Pleural mesothelioma patients typically experience respiratory-related symptoms, including shortness of breath, chest pain, and a cough. Mesothelioma patients may also experience fatigue, swelling, and unexplained weight loss.

Common Early Mesothelioma Symptoms

The earliest signs of mesothelioma can include a cough, shortness of breath, and chest, shoulder, or abdominal pain. Too often mesothelioma isn’t diagnosed until symptoms become severe and patients are already in the later stages of this rare and serious form of cancer. 

Knowing the first warning signs and symptoms, and knowing your history of asbestos exposure, can help confirm an early mesothelioma diagnosis. An early diagnosis can help you qualify for life-extending therapies that may be unavailable to patients in later stages of mesothelioma.

In a 2020 report published in Case Reports, a patient’s first and only sign of pleural mesothelioma was gastric and colonic polyps discovered on an imaging scan. Testing revealed the polyps were metastases of pleural mesothelioma. 

How Do You Know if You Have Mesothelioma?

A biopsy will confirm if you have mesothelioma. But doctors may first notice the early signs of mesothelioma by accident. A routine test, such as an X-ray or blood test, may detect something unusual. Because symptoms resemble less serious diseases, they are not good indicators of cancer.

In addition to a biopsy, mesothelioma testing commonly includes X-rays, CT scans, and blood tests. Researchers are working on other innovative tests to confirm a mesothelioma diagnosis, including a breath test.

How Do Mesothelioma Symptoms Contribute to Diagnosis?

Mesothelioma symptoms are the driving force that brings patients to the doctor to begin the diagnostic process. Because mesothelioma symptoms most commonly develop in stage 3 or stage 4, most patients don’t go to the doctor until cancer has progressed to a late stage.

Inform your primary care doctor about any history of asbestos exposure. Ask if they recommend any cancer screenings based upon your exposure history and personal health history. Catching cancer early provides a better chance of qualifying for aggressive cancer treatments that may improve survival.

Because it does not usually produce such signs until much later in the disease process, it is difficult to diagnose mesothelioma in stage 1 or 2 based on symptoms alone. However, in some instances, early-stage mesothelioma can produce enough pleural fluid around the lung to cause shortness of breath or cough without having spread.

2019 study found that stage 1 and stage 2 pleural mesothelioma patients who received less aggressive surgery combined with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or both lived the longest after diagnosis. The median survival of this group was 35 months or nearly three years.

Mesothelioma cell type, epithelial versus sarcomatoid, does not alter the typical symptoms experienced by most patients with this cancer.

Common Symptoms by Type of Mesothelioma

Some types of mesothelioma share similar symptoms, while other signs of the cancer are unique to the tumor location.

For example, fatigue can be common to pleural, peritoneal, and pericardial mesothelioma cancers. However, pericardial mesothelioma is the only type that routinely leads to heart palpitations and arrhythmias.

Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms

Early signs of mesothelioma can resemble other respiratory diseases such as pneumonia or the flu. Common symptoms of pleural mesothelioma, which forms on the soft tissue lining the lungs, include:

Addressing symptoms as soon as they develop may improve medical outcomes and life expectancy.

When symptoms are identified and treated quickly, patients may benefit from a higher quality of life and longer life. Symptom control is a vital component of comprehensive treatment for pleural mesothelioma.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms

Early signs of peritoneal mesothelioma can be mistaken for digestive conditions like irritable bowel syndrome or menstrual disorders like fibroids. Common symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma, which forms on the soft tissue lining the abdomen, include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Abdominal fluid buildup (ascites)
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite

Doctors can prescribe chemotherapy drugs, such as pemetrexed, cisplatin, carboplatin, and gemcitabine, to shrink peritoneal mesothelioma tumors and slow cancer growth.

Specialists are now seeing extraordinary results with hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC). With excellent symptom control and the best treatments, many people live longer than mesothelioma statistics predict