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What are the Symptoms of Mesothelioma? A Guide Based on Cancer Stages

Symptoms of mesothelioma

It’s estimated that 1.8 million people will be diagnosed with cancer in the US in 2020.

Cancer is a disease that doesn’t discriminate; old, young, male, or female, everyone can get it. But, it can also be treated and cured.

One of the best ways to make sure you recover from cancer is to catch it early. From checking your body from unusual lumps to knowing signs, it’s important you know what to look for.

Take a look at our symptoms of mesothelioma if you’re worried you may be at risk.

What is Mesothelioma?  

Mesothelioma is a very rare type of cancer that only occurs when you’ve been exposed to asbestos. In the US, there are around 3,000 cases of mesothelioma each year, and the average age for diagnosis is between 65 and 72.

The cancer is found in the tissue that surrounds a lot of organs, including the lungs and stomach. It’s very aggressive and doesn’t currently have a cure, but it is treatable. There are four types of mesothelioma:

  • Pleural mesothelioma (the most common)
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma
  • Pericardial mesothelioma
  • Testicular mesothelioma

If you think you have mesothelioma, we’ll talk later about how you can treat it and help reduce the symptoms.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a material that was used in a lot of buildings, most commonly as insulation or in flooring. But in the 1970s, the danger of asbestos was revealed.

The microscopic fibers from the material can become lodged in the lungs, causing a variety of serious illnesses over time – including mesothelioma. It was largely fazed out, although they’re still isn’t an outright ban on using asbestos in the US.

If you’ve been exposed to asbestos, symptoms of mesothelioma can show up around 20 – 50 years later. Luckily, the cancer is very rare so your chances of developing it are slim, but it still pays to be careful,

If you’ve been exposed to asbestos, check out our symptoms. It may also be the time to start looking into an experienced mesothelioma doctor or a personal injury lawyer.

Initial Signs of Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma starts out as little nodules growing on the tissue lining of organs, usually on the lungs (pleural mesothelioma). A lot of the signs of mesothelioma don’t appear until later in its development, usually around stage 3 or 4. This is one of the reasons why it’s classed as so aggressive and is hard to treat.

But there can be symptoms in stage 1 – just be sure you know how to spot them.

If you have a dry couch, cancer probably isn’t the first thing to spring to mind. But if you’ve been exposed to asbestos in the past it could be a sign of early mesothelioma and definitely shouldn’t be ignored. It’s usually a persistent dry cough that’s accompanied by wheezing.

You may also experience trouble with breathing, including shortness of breath and tightness around your chest. A fever and night sweats, fatigue, and muscle weakness are other early signs of mesothelioma.

If you have any of these symptoms and you know you were exposed to asbestos in the past, find a doctor near you and get checked out as quickly as possible. The faster you catch it, the easier it will be to manage your symptoms.

Pleural Mesothelioma Signs

75% of mesothelioma cases are pleural mesothelioma. This is when the cancer is present in the tissue lining your lungs. A lot of these symptoms are the same as the early signs, including chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, and fever.

But pleural mesothelioma can also have other symptoms, including:

  • Sudden and unexplained weight loss
  • Swelling of the fingertips
  • Unusual and new lumps of tissue appearing under the skin around your chest

As the most common form of mesothelioma by far, there are plenty of treatment and care options for pleural mesothelioma. There’s also a lot of research being done into developing a cure, and we’re hopeful that one day it will be a treatable disease.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Signs

Peritoneal mesothelioma is found in the lining of the stomach, leading to very different symptoms compared to pleural mesothelioma. It occurs when the particles of asbestos embed in the abdomen lining rather than the lungs. The particles cause mutations in the surrounding cells over the years, causing the cancer to develop.

As it occurs in the lining of your stomach, most of your symptoms will be centered here. They can include:

  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Unexplained swelling of the abdomen (similar to bloating)
  • Feeling nausea
  • Sudden and unexplained weight loss
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Seizures (although this is rare)

There are treatment options for peritoneal mesothelioma, including removing the nodules with cytoreductive surgery. These can help ease your symptoms, making living with cancer easier.

Pericardial and Testicular Mesothelioma Signs 

The last two forms of mesothelioma are pericardial and testicular. These two are very rare, and the signs and symptoms for them aren’t well known. However, we do have some information on the two that we can share.

Pericardial Mesothelioma

Pericardial Mesothelioma occurs when the asbestos fibers mutate cells around the lining of the heart. It accounts for only 1% of all mesothelioma cases, making it an incredibly rare form of cancer. In the US, only 3 people will be diagnosed with pericardial mesothelioma every year.

The symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma aren’t always obvious, but they can include heart palpitations, chest pain, difficulty breathing, and a persistent dry cough. You might also experience fatigue and fever alongside the other symptoms.

Testicular Mesothelioma

Testicular mesothelioma is also incredibly rare, making up less than 5% of all mesothelioma cases. This form of mesothelioma occurs in the tunica vaginalis testis, which is the pouch of the membrane that covers the testes. Doctors are still unsure as to how asbestos affects this area.

Cancer appears as white-yellow, hard nodules on the tunica vaginalis and can cause thickening in the scrotum. It actually has a better prognosis than other types of mesothelioma, with 58% living for over 5 years and 45% living over 10 years with cancer.

There aren’t any symptoms that are unique to testicular mesothelioma, making it hard to diagnose. However, you should watch out for a painless mass in your scrotum and swelling in the area.

What to Do If You Have Symptoms of Mesothelioma

If you have symptoms of mesothelioma, the first thing to do is make an appointment to see your doctor. Try and see them as quickly as possible – remember, the earlier you catch it, the better your prognosis.

Sometimes, your symptoms may feel like a common cold. But if they’re persistent, make sure you see your doctor – especially if you’ve been exposed to asbestos.

When you visit your doctor, make sure you let them know if you’ve had past exposure to asbestos. This will help them find the cause of your symptoms far quicker.

What to Expect When Diagnosing Mesothelioma

Your doctor will start by doing a physical exam. They’ll examine the problem area, such as listening to your breathing or taking your blood pressure. They may also take blood tests to look for any abnormalities.

They’ll then move onto imaging. This is when x-rays, sound waves, and magnetic fields create detailed images of the inside of your body. This is a great way to find those nodules or any abnormalities, such as thickening of the heart.

A CT and PET scan may also be done to see if the cancer is anywhere else in the body.

If abnormalities are detected, your doctor will do a biopsy of the affected area. This can include removing the fluid that’s built up around the lungs or heart using a hollow needle. The fluid is then checked for cancer cells under a microscope.

If you do have mesothelioma, you and your doctor can then move forward to treatment options.

Managing Symptoms of Mesothelioma

Although mesothelioma can’t be cured yet, there are ways to alleviate symptoms and prolong life. We’d highly recommend looking at all the treatment options available with your doctor, choosing the method that’s right for you. This will help you keep up your quality of life, which is vital for anyone living with cancer.

There are many ways you can help manage mesothelioma. Take a look at some of the options you can try.


This is the most common treatment for mesothelioma, and it can help slow the progression of cancer and reduce the aggressiveness. In some cases, cancer can even shrink, prolonging life, and reducing symptoms. It involves taking medication and does have side-effects, but they usually subside quickly.


To keep the cancer under control and slow its progression, radiotherapy can also be used. This uses radiation to target and kill the cancerous cells in the affected area.


Sometimes surgery can be done to remove cancerous areas or the nodules growing on the linings of your organs. Although this won’t cure your cancer, it may help improve your quality of life.


If you have fluid building up in the affected area, a catheter can be inserted. This will allow you to drain the fluid as often as you need to, letting you manage your symptoms from home. It can alleviate pain and help improve your quality of life.

Alternative Therapies

Alongside these methods, some people like to try alternative therapies to alleviate pain. These can include acupuncture, herbal medicine, and mind-body therapies. We always recommend speaking to your doctor before trying these.


Keeping up a good diet can play a big part in living with mesothelioma. Making sure you’re eating regularly and getting plenty of vitamin-rich foods can give you the energy and strength you need.

Cancer Support

If you’re living with cancer, getting the right support can help ease your journey and improve your quality of life. A lot of people struggle with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues when they receive their diagnosis. Here are some resources that could help:

You should speak to your doctor if you’re struggling with mental health after a cancer diagnosis. Turn to your family and friends, too. Remember to talk openly about how you’re feeling and always ask for help if you need it.

Therapists and counseling can become a crucial part of cancer treatment. An experienced therapist can help you work through your feelings and deal with any anxiety, anger, or depression that comes up. We highly recommend finding a good therapist if you’re struggling.

Remember, your family and friends may be struggling with the diagnosis too. If you think they need help, advise them to seek a trained mental health professional. You should also talk to them about their worries, as well as your own.

The best way to deal with cancer is to have a supportive team around you. This is made up of your doctors, friends, family, and therapists.

Seek Help Now

If you have any of the symptoms of mesothelioma, get help as soon as you can.

We can help you find the right mesothelioma doctor to help diagnose your problems in your area, so be sure to check us out!

Our doctors specialize in work-related illnesses and injuries, so if you think you were exposed to asbestos during your career, we’ve got the right doctors for you.

Remember, cancer isn’t the end. As long as you receive the right treatment both for your physical and mental health, you can keep up an excellent quality fo life for years to come.

Call 1-800-897-8440 if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, don’t let cancer beat you – get the help you need today.


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