Man showing mesothelioma symptoms as he coughs.

It is important to be aware of what type of body changes can signify a potential problem. Mesothelioma is a difficult cancer to diagnose and often is not diagnosed until the disease has reached the later stages. Many people and doctors mistake the warning signs for other common illnesses such as a cold or upper respiratory infection. If you have been exposed to asbestos, don’t wait until your symptoms have a negative impact on your life before you see a physician. The stage of cancer at the time of diagnosis determines life expectancy. It has been reported that about 25% of patients that have complained of dyspnea and chest pain waited up to 6 months before they saw a doctor.

Know the Warning Signs

The symptoms of mesothelioma come in a variety of forms but the way they develop are unique. The symptoms vary depending on the stage and type of cancer. Tumors can cause irritation or fluid buildup in the abdomen or the lungs which in turn causes these warning signs listed below. Mesothelioma symptoms can sometimes be a predictor of your prognosis.

Symptoms of Pleural Mesothelioma

When asbestos fibers become trapped in the lining of the lungs it is known as pleura. The tiny fibers cause inflammation and irritation in the pleura which in turn causes thickening of the layers of the pleura. The resulting buildup of fluid around the lungs prevents the lung from expanding. The patient then feels chest discomfort and painful breathing.

  • Chest pain
  • Faint or hoarse breathing sounds
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry cough and/or wheezing
  • Pleural effusions
  • Coughing up blood
  • Body aches
  • Blood clotting disorders

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms

Peritoneal mesothelioma develops in the lining that surrounds the abdominal cavity. 20% of patients associated loss of appetite and weight loss as a symptom and were subsequently diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma.

  • Abdominal distention
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hernias
  • Abdominal swelling and/or tenderness
  • Feeling of fullness
  • Fatigue
  • Bowel obstruction

Warning Signs of Pericardial Mesothelioma

This asbestos related cancer develops in the lining surrounding the heart. It is also almost one of the rarest types of mesothelioma. The symptoms stem from the thickening of the lining around the heart.

 

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pains

Testicular Mesothelioma Symptoms

The only consistent sign of this type of mesothelioma is a lump in the testes. Testicular mesothelioma is the rarest and accounts for only less than 1% of all mesothelioma cases.

 

  • Lump in the testes

Emergence of Mesothelioma Symptoms

In the beginning stages of mesothelioma, the symptoms appear in subtle, almost imperceptible ways. The symptoms are so small that the doctor thinks it is another disorder or you just ignore them completely. You may not even relate the symptoms you are having to mesothelioma since the first signs don’t appear until at least 20 years after asbestos exposure. It takes decades for asbestos related cancer to develop and it isn’t until the tumors are well developed that they impact your life. Studies indicate that the latency period is longer for women.

The majority of people diagnosed with mesothelioma are diagnosed in stage lll or lV which is considered the late stages of this cancer.

Indications The Mesothelioma Has Spread

When the cancer has spread the symptoms generally do not show up in the affected area. Some of the more common symptoms that appear when mesothelioma has spread include:

  • Laryngeal nerve palsy (hoarseness)
  • Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
  • Superior Vena Cava Syndrome (obstruction of a heart vein)
  • Horner’s syndrome (facial nerve damage)
  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • Nerve involvement of the arm

These are signs of advanced mesothelioma. To get the best treatment possible, it is imperative to find a doctor who specializes in mesothelioma.

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From Mesothelioma Symptoms to (Mis)Diagnosis

Many patients seek medical advice only after their symptoms have intensified and have had a significant impact on their lives. Patients do not know that the early symptoms are their first warning signs.

Doctors who do not specialize in mesothelioma will often diagnose a patient’s condition as a bronchial infection or pneumonia without even considering pleural mesothelioma. This is the time to speak up if you have been exposed to asbestos some time in your past.

Patient’s with peritoneal are also misdiagnosed. They may be initially diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome or ovarian cancer.

Pericardial mesothelioma often gets confused with heart failure or other illnesses common for the heart. It is easy to misdiagnose as it is one of the rarest forms of mesothelioma.

Last Modified: Mar 25, 2017 @ 4:04 am

Show Sources

Resources:

  1. Ahmed, Ishtiaq, Salman Ahmed Tipu, and Sundas Ishtiaq. “Malignant Mesothelioma.” Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences 29.6 (2013). National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Web. 04 June 2016. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3905399/.
  2. Chekol S. S., Sun C.C. “Malignant mesothelioma of the tunica vaginalis testis: diagnostic studies and differential diagnosis.” Archives of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. 2012;136(1):113-117. PMID: 22208496.
  3. Moore, A., Parker, R. and Wiggins, J. (2008, December 19). Malignant Mesothelioma. Retrieved from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2652430/?tool=pubmed
  4. Munkholm-Larsen, S., Cao, C. and Yan, T. (2009, November). Malignant Peritoneal Mesothelioma. Retrieved from www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2999110/?tool=pubmed
  5. Taioli, E., Wolf, A., Moline, J., Camacho-Rivera, M. and Flores, R. (2015, April 30). Frequency of Surgery in Black Patients with Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma. Retrieved on 2 June 2016 from Web. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4430630/
  6. Goel, Ashish, Akansha Agrawal, Rajiv Gupta, Smriti Hari, and A. B. Dey. “Malignant Mesothelioma of the Tunica Vaginalis of the Testis without Exposure to Asbestos.” Cases Journal 1.1 (2008): 310. Web. 2 June 2016. www.casesjournal.com/content/1/1/310.
  7. “Malignant Mesothelioma.” American Cancer Society. Web. 2 June 2016. www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003119-pdf.pdf.
  8. “Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma.” National Comprehensive Cancer Network. Web. 2 June 2016. www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/mpm.pdf.
  9. Sterman, D.H., et al. “Clinical presentation, diagnosis, and staging of malignant pleural mesothelioma.” UpToDate.
  10. “Mesothelioma.” Mayo Clinic. 24 Oct. 2012. Web. 2 June 2016. www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mesothelioma/basics/definition/CON-20026157?p=1.

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