Mesothelioma and Chest Pain Is There a Link?

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Malignant mesothelioma is an aggressive and painful cancer that often does not show symptoms until late in the disease process. But when the symptoms start, they are very painful.

Mesothelioma usually grows in the tissue around the lungs, but also can occur in tissues in the abdomen or the heart.

Because life expectancy with mesothelioma depends largely on early detection, it is important that patients recognize mesothelioma symptoms and get to their doctor as soon as they are felt. You should contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of the common signs of mesothelioma detailed in this article, including chest pain.

Mesothelioma Symptoms to Watch For

One of the problems with mesothelioma is the symptoms are subtle and can be mistaken for other illnesses. Many of the symptoms are so generalized that the doctor may think you have bronchitis, pneumonia or COPD. Mesothelioma also can be easily confused with lung cancer, but they are different diseases that are treated differently. Getting the right diagnosis is essential for the best prognosis.

Pleural mesothelioma develops in the pleura, the protective tissue around your lungs. Pleural mesothelioma accounts for 75% of all asbestos cancer cases.

One of the most common signs of pleural (lung) mesothelioma is persistent chest and lower back pain. The cause of the chest pain is pleural effusions or fluid build up around the lungs. The fluid buildup makes it harder to breathe and causes chronic chest pain. (

Also associated with chest pain is a persistent, dry cough. This usually makes the chest pain worse. Other symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Hoarseness
  • Swallowing problems
  • Fluid buildup that causes chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of weight
  • Fever
  • Swelling in face or arms

How Chest Pain With Mesothelioma Is Treated

How your chest pain is treated will depend upon the severity of the pain and stage of cancer. In some cases, the pain can be lessened with the following options:

  • Mild pain may be treated with ibuprofen, aspirin, naproxen or acetaminophen.
  • Moderate pain can involve using opioid drugs that may be used in combination with over-the-counter pain drugs. Opioids used to reduce chest pain for mesothelioma include hydrocodone, codeine, methadone, or oxycodone.
  • Severe pain in the chest often occurs after surgery and is managed with a morphine drip. If the pain is really bad, the doctor may prescribe fentanyl or hydromorphone.

If your chest pain is bad enough, your doctor may determine you have a pleural effusion from mesothelioma and surgery may be necessary.

Pleural Effusion Definition and Treatment

As noted earlier, one of the primary causes of chest pain in the mesothelioma patient is pleural effusion. This is a buildup of fluid in the space between the lungs and the chest cavity. Pleural effusion can have many causes, but it is a common sign of pleural mesothelioma. ( The pleura around the lungs will create too much fluid when it is irritated, inflamed, or infected.

Pleural Effusion Diagnosis

Because chest pain with mesothelioma is often caused by pleural effusion, your doctor will want to determine if that is the cause of your symptom. First, the doctor will do a physical examination and listen to the lungs with a stethoscope. Your physician may order a chest X-ray to check for fluid around the lungs. Addition tests for pleural effusion include:

  • CT scan
  • Chest ultrasound
  • Pleural fluid analysis
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Pleural biopsy

In a pleural fluid analysis, the doctor will take out fluid from the pleural membrane region by putting a needle into the chest cavity and sucking the fluid into a syringe. This is called a thoracentesis. This also can work as a way to drain fluid from the chest cavity to reduce pain. The fluid is tested to determine the cause.

Your doctor could also do a pleural biopsy, which involves removing a pleura tissue sample. This may be performed by sticking a small needle into the chest cavity.

How to Treat Pleural Effusion

A buildup up of fluid in the chest from mesothelioma leads to difficulty breathing and chest pain. One of the ways to offer substantial pain relief is to drain fluid from the chest cavity. This can be done either with a needle or a small tube that is put into the chest.

You will get a local anesthetic before the procedure begins. You could feel some discomfort at the site of the incision after the local anesthetic wears off. You may need to have the fluid drained more than once. Other treatments may be necessary if mesothelioma is the cause of the fluid buildup.


This is a treatment that makes a mild inflammation between the chest cavity pleura and the lung. After taking excess fluid from the chest, a doctor will inject a drug into the chest cavity that contains talc. This drug causes both layers of the pleura to stick together. This can reduce the future buildup of fluid that causes chest pain.


In a more serious case, the doctor will put a shunt or small tube into the chest cavity. This will reduce the fluid from the chest and send it into the abdomen, where it can be more easily taken out of the body. This could be an option for people who do not respond to other treatments. A pleurectomy, where part of your pleural lining is taken out, might be an option, too.

If you are suffering from chest pain and have mesothelioma, you should talk to your doctor about treatment options as soon as possible. The good news is that even if your cancer is advanced, it is possible to be made more comfortable by having fluid removed from your chest by draining fluid, or another type of treatment.

Get Mesothelioma Legal Help Immediately

With over $30 billion available for victims through the Asbestos Trust Funds, you could be entitled to financial compensations without ever filing a lawsuit. Mesothelioma & Lung Cancer victims qualify immediately. Complete the form or call us toll-free (800) 352-0871.