Mesothelioma Symptoms

Quick Summary

Mesothelioma patients are typically asymptomatic in the early-stages, meaning they show no signs of cancer. By the time symptoms do appear, mesothelioma is often in its advanced stages. There are many effective symptom management treatments available, including surgeries and chemotherapy.

Mesothelioma Symptoms Overview

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Though it’s an uncommon disease, everyone with a history of working around asbestos should be aware of the symptoms of mesothelioma.

Here’s what you need to know about mesothelioma symptoms:

  • Doctors often confuse mesothelioma symptoms for other nonlife-threatening conditions
  • Mesothelioma has a latency period of 10-50 years between the time of asbestos exposure and when symptoms appear
  • Mesothelioma symptoms vary by location as mesothelioma can form in the chest or abdomen and rarely in the heart or testicles
  • Patients can undergo life-extending treatments that stop mesothelioma from spreading and relieve painful symptoms
  • Treatments to manage mesothelioma symptoms are available at cancer centers across the country

Mesothelioma Symptoms by Location

Because there are different locations where mesothelioma can form, there are also different sets of symptoms to be aware of.

The most common mesothelioma location is pleural, meaning it forms within the pleura (lung lining).

The second most common mesothelioma location is peritoneal, meaning it forms within the peritoneum (abdominal lining). The two most rare mesothelioma locations are pericardial (heart lining) and tunica vaginalis (testicles lining).

Common symptom experienced at each mesothelioma location include:

  • Anemia (low iron)
  • Body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Weight loss/anorexia

Mesothelioma Update

In patients with mesothelioma, it takes 10-50 years after asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested before noticeable symptoms appear. Even when symptoms do appear, they often mimic other more common conditions that general practitioners are more familiar with.

If you’ve been exposed to asbestos at work, school or home, then it’s important to learn all the signs and symptoms of mesothelioma by location.

Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms

Pleural mesothelioma symptoms arise after tumors have formed within the protective lining that covers the lungs and chest wall. As tumors build, surrounding healthy lung tissues become inflamed.

In response to this inflammation, the pleura begins to fill with fluid (pleural effusions), which causes restriction. When the pleura cannot expand flexibly as it does in a healthy body, the lungs begin to feel heavy and tight, and the patient can no longer breathe properly.

Common pleural mesothelioma symptoms can include:

  • Body aches
  • Chest pain
  • Chest swelling and fluid buildup (pleural effusions)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue and sweating
  • Fever
  • Lumps of tissue forming under the skin around the chest
  • Persistent, dry cough
  • Unexplained weight loss

As symptoms worsen, patients may find they begin to cough up blood. Other possible symptoms include a hoarse voice, difficulty swallowing and blood clots.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms

Peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms are caused by tumors developing within the peritoneum, which protects the abdominal organs. As tumors grow, the surrounding abdominal tissues become inflamed.

Inflammation causes the abdominal cavity to fill with fluid (ascites), which results in swelling and discomfort in the belly.

Peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal swelling and fluid buildup (ascites)
  • Constipation and diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Fever and sweating
  • Lumps of tissue forming under the abdominal skin
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Unexplained weight loss

As the disease progresses, patients may also experience changes in bowel habits, bowel obstructions, and hernias.

Pericardial Mesothelioma Symptoms

Pericardial mesothelioma symptoms occur when tumors form in the pericardium, which is the tissue lining that protects the heart. As pericardial tumors grow, the pericardium layers start to thicken in response to inflammation.

Pericardial thickening causes constriction of the heart muscle, which impairs its ability to function. The constriction of the heart also causes respiratory symptoms.

Pericardial mesothelioma symptoms are difficult to identify because there have been so few cases of it ever recorded.

However, in the cases that are known, pericardial mesothelioma symptoms have included:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever and sweating
  • Heart murmurs
  • Heart palpitations
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Unexplained weight loss

Testicular Mesothelioma Symptoms

Testicular mesothelioma symptoms develop when tumors form in the tunica vaginalis, which is the protective lining covering the testicles. As tumors metastasize (spread) throughout the affected testicle, it can cause inflammation and pain.

Because there are so few cases of testicular mesothelioma, its full range of symptoms is not yet known.

However, in the cases that have been identified, patients have reported testicular mesothelioma symptoms such as:

  • Fluid buildup in the scrotum (hydrocele)
  • Lumps in the scrotum
  • Testicular pain
  • Testicular swelling

Symptoms of testicular pain and swelling are very vague, and can easily be confused with a hernia or less serious issues. Communicating your history of asbestos exposure is key when reporting any of these symptoms to your doctor.

What Causes Mesothelioma Pain?

Many mesothelioma patients experience non-specific pain as a primary symptom of this disease. It’s important for patients to maintain a good quality of life so that they can be better equipped to undergo treatments. Because pain is such a common symptom experienced by mesothelioma patients, it’s helpful to understand exactly what is causing the pain.

Generally, mesothelioma tumors cause significant pain as they continue to grow. Though patients may experience different levels of pain, generally, tumor growth can be quite painful.

As the tumor metastasizes—meaning it spreads to distant sites—it causes pressure in those affected areas. For example, if tumors spread from the chest cavity and into the abdomen, pain can be felt in the belly as well.

Additional pain symptoms are caused by fluid building up in the peritoneum or the pleura. Fluid buildup causes these parts to constrict, making it painful to breathe and even to move.

Palliative surgeries can help ease this pain by draining the fluid regularly.

What to Do if You Exhibit Signs of Mesothelioma

Anyone with a known history of extensive asbestos exposure should be concerned about asbestos-related diseases, especially mesothelioma.

If you have a history of working around asbestos, or you know that asbestos was used in your home or school, you should take the time to inform yourself about the different symptoms and warning signs of mesothelioma.

Don’t ignore these important symptoms as they may be signs of mesothelioma:

  • Abdominal or chest swelling
  • Chronic, painful cough
  • Excessive weight loss
  • Fever and sweating
  • Pleural effusions

If you have any of these key warning signs of mesothelioma, then contact your doctor immediately. Be sure to let your doctor know how you may have been exposed to asbestos and when.

Mesothelioma Warning Sign

Pleural effusions, in particular, are one of the key indicators of mesothelioma. Your doctor can check you for pleural effusions by listening to your chest with a stethoscope. If your doctor hears fluid accumulating in your lungs, he or she may then order a chest examination either through an X-ray or a CT scan.

General practitioners who suspect malignancy (cancer) may refer you to an oncologist. It’s important to ask for a referral to a mesothelioma specialist—doctors who have the expertise to accurately diagnose and treat mesothelioma.

Seeking Treatment for Mesothelioma Symptoms

If you’re experiencing mesothelioma symptoms, do not delay in getting the help you need.

Additionally, if you experience any change in your symptoms—either new or worsening symptoms—then inform your medical team immediately. Your healthcare providers can suggest palliative treatments, new chemotherapy drugs or different medications that can help ease the pain. There’s no reason for you to suffer from chronic pain.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, then contact Mesothelioma Help Now. Our Patient Advocates are standing by to help answer any questions you may have about your condition and symptoms. We can connect you with the resources you need to obtain treatments now. Call us today at (800) 584-4151.

View Author and Sources

  1. American Cancer Society, “Signs and Symptoms of Mesothelioma” Retrieved from: Accessed on December 23, 2017.
  2. May Clinic, “Mesothelioma: Symptoms & Causes” Retrieved from: Accessed on December 23, 2017.

Last modified: April 4, 2019