Symptoms of mesothelioma usually do not appear until 30 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos. Because of this long latency period, mesothelioma is usually not diagnosed until later stages when symptoms finally manifest. Unfortunately, at this point, little can be done to stop the progression of the cancer.
Like other diseases, mesothelioma symptoms vary from patient to patient. Different types of mesothelioma (peritoneal, pleural, or pericardial) can manifest different symptoms. In addition, the patient's age and overall health can be a factor in the severity of symptoms.
Mesothelioma can be difficult to diagnose as many of its symptoms mirror those of the flu, bronchitis and pneumonia. A doctor who specializes in mesothelioma will take a closer look into the patient's history to identify any exposure to asbestos. In addition, patients who believe they have been exposed to this harmful material should inform their doctor to limit the number of diagnostic tests performed.
Once mesothelioma symptoms begin to appear, they generally include:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Difficulty sleeping
- Night sweats
- Weight loss
- Pain in chest and abdomen
- Fluid in the chest
In many cases, coughing and trouble breathing are the two mesothelioma symptoms that bring patients to the doctor's office. Both of these symptoms are caused by tumors in the pleural region that prohibit the lungs from expanding properly. In addition, these cancerous growths allow fluid to enter the affected area. In many patients, this causes mild to severe pain in either the chest or abdomen, depending on the diseased area.
Many of the above symptoms are associated with pleural mesothelioma, which is a cancerous growth in the pleural cavity. However, if a patient has developed peritoneal or pericardial mesothelioma, they may experience a different set of symptoms.
Peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms may include:
- Pain in the abdomen
- Abdominal swelling
- Bowel obstruction
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Trouble breathing
Symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma are often:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Severe fatigue after minimal exertion
Stage I: Mesothelioma is present on one side of the chest only and isn’t growing into the chest wall.
Stage II: Mesothelioma invades the chest wall or involves the esophagus (food passage connecting the throat to the stomach), heart, or has grown into the pleura on the other side of the chest.. The lymph nodes in the chest may also be involved.
Stage III: Mesothelioma has grown through the diaphragm into the peritoneum (lining of the abdominal cavity) or has spread to lymph nodes beyond those in the chest.
Stage IV: Mesothelioma has spread through the bloodstream to other organs (metastases).