One of the toughest parts of fighting mesothelioma is detecting the rare cancer. Most people don’t know they have it until the tumors have progressed into organ cavities.
Early detection is important but also challenging. Not many know the symptoms of mesothelioma, and some disregard them as more common health issues. They also don’t know the difference between signs of pleural mesothelioma and peritoneal mesothelioma.
What are the most common symptoms of pleural mesothelioma? That’s a valid question asked by many people worried about their exposure to asbestos.
Some signs are detectable from discomfort in everyday life. Other main symptoms are identified through scans.
There are a few early signs of pleural mesothelioma. If you react quickly and get diagnosed soon enough, you may be eligible for surgery and save your life.
The top early symptoms of pleural mesothelioma are:
- Fluid buildup around the lungs (pleural effusions)
- Pleural thickening
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
Pleural effusions are buildup of fluid in the pleural space. This area is where pleural mesothelioma forms. It’s a narrow lining of tissue and fluid. When tumors form, they take up the already-limited space and push fluid into pockets.
Doctors can notice pleural effusions on imaging scans, such as an X-ray or computed tomography (CT) scan.
Pleural effusions are the first diagnostic sign of pleural mesothelioma. A report in ScienceDirect found 60% of diagnosed cases had this symptom.
Pleural thickening occurs when scar tissue plaques form in the pleura. This scar tissue is the result of asbestos fibers sharply penetrating the mesothelial cell lining.
Pleural mesothelioma forms within this scar tissue, which causes an inflammation of tissue. This sign is also detected through X-ray or CT scans.
The same ScienceDirect report found pleural thickening in 88% of diagnosed cases.
The problem is most people don’t know they have pleural effusions or pleural thickening without getting scans. The pleural effusions or pleural thickening causes discomfort, which leads to people worrying about their health.
The main symptom is chest pain, which is a result of pleural effusions and tissue thickening. As space is taken up by tumors and fluid pockets, there’s pressure against the chest wall.
Shortness of Breath
Pleural thickening and pleural effusions also impact respiratory functioning. The pleura is a serous membrane lining. It provides a buffer between the lungs and chest wall, allowing the organs to expand and contract.
When tumors are in the pleural cavity, the lungs don’t have the room to expand like normal. This can impact respiratory functioning and cause issues with breathing. According to a published book on mesothelioma, approximately 50% of diagnosed patients experience this symptom.
Again, shortness of breath isn’t detectable on imaging scans. It’s a consequence of tumor buildup. However, most patients react to shortness of breath and visit their doctor with concerns.
This can be the first step to getting the necessary imaging scans to notice other symptoms, get a biopsy and begin life-saving treatment.
Sources & Author
- Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma. Edited by Kenneth O’Byrne and Valerie Rusch. Oxford University Press. 2006.
- Causes of Mesothelioma. Abramson Cancer Center. Retrieved from: https://www.pennmedicine.org/cancer/types-of-cancer/mesothelioma/causes. Accessed: 07/15/2021.
- Pleural Mesothelioma. ScienceDirect. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/pleura-mesothelioma. Accessed: 07/15/2021.
- Diagnostic Approach to Pleural Effusions in Adults. American Family Physician. Retrieved from: https://www.aafp.org/afp/2006/0401/p1211.html. Accessed: 07/15/2021.
- Signs and Symptoms of Mesothelioma. American Cancer Society. Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/malignant-mesothelioma/detection-diagnosis-staging/signs-symptoms.html. Accessed: 04/10/19.
Sources & Author