swallowing asbestos fibers. This may happen when people eat polluted food or liquids, such as water that flows through asbestos cement pipes. It can also occur when people cough up asbestos they inhaled, and then swallow their saliva.

These fibers get stuck in the digestive tract and cause a tumor to develop over time. The most common symptom is the expansion of a patient’s abdomen. This is the result of the cancerous tumor growing and accumulating fluid.

The symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma can be vague, leading to a misdiagnosis of other abdominal conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome.

Need More Information? Learn more about Peritoneal Mesothelioma.

Pericardial Mesothelioma – 1% of cases

Occurs in the lining around the heart. Symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Fluid around the heart
  • Persistent coughing
  • Heart palpitations

Because these symptoms are also typical signs of other illnesses, doctors may mistake mesothelioma as a heart condition or another disease. Often, the correct diagnosis is not made until a surgery or an autopsy is performed. With only 200 documented cases of pericardial mesothelioma to date, doctors have the least amount of knowledge and experience for understanding and treating this rare form of the disease.

Need More Information? Learn more about Pericardial Mesothelioma.

Know the warning signs of mesothelioma and learn how to take action.

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