Common Symptoms of Pleural Mesothelioma

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Mesothelioma is cancer caused by asbestos exposure in the thin layer of tissue that covers most of your internal organs. The most common type is pleural mesothelioma that affects the lining around your lungs. (

One of the challenges of treating mesothelioma is there often are no symptoms until the disease is in the later stages. That is why it is important to inform your doctor of any known asbestos exposure in your work history. The sooner the cancer is caught, the better your prognosis.

What Are the First Symptoms of Pleural Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma can take 20 to 50 years to develop after initial asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma symptoms vary based on the stage and tumor location, but the most common symptoms are: (

  • Abdominal pain that does not subside
  • Chest pain that does not subside
  • Regular coughing and wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Muscle weakness and fatigue
  • Night sweats and fever
  • The build-up of fluid in chest or abdomen

Unfortunately, early signs of asbestos cancer are challenging to detect; they are mild and can be confused with less serious illnesses. Patients tend to ignore symptoms and assume they have a cold or flu. Doctors have been known to misdiagnose pleural mesothelioma as early-stage flu or mesothelioma. (

Studies show that critical early warning signs of mesothelioma are chest or abdominal pain and fluid buildup. Fluid buildup is known as pleural or peritoneal effusion, depending on where the cancer is.

SEE ALSO: Pleural Mesothelioma Cancer FAQ

During stages 3 and 4 of mesothelioma, the growth of tumors makes symptoms worse. Late-stage warning symptoms include severe pain, loss of appetite, sudden weight loss, and fatigue.

Mesothelioma Type and Common Symptoms

Each mesothelioma type grows in a different part of the body. That is why symptoms may vary considerably. Identifying the location-specific mesothelioma symptoms can help physicians make a better diagnosis. Symptom location often determines where to do biopsies and imaging scans. For example, if you have trouble breathing, your doctor may order an X-ray.

Symptoms of Pleural Mesothelioma

Pleural mesothelioma grows in the lung lining or pleura. Approximately 70% of all mesotheliomas are this variety. Symptoms often are experienced in the chest cavity and lead to respiratory trouble:

  • Pain in the chest
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Fatigue
  • Poor appetite
  • Night sweats and fever
  • Body aches
  • Blood clotting problems
  • Coughing up blood
  • Pleural effusion
  • Shortness of breath

Symptoms of Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Peritoneal mesothelioma grows in the lining of the abdomen. Most mesothelioma symptoms in this disease are in the abdomen. There are several organs in the abdomen, so peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms can vary based on where the tumor is located:

  • Abdominal bloating
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Peritoneal effusion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever and night sweats
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Hernias
  • Anemia
  • Abdominal pain

Peritoneal mesothelioma is rare and may be misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or Crohn’s disease.

Symptoms of Pericardial Mesothelioma

Pericardial mesothelioma is very rare and grows in the lining of the heart or pericardium. Symptoms usually are felt in the chest cavity. Because of the aggressive nature of this cancer, symptoms progress quickly. Treatment options are very limited:

  • Chest pain
  • Pericardial effusion
  • Heart murmur
  • Heart palpitations
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Fever and night sweats

Symptoms of Testicular Mesothelioma

Testicular mesothelioma is the rarest form of the disease and develops in the lining of the testicles. Cases are limited, but the most common symptoms reported are pain and swelling in the testicles:

  • Fluid buildup
  • Swelling in the scrotum
  • Testicular pain
  • Epididymis inflammation
  • Lump or mass in the scrotum

Because testicular mesothelioma is so fare, it may be misdiagnosed as a hernia.

Symptoms of Metastatic Mesothelioma

When mesothelioma reaches the later stages, it begins to spread or metastasize. Experiencing the symptoms below is a sign that the cancer is spreading to other areas:

  • Hemoptysis: Spitting up blood
  • Laryngeal nerve palsy: Damage to the throat, leading to voice box paralysis
  • Nerve problems: Malfunction of nerves in arms or spinal cord
  • Horner’s syndrome: Several eye-related problems, such as the constriction of pupils, reduced tear production, or drooping eyelid.

Metastatic symptoms indicate your mesothelioma has spread, so find a specialist as soon as possible.


Mesothelioma symptoms are serious but can be confused with other ailments and diseases. If you are experiencing any common mesothelioma symptoms and were exposed to asbestos, talk to your healthcare provider immediately.