Mesothelioma is a very serious and rare cancer that is normally caused by long term exposure to asbestos. In a few cases, even being exposed to asbestos for a short period can cause mesothelioma.

What Are Common Mesothelioma Symptoms?

The answers to this question are not as straightforward as you might think. The reason is that there are several types of mesothelioma:

  • Pleural
  • Peritoneal
  • Pericardial

The symptoms of this very deadly lung cancer are different depending upon which type you have. Also, note that two different people with the identical disease could have widely different symptoms.

Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type, where the tissue and lining around the lungs are affected. Some of the most common symptoms of this disease are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Regular cough
  • Pleural effusion
  • Lower back pain
  • Pain in the side of chest
  • Voice that is raspy
  • Hard time swallowing
  • Persistent fever
  • Sweating at night
  • Rapid, unexplained weight loss

This type of mesothelioma accounts for 75% of all cases. If you have any of these symptoms for an extended period of time, especially chest pain and shortness of breath, talk to a doctor immediately. These two symptoms occur because of fluid buildup caused by asbestos fibers in the pleural area. Having some fluid here is good, but as fluid builds up, it makes breathing harder and the extra fluid presses the lungs, which leads to chest pain.

Some people with this form of the disease may have no symptoms at all until it has progressed to a serious stage. In these patients, symptoms may not manifest until stage IV, and by then it is too late for most people to be treated.

The life expectancy of someone with this form of mesothelioma is only 18 months or less, but it is possible for some patients to live longer.

The abdominal lining is most commonly affected by peritoneal mesothelioma. This is the second most common form of mesothelioma. Some of the symptoms of this type of the disease include:

  • Loss of weight
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Fluid buildup in abdomen
  • Obstruction of the bowel
  • Blood clotting problems
  • Anemia
  • Upset stomach/nausea
  • Fever
  • Feet swelling

Pericardial mesothelioma is the most rare type of cancer that affects the tissues lining the heart. Symptoms:

  • A great deal of coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in chest
  • Upset stomach and vomiting
  • Poor appetite
  • Heart palpitations

You should be cautious when you are looking at possible symptoms of mesothelioma because it is easy for the layman to misinterpret them. For example, losing weight and pain in the abdomen could be caused by many things besides mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma symptoms are quite nonspecific and you could have a less serious condition than you think. This is why it is so important that you should be evaluated by a doctor if you have any of the above symptoms on a regular basis.

Mesothelioma is slow to develop, but once you have all of the above symptoms for your particular type, the disease kills quickly and is very difficult to treat.

Mesothelioma Diagnosis Challenges

One of the challenges of diagnosing mesothelioma is for the doctor to tell the difference between mesothelioma and lung cancer. Doctors may suspect that the patient has mesothelioma based upon symptoms and work history, but these things are not enough to confirm the diagnosis.

The most reliable way to diagnose any form of mesothelioma is by a thoracoscopy. This allows the doctor to look at the chest of a patient via a very small camera and to collect a tissue sample.

To have the best chances at treatment and survival for mesothelioma, it is important for you to have as early a diagnosis as possible. After your doctor does a physical examination and reviews your medical and occupational history, he or she will probably have you undergo a variety of imaging tests to check for tumors:

  • Chest x-ray: This can reveal some pleural effusions and masses for some patients.
  • CT scans: This type of scan will provide a more advanced image and can usually reveal evidence of possible asbestos exposure.
  • PET scans: This most advanced type of scan also can detects possible signs of the cancer spreading to the lymph nodes.

There are some other tests that can be done to fully diagnose possible mesothelioma. One of these tests is called thoracentesis; this is where the doctor will put a hollow needle into your lungs to obtain a pleural fluid sample.

Your doctor will look at the sample under a microscope. He is looking for biomarkers that suggest cancer is present. A specialist can do this type of analysis to make a diagnosis in about 80% of mesothelioma cases.

For some patients, there could be not enough pleural fluid to get a sample. So, the doctor may need to do a biopsy to collect a sample of your pleural tissue. This test can reveal mesothelioma in 98% of cases.

Mesothelioma Symptoms Treated by Doctors

We recommend that people use caution when examining the signs of mesothelioma, as they can easily be misinterpreted. Mesothelioma symptoms are generally nonspecific, and some may resemble other less-serious conditions. This is one of the reasons why it is important to seek the care of a doctor, as only a doctor can make a definite diagnosis of the disease. Though the slow onset of its development may be deceiving, mesothelioma is a swift killer once symptoms have fully manifested themselves. Knowing and recognizing the symptoms of mesothelioma is the first step. If you or someone you know thinks they may be suffering from mesothelioma, it is important to contact a physician for diagnosis and treatment options. You can also learn more by contacting a mesothelioma cancer center as soon as possible. Once you’ve been properly diagnosed, you may consider contacting an attorney. A lawyer who has experience in asbestos cases can help you explore your legal rights.

Mesothelioma Cancer Symptoms (English) / Sintomas del Mesotelioma Cancer (Spanish)