Mesothelioma symptoms need to be caught as early as possible to improve survival odds. As with all cancers, the earlier a diagnosis can be made, the better. But mesothelioma symptoms are tricky. For years, possibly decades, after mesothelioma has started to injure the body, it reveals no symptoms. The disease silently progresses. When mesothelioma symptoms begin to present themselves, they can easily be mistaken for symptoms of many common and less serious illnesses.
Because mesothelioma progresses quickly once it has reached the stage where mesothelioma symptoms emerge, it is important to understand mesothelioma and know the symptoms. It is the best way to defend yourself or a loved one from this lethal disease.
Mesothelioma Symptoms – A Direct Result of Asbestos Exposure
Mesothelioma symptoms occur for only one reason. You have been exposed to asbestos at some point in your life. It may have been only briefly. But according to the EPA, there is no safe level of asbestos exposure.
Mesothelioma is a tragic example of why the good old days weren’t always so good. Asbestos was found to be a highly heat resistant mineral so it was extensively used in construction and manufacturing. Pipes, furnaces, brake pads, home and building insulation, ship boilers and even toasters and potholders all contained asbestos throughout most of the 20th century.
Even though many companies knew about the dangers of asbestos they continued to use it in their products. Today most but not all uses of asbestos are banned in the U.S. Asbestos still can be found in products imported from countries such as China and in older structures in the U.S. Maintenance, renovation, or demolition of old houses, buildings and vehicles can disturb asbestos and create asbestos dust.
According to the most recent data  compiled by the Centers for Disease Control, the National Cancer Institute and other U.S. government health agencies, the five states in the top 10th percentile for the highest number of mesothelioma cases (156 to 314) diagnosed per year are:
- New York
Mesothelioma Symptoms Vary By Type of Mesothelioma
Tiny sharp particles of asbestos dust, if inhaled, end up in the mesothelium, the delicate tissue that line vital internal structures. Although undetectable at first, the asbestos particles over time cause irritation and inflammation that leads to mesothelioma.
The lining of the lungs are affected most often but mesothelioma can also occur in the lining of the heart or the belly. Mesothelioma symptoms can vary depending on where the mesothelioma dust particles settle and trigger the development of mesothelioma.
The most prevalent types of mesothelioma are:
Lungs – Pleural mesothelioma is the name for mesothelioma affecting the cells lining the chest wall and cavity of the lungs, known as the pleura.
Heart – Pericardial mesothelioma is the official name for mesothelioma of the lining over the heart called the pericardium. This is the rarest form of mesothelioma.
Belly – Peritoneal mesothelioma refers to mesothelioma that affects the linings in the abdomen (the peritoneum). It too is caused by inhaling microscopic asbestos fibers. Mesothelioma Symptoms For Each Type of Mesothelioma
Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms – Inflammation in the lining of the chest and over the lungs causes thickening and a buildup of fluid around the lungs (pleural effusion). This fluid buildup and thickening of these tissues makes it nearly impossible for the lung to fully expand. This causes chest pain and difficulty in breathing.
Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma according to the American Cancer Society can include:
- Pain in the side of the chest or lower back
- Shortness of breath
- Persistent Cough
- Excessive sweating
- Weight loss (without trying)
- Trouble swallowing (feeling like food gets stuck)
- Swelling of the face and arms
Pleural mesothelioma may be misdiagnosed as: flu, respiratory infection or pneumonia
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms – When this type of mesothelioma occurs, it affects the lining that protects the contents of the abdomen. This eventually interferes with the body’s ability to properly digest food and absorb nutrients.
Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma according to the American Cancer Society can include:
- Abdominal (stomach) pain
- Swelling or fluid in the abdomen
- Weight loss (without trying)
- Bowel obstruction
- Nausea and vomiting
Peritoneal mesothelioma may be misdiagnosed as: stomach flu, irritable bowel syndrome, hernia or other digestive issues.
Pericardial mesothelioma symptoms – In pericardial mesothelioma fluid builds up in the sac around the heart (called a pericardial effusion).
Symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma according to the American Cancer Society can include:
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Irregular heartbeat
Pericardial mesothelioma may be misdiagnosed as: other types of heart conditions.
How to Get Mesothelioma Symptoms Checked
Mesothelioma symptoms that you may be experiencing could be something else or not. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” is an ancient Chinese saying. To determine whether or not the symptoms you are experiencing are in fact mesothelioma, begin with a single phone call.
Call your primary care physician’s office. State that you are experiencing symptoms that could be caused by mesothelioma. Make an appointment for a physical exam. At the appointment tell your doctor about your symptoms and mention any possible exposure to asbestos you can recall.
Any telltale fluid buildup around the lungs, abdomen or heart will be detected when the doctor listens to these areas with a stethoscope or taps on the chest or abdomen.
If your doctor finds fluid buildup and mesothelioma is a possibility, several tests will be needed to make sure you receive the correct diagnosis. These will include imaging tests, blood tests, and other procedures. Your doctor and his staff will help you take these next important steps if needed. Int J Occup Environ Health. 2013 Jan-Mar; 19(1): 1–10.