Frequently Asked Questions

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer. In fact, there are only about 3,200 patients diagnosed each year in the U.S. Explore these frequently asked questions to learn more about what you and your family need to know.

What is mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer that occurs in the lining of the lungs, the abdomen, or the heart.

What causes mesothelioma?

Exposure to asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma.

How long could I have had mesothelioma without knowing?

It can take 20-50 years for a person to develop mesothelioma symptoms.

How does mesothelioma develop?

Before 1980, hundreds of companies manufactured thousands of everyday products that contained asbestos, from floor tiles to roofing materials. When these products wear down due to age, or become damaged, they can release tiny asbestos fibers into the air where they can easily be inhaled or swallowed.

These fibers can get stuck in the lining that protects a person’s lungs, abdomen, or heart. The trapped fibers irritate cells, causing changes in the genetic structure of those cells. Over time, this can result in mesothelioma.


Types of Mesothelioma

Are there different types of mesothelioma?

Yes, there are 3 main types of mesothelioma: pleural, which occurs in the lining of the lungs; peritoneal, which occurs in the lining of the abdomen; and pericardial, which occurs in the lining of the heart.


What are the symptoms of pleural mesothelioma?

Pleural mesothelioma symptoms include chest pain, painful coughing, shortness of breath, fatigue, and fluid buildup around the lungs.

What are the symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma?

Peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms include abdominal pain and swelling, unexplained weight loss, nausea and vomiting, and elevated white blood cell count.

What are the symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma?

Pericardial mesothelioma symptoms include chest pain, irregular heartbeat, and fatigue.


How is mesothelioma diagnosed?

In the early stages of the disease, mesothelioma symptoms can be difficult to diagnose. In fact, they can easily be mistaken for a bad cold or the flu. To diagnose mesothelioma, doctors conduct a thorough physical exam followed by specific tests designed to distinguish mesothelioma from all the other types of cancer. Imaging tests, blood tests, and biopsies are the main tools used to confirm a diagnosis.


What are mesothelioma stages?

There are 4 stages that identify the extent to which a person’s mesothelioma has progressed. Stage 1 is the least advanced, while stage 4 is the most advanced.

Is treatment available at all 4 stages?

There are treatments for each stage. The earlier the stage, the more treatment options exist. Treatments in stages 3 and 4 usually are given to help ease a patient’s symptoms rather than to remove the cancer. This is because the mesothelioma has progressed too extensively.