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Mesothelioma Symptoms

Some of the most common signs of mesothelioma include fluid buildup, coughing, and abdominal pain. Patients may experience different mesothelioma symptoms depending on whether their cancer starts near the lungs or abdomen. Learn more about the signs and symptoms of mesothelioma, ways to manage them, and how our team can help you.

Medically reviewed by: Mark Levin, MD

Last updated:

What Are the Symptoms of Mesothelioma?

Some common symptoms of mesothelioma include:

  • Bloating
  • Buildup of fluid around the lungs or abdomen
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Stomach pain
  • Weight loss

Asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma. After someone breathes in or swallows asbestos fibers, it can take 10-50 years for symptoms to appear because of how slowly the disease develops.

However, it often only takes a few months for mesothelioma symptoms to worsen and become severe. This is why it’s important to advocate for yourself if you feel like something is wrong.

“If you feel like you’re not getting better and that this is something new for you, it’s best to encourage your doctor to proceed with more testing.”

- Quote from Amy Fair, RN, Mesothelioma Hope Patient Advocate

Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms

Malignant pleural mesothelioma forms in the pleura, which is the thin lining that protects the lungs.

The most common symptom of pleural mesothelioma is pleural effusion, which is fluid buildup in the lung lining. More than 80% of cases start with this symptom, according to a report in Pathology International.

Other pleural mesothelioma symptoms can include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fatigue
  • Hoarseness
  • Lumps under the skin on your chest
  • Pain under the rib cage
  • Weight loss
  • Worsening cough

If you or a loved one is experiencing potential warning signs of mesothelioma, download our Free Symptoms Checklist now and bring it to your next doctor’s appointment.

Mesothelioma symptoms checklist
Mesothelioma Symptoms Checklist

Monitor your health with our easy-to-use checklist for a better chance at early diagnosis and treatment.

Get Your Free Checklist

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms

Peritoneal mesothelioma develops in the soft tissue lining of the abdomen known as the peritoneum.

Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma can include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Fluid buildup in the abdomen (peritoneal ascites)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weight loss

Mesothelioma symptoms can worsen over time, especially if the disease is not diagnosed and treated early.

“I had a big weight loss in just a matter of a few months. After I ate, I was so uncomfortable, very bloated. I was tired all the time. I just felt lousy, and it kept getting worse.”

- Quote from Mary Jane Williams, 15-year mesothelioma survivor

Pericardial Mesothelioma Symptoms

Pericardial mesothelioma forms in the protective lining of the heart called the pericardium.

Pericardial mesothelioma symptoms can include:

  • Chest pain
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Irregular heartbeats and murmurs (arrhythmias)
  • Night sweats
  • Palpitations
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Weight loss
Mesothelioma Symptoms Video Thumbnail

Amy Fair, a registered nurse with 20+ years of mesothelioma experience, explains the symptoms that asbestos exposure victims should watch for. Call (866) 608-8933 today to connect with Amy and get your medical questions answered. View Transcript.

Duration: 2 min 01 sec

Some of the symptoms of mesothelioma at first, and the reason people delay treatment, is it can be something that mimics a cold. You know it can be a small fever, it can be chills, it can be shortness of breath, a minor cough. This is also followed sometimes by substantial weight loss.

Of concern is when those develop into severe fatigue, severe cough and someone then develops something called a pleural effusion, where they’re getting fluid in the lung, which usually warrants them to seek more extensive medical treatment.

An unresolved cough or an unresolved episode of shortness of breath, fever, chills, weight loss, should warrant someone to seek further testing and treatment by their physician.

The symptoms of mesothelioma, with the pleural mesothelioma, start many times with shortness of breath, fatigue, extreme weight loss, chest pain.

The symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma that attacks the abdomen, mainly is ascites, which is fluid in the abdomen, abdominal distension, vomiting, some constipation if there’s blockages.

Pericardial Mesothelioma, some of the symptoms can be, again, chest pain, shortness of breath, sometimes a condition called Atrial Fibrillation where the heart is not beating appropriately because of the constricting disease in the lining of the heart.

If you feel like you’re not getting better, this is something new for you, it’s certainly best to encourage your doctor to proceed with more testing.

Testicular Mesothelioma Symptoms

Testicular mesothelioma cancer develops in the lining of the testes known as the tunica vaginalis.

Symptoms of testicular mesothelioma can include:

  • Discomfort or pain around the scrotum
  • Excess fluid and swelling of the scrotum (hydrocele)
  • Masses on the testicles or in the testicular lining

When Should I See a Doctor?

If you experience symptoms persistently or if they worsen over time, you should contact a mesothelioma specialist to get an accurate diagnosis.

A specialist can perform a physical exam and order imaging tests like chest X-rays and CT scans to look for potential tumors or other abnormalities.

They order a biopsy to check for cancer cells if they think you may have mesothelioma based on your symptoms and scan results.

“Most patients who have mesothelioma present with shortness of breath and secondary pain — but there are multiple different diagnoses that can lead to that symptom. Any patient who has a suspicion of mesothelioma should undergo a biopsy.”

- Quote from Dr. Taylor Ripley, mesothelioma specialist at Baylor Lung Institute

Getting an accurate diagnosis from a mesothelioma doctor can help you access the best treatments to ease your symptoms and keep the cancer from spreading.

Download our Free Symptoms Checklist and share it with your doctor so they have better insight into what you’re experiencing. A more accurate view of your symptoms can help you get a correct diagnosis.

Mesothelioma symptoms checklist
Mesothelioma Symptoms Checklist

Monitor your health with our easy-to-use checklist for a better chance at early diagnosis and treatment.

Get Your Free Checklist

Treatment to Manage Your Mesothelioma Symptoms

There are specific treatments that can reduce mesothelioma symptoms or keep them from getting worse.

Palliative care for mesothelioma is focused on easing symptoms and improving your quality of life.

Symptom-relieving treatments for mesothelioma include:

  • Paracentesis: This procedure relieves the symptoms of ascites by removing excess fluid from your abdominal cavity.
  • Pleurectomy with decortication: This surgery can help manage pleural effusions by removing part of the lung lining.
  • Pleurodesis: This treatment seals the two layers of your lung lining to prevent pleural effusions.
  • Thoracentesis: Doctors use a small needle to remove excess fluid from the thoracic (chest) cavity to help you breathe better.

You can get palliative treatment at any stage of mesothelioma, whether your cancer is in the early phases or more advanced.

“Pain management, physical therapy, and good nutritional status — these are all tools we use when we think about a holistic form of care for patients, and they’re all active forms of treatment.”

- Quote from Dr. Jacob Strand, Chair of the Enterprise Center for Palliative Medicine at Mayo Clinic

Contact our nurses to learn more about mesothelioma treatment and palliative care that can improve your quality of life.

Malignant Mesothelioma Symptoms by Stage

Symptoms can vary depending on what stage of mesothelioma you have. Mesothelioma symptoms usually become more severe as the cancer spreads to other areas of the body.

Learn more about common symptoms of early- and late-stage mesothelioma below.

Early-Stage Mesothelioma Symptoms

Patients in the early stages of mesothelioma usually experience:

  • Chest or abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • General discomfort
  • Persistent coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unexplained weight loss

Early symptoms of mesothelioma can be mild and misdiagnosed as more common illnesses. Some patients may not have any symptoms at all.

You should make an appointment with a doctor if you’re experiencing any symptoms — especially if you have a history of asbestos exposure — to rule out or diagnose mesothelioma.

If you have mesothelioma, it’s better to be diagnosed at an early stage when treatment options are more effective.

Did You Know?

On average, it takes 9 months from the start of mesothelioma symptoms to get a diagnosis.

Late-Stage Mesothelioma Symptoms

If your cancer has advanced to the lymph nodes or other areas of the body, you may notice new or worsening symptoms.

Advanced symptoms of mesothelioma cancer can include:

  • Anemia (lack of healthy red blood cells)
  • Blood clots
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Coughing up blood (hemoptysis)
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Excessive sweating
  • Extreme chest pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle atrophy (wasting)
  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
  • Swelling of the face or arms

Get our Free Mesothelioma Guide today to take the first step toward better understanding this cancer, its symptoms, and your options for treatment.

Get Help Diagnosing Your Mesothelioma Symptoms

You should see a mesothelioma specialist as soon as possible if you think you may be experiencing symptoms of mesothelioma — even if you’re not sure whether you’ve been exposed to asbestos.

Wondering where to start? Mesothelioma Hope can recommend local specialists so you can get a timely and accurate diagnosis.

We can also help you:

  • Understand symptom management options
  • Make the most of your doctor’s appointments
  • Learn more about different treatments
  • Explore financial assistance to cover different tests and procedures

Call our Patient Advocates at (866) 608-8933 or request a Free Mesothelioma Guide to get started right now.

Malignant Mesothelioma Symptoms FAQs

What are 5 signs and symptoms of mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma symptoms can vary based on the location of the cancer but generally include:

  1. Buildup of fluid around the lungs or abdomen
  2. Chest pain
  3. Shortness of breath
  4. Stomach pain
  5. Weight loss

If you’re noticing any of these potential warning signs of mesothelioma, work with a specialist to get an accurate diagnosis and cancer treatment to help manage your symptoms.

How do I know if I have mesothelioma?

A biopsy is the only way to confirm whether you have mesothelioma. During a biopsy, the doctor removes a small sample of tissue or fluid and sends it to a lab to examine under a microscope for the presence of cancer cells.

If you’re noticing early warning signs that something is wrong, a mesothelioma doctor can take imaging scans and order a biopsy to confirm your diagnosis.

Our Patient Advocates can help you figure out if you have mesothelioma. Call now at (866) 608-8933 — it’s always free to speak with us.

What is the most common presenting symptom of malignant mesothelioma?

Fluid around the lung, also known as pleural effusion, is the most commonly reported mesothelioma symptom.

This excess fluid buildup can cause chest pain, coughing, and shortness of breath.

Can you have mesothelioma and not know it?

Yes, it is possible to have mesothelioma without knowing it. Asbestos fibers can lie dormant for many years without causing symptoms. When asbestos cancer symptoms finally appear, they may be misdiagnosed as other common health issues.

As a result, you may not realize you have mesothelioma until the cancer has spread to other areas of the body.

If you have a history of asbestos exposure, see a doctor for a mesothelioma screening as soon as possible — even if you can’t remember when you were exposed to asbestos or if it happened a long time ago.

Contact Mesothelioma Hope today for help scheduling a cancer screening with a specialist.

What are the warning signs of mesothelioma?

Some warning signs of mesothelioma include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Fluid buildup around the lungs or abdomen
  • Persistent cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unexplained weight loss

It’s important to see a doctor if you’re dealing with any of these symptoms, especially if you think you may have been exposed to asbestos.

Dr. Mark LevinReviewed by:Mark Levin, MD

Certified Oncologist and Hematologist

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Mark Levin, MD, has over 30 years of experience in academic and community hematology and oncology. In addition to serving as Chief or Director at four different teaching institutions throughout his life, he is still a practicing clinician, has taught and designed formal education programs, and has authored numerous publications in various fields related to hematology and oncology.

Dr. Mark Levin is an independently paid medical reviewer.

  • Board Certified Oncologist
  • 30+ Years Experience
  • Published Medical Author
Jenna TozziWritten by:

Director of Patient Advocacy

Jenna Tozzi, RN, is the Director of Patient Advocacy at Mesothelioma Hope. With more than 15 years of experience as an adult and pediatric oncology nurse navigator, Jenna provides exceptional guidance and support to mesothelioma patients and their loved ones. Jenna has been featured in Oncology Nursing News and is a member of the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators & the American Nurses Association.

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References
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  2. American Cancer Society. (2018, November 16). Malignant mesothelioma stages. Retrieved June 10, 2024, from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/malignant-mesothelioma/detection-diagnosis-staging/staging.html
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  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023, June 28). Mesothelioma. Retrieved June 10, 2024, from https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/mesothelioma/index.htm
  6. Drevinskaite, M., Patasius, A., Kevlicius, L., Mickys, U., & Smailyte, G. (2020, February 27). Malignant mesothelioma of the TUNICA vaginalis TESTIS: A rare case and review of literature. Retrieved June 10, 2024, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32106829/
  7. Harrison, M., Gardiner, C., Taylor, B., Ejegi-Memeh, S., & Darlison, L. (June 2021). Understanding the palliative care needs and experiences of people with mesothelioma and their fåamily carers: An integrative systematic review. Palliative Medicine, 35(6), 1039-1051. Retrieved June 10, 2024, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33829930/
  8. Harvard Health Publishing. (2022, January 12). Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Retrieved June 10, 2024, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs-a-to-z
  9. Kim, K., & Vo, H. (June 2016). Localized malignant pleural sarcomatoid mesothelioma misdiagnosed as benign localized fibrous tumor. Retrieved June 10, 2024, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4885954/
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  12. Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation. (2024, March 15). Palliative Care for Mesothelioma Symptom Management and Quality of Life Improvement. Retrieved June 10, 2024, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJXbn203mRo
  13. Nabeshima, K, Hamasaki, M, Kinoshita, Y, Matsumoto, S, Sa-ngiamwibool, P. Update of pathological diagnosis of pleural mesothelioma using genomic-based morphological techniques, for both histological and cytological investigations. Pathol. Int. 2022; 72: 389– 401. Retrieved June 10, 2024, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35596704/ 
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