covid alert

We hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy during the COVID-19 crisis. Our patient advocates remain available to provide support in any way you need.

Mesothelioma Symptoms

written

Written by Jenna Campagna, RN

fact

Fact Checked

popout

Mesothelioma usually takes more than a decade to develop, and many symptoms of this rare cancer mirror those of common health issues. Therefore, detecting and diagnosing mesothelioma is difficult.

What Are the Mesothelioma Symptoms?

Mesothelioma symptoms vary by the type and stage of the cancer. Symptoms can also factor into determining a patient’s prognosis. If you are displaying the most common malignant mesothelioma symptoms, you should see a doctor immediately.

Symptoms by Mesothelioma Type

pleural

Pleural Mesothelioma

The most common pleural mesothelioma symptoms are chest pain, pleural effusions (fluid buildup in the pleura), painful breathing and a persistent cough.

peritoneal

Peritoneal Mesothelioma

The most common symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma are stomach pains, ascites (fluid buildup in the peritoneum), unexplained weight loss and decreased appetite.

pericardial

Pericardial Mesothelioma

The most common symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma are chest pain, pericardial effusion (fluid buildup in the pericardium) and heart murmurs.

wristbands

FREE MESOTHELIOMA WRISTBANDS

Show your support for family and friends.

Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms

pleural symptoms

Most Common Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms:

  • Lung fluid buildup
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Dry cough
  • Weight loss

Pleural mesothelioma makes up 80% of cases and is most often caused by inhaling asbestos fibers, which lodge into the lining of your lungs (known as the pleura). These microscopic fibers cause irritation and inflammation in the pleura, which is comprised of two walls of mesothelial cells.

The irritation of these cells causes cellular mutation and tumors to form, which results in tissue thickening and the buildup of fluid around the lungs (pleural effusion). The buildup of fluid and thickening of this lining prevents your nearby lung from fully expanding. This causes chest discomfort and painful breathing.

Early-Stage Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms

Patients with an early-stage pleural mesothelioma often express symptoms associated with many common illnesses. Early stages are more commonly known as Stage 1 and Stage 2.

These signs include:

  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
  • Chest pain
  • Blood clots
  • Persistent coughing
  • Pleural effusions (fluid buildup)
  • Low-grade fever
  • Lower back pain
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Body aches
  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
  • Chest pain
  • Blood clots
  • Persistent coughing
  • Pleural effusions (fluid buildup)
  • Low-grade fever
  • Lower back pain
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Body aches

These symptoms are similar to those of various other disorders, such as pneumonia, common cold, asthma, influenza and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Pleural effusions and inflammation of the pleura are main sources of discomfort associated with pleural mesothelioma, but they are also linked to pneumonia and COPD.

According to a published book on malignant pleural mesothelioma, around 46% of patients experience shortness of breath. Around 10% of patients have a dry cough.

Pleural thickening is another pleural mesothelioma symptom common in other diseases. This effect is caused by scarring of the pleura. It causes a loss of elasticity in the lungs, which is essential for the lung to expand for normal breathing.

Pleural thickening is caused by tuberculosis, pleurisy and empyema (infection in the lung that causes a buildup of pus in the pleura). However, in mesothelioma, this is specifically caused by scarring of the pleura due to asbestos fibers irritating cellular linings.

Late-Stage Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms

The late stages of pleural mesothelioma have more specific symptoms but also include symptoms from the earlier stages. In stage 3 and stage 4, symptoms still include difficulty breathing, chest pains, pleural effusions and persistent coughing, but these malignant mesothelioma symptoms may be more severe.

Many patients are diagnosed in later stages because they notice symptoms unique to pleural mesothelioma.

Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
  • Anemia
  • Coughing up blood (hemoptysis)
  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Face or arm swelling
  • Hoarseness
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
  • Anemia
  • Coughing up blood (hemoptysis)
  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Face or arm swelling
  • Hoarseness

Treatment may be used to relieve pain and discomfort associated with various malignant mesothelioma symptoms. For example, doctors may drain pleural fluid to reduce chest pain and make breathing easier.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms

peritoneal symptoms

Most Common Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms:

  • Abdominal fluid buildup
  • Weight loss
  • Stomach pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Constipation

Peritoneal mesothelioma makes up around 20% of all cases and is most often caused by ingesting or swallowing asbestos dust. The sharp fibers reach the peritoneum and irritate the cells along this thin lining.

Peritoneal mesothelioma shares some symptoms with pleural mesothelioma, such as fatigue, excessive sweating, blood clots and unexplained weight loss. Peritoneal mesothelioma does not have the same staging system as pleural mesothelioma, so the symptoms occur at various times for each patient.

Additional peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms include:

  • Fluid buildup in the peritoneum
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Stomach pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Constipation or other bowel issues
  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Fluid buildup in the peritoneum
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Stomach pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Constipation or other bowel issues
  • Intestinal obstruction

Symptoms for Other Types of Mesothelioma

Pericardial mesothelioma makes up less than 1% of mesothelioma cases, and the way asbestos fibers reach the pericardium (lining of the heart) is unknown.

Symptoms associated with pericardial mesothelioma are:

  • Chest pain
  • Irritation and thickening of the pericardium
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Pericardial bleeding
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pericardial effusions (fluid buildup in the pericardium)
  • Chest pain
  • Irritation and thickening of the pericardium
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Pericardial bleeding
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pericardial effusions (fluid buildup in the pericardium)

In extremely rare cases, mesothelioma can form in mesothelial cells lining the testicles. According to the National Organization for Rare Diseases, this tissue is part of the peritoneum that extends into the scrotum.

Misdiagnosis

Pleural Mesothelioma Misdiagnosis

Misdiagnosis is common for pleural mesothelioma because many malignant mesothelioma symptoms are not unique to this cancer. Cases are often misdiagnosed as influenza or pneumonia in the early stages.

For instance, chest pain and shortness of breath are very common in the early pleural mesothelioma stages. However, some patients reported that the chest pain they experienced was dull and insignificant. So they did not associate these minor symptoms to a malignant, aggressive disease.

Overall, pleural mesothelioma symptoms vary by stage and are contingent upon the patient. Some patients show few symptoms — and no unique signs — until the late stages of mesothelioma, whereas some experience telling malignant mesothelioma symptoms during Stage 1.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Misdiagnosis

Misdiagnosis of peritoneal mesothelioma is also common — and for similar reasons. Many symptoms are not specific to this cancer.

Additionally, the disease is rare, accounting for just 10% to 15% of all mesothelioma cases. Therefore, only a few hundred Americans each year develop peritoneal mesothelioma, which is often misdiagnosed as a hernia or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

Pericardial Mesothelioma Misdiagnosis

Misdiagnosis of pericardial mesothelioma is common because the symptoms associated with the cancer are so general. The most common misdiagnoses for pericardial mesothelioma include pericarditis (inflammation of the pericardium) and myocarditis (inflammation of the heart).

Early Detection

Patients who experience malignant mesothelioma symptoms should talk with their doctor. Fortunately, the diagnostic process for mesothelioma is improving. Learn more about what methods are used for detecting and diagnosing mesothelioma.

Metastatic Mesothelioma Symptoms

Metastatic mesothelioma symptoms are those linked to areas of the body where mesothelioma has spread. Experiencing these symptoms is a sign of mesothelioma metastasis, which is the spread of cancerous mesothelial cells to other regions of the body.

The most common metastatic mesothelioma symptoms are:

  • Hemoptysis – Coughing or spitting up blood
  • Laryngeal Nerve Palsy – Damage to the throat, resulting in paralysis of the voice box
  • Nerve issues – Nerve malfunction in arms or spinal cord
  • Horner’s Syndrome – A conjunction of eye-related issues such as a drooping eyelid, constriction of pupils, decreased tear production and conjunctival redness

Metastatic symptoms are signs of advanced mesothelioma. If you experience these, you should immediately find a specialist to get the best treatment possible. Find a mesothelioma specialist for your specific diagnosis using our free Doctor Match program.

Last Edited: June 22, 2020.

Free Mesothelioma Guide Flyout Picture Learn More
FREE Mesothelioma Guide