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Home > Mesothelioma cancer > Mesothelioma symptoms

Mesothelioma symptoms

We would like to tell you about mesothelioma symptoms.

Sometimes, people with mesothelioma do not show any of mesothelioma symptoms. Or, these symptoms may be similar to symptoms of other medical conditions. Often, symptoms of mesothelioma may not appear until years or decades after asbestos exposure.

  • If mesothelioma is present in the lung area, symptoms may include:
    • Shortness of breath
    • Pain in the chest area
  • If mesothelioma is present in the abdominal area, symptoms may include:
    • Abdominal pain
    • Abdominal swelling
    • Bowel obstruction
  • General mesothelioma symptoms:
    • Weight loss
    • Fatigue
    • Problems with blood clotting
    • Anemia (a low blood count)
    • Fever
    • Night sweats

Typically, shortness of breath is a sign of asbestosis, as well as a sign of a range of other diseases. People may relate this symptom to a more friendly disease for their own peace-of-mind, but if you experience shortness of breath and know or suspect that you have been exposed to asbestos in your past, then it would be wise to consult your doctor.

Shortness of breath initially occurs on exertion, but later, even at rest. It is the main symptom and a result of reduced lung capacity, and pressure in and around the lungs. Other common symptoms include tiredness - from a lack of oxygen, and coughing.

Asbestosis can also cause thickening of the pleura. The pleura is the membrane that lines the outside of the lungs, and this symptom will likely only be noticed upon x-ray. It is usually an x-ray performed for a reason other than suspected asbestosis that reveals this symptom. If the thickening is severe it may restrict lung function, again causing shortness of breath.

The typical symptoms of pleural mesothelioma are pain in the lower back, pain in the side of the chest, a persistent cough, shortness of breath, a hoarse or husky voice, noticeably losing weight when not dieting, sweating, fevers and difficulty swallowing.

Asbestos is made up of tiny fibres. You can breathe these fibres in when you come into contact with asbestos, particularly when these fibres are airborne. The fibres work their way into the pleura, the lining of the lung. They irritate the pleura and damage the cells that the pleura are made of. This promotes the growth of cancerous cells.

Some of the fibres that have been breathed in can be coughed up and swallowed. This is probably one of the causes of peritoneal mesothelioma. Most cases of mesothelioma occur in men who have worked in manufacturing using asbestos or used asbestos based products, particularly in construction or engineering.

Depending on the type of mesothelioma, slightly different symptoms can occur. Peritoneal disease has an effect on the intestines, liver and other structures in the abdominal cavity. As fluid builds up, the abdomen can become very expanded. Because the liver plays a big part in manufacturing the substances needed to control bleeding, there is often a change in your ability to make blood clots. Weight loss occurs for several reasons, and is more dramatic in this form of the disease.

Regardless of the location, malignant mesotheliomas occur in three forms. The epithelioid type is the most common, accounting for 50-70% of all mesotheliomas. Between 20-35% of mesotheliomas are sarcomatoid. The remaining 7-20% of tumors are classified as mixed/biphasic. Epithelioid mesothelioma has the best outlook for survival.

If your symptoms suggest you may have mesothelioma, you doctor will order a number of tests. Imaging studies like X-rays, CT scans and MRI show any abnormalities within the lungs. A complete blood count and levels of specific proteins can help make the diagnosis. However, the diagnosis of mesothelioma cannot be made by blood work and imaging studies in every case. Other more common diseases such as benign asbestos-related pleural disease and metastatic adenocarcinoma can have very similar appearances on imaging studies. Biopsy, and the use of special staining are often necessary for the accurate diagnosis of mesothelioma.

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