Mesothelioma Symptoms

Mesothelioma is a cancer caused almost exclusively by asbestos exposure. Unfortunately from the time initial asbestos exposure occurs to the time a patient begins demonstrating symptoms of the disease, 20 to 50 years often pass, allowing mesothelioma to progress to later stages of development.

Symptoms of mesothelioma are non-specific, or quite general, often resembling other, less-serious illnesses like the flu or pneumonia. Since the symptoms are common to other conditions, many patients are unaware that they are battling cancer. Below is a summary of symptoms often demonstrated by mesothelioma patients organized by the specific type of mesothelioma:

Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms

Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type of the cancer and affects the pleural linings of the lungs. Tissue thickening and the buildup of fluid in the pleural space exert pressure on the lungs and contribute to a host of symptoms including: persistent coughing, dyspnea (shortness of breath), fatigue, cachexia (non-deliberate weight loss), hemoptysis (coughing up blood), night sweats, persistent pain the chest, shoulder, or back, and unexplained lumps on the chest.

It is important to note that not every patient will experience all of these symptoms at the same stage, if at all. However, certain symptoms tend to occur more or less frequently than others. For example, pleural effusions occur in up to 84 percent of patients, 70 percent experience chest pain, 60 percent complain of shortness of breath, while coughing, fever, and weight loss affect around 30 percent of patients. Moreover, 30 percent of patients experience both shortness of breath and chest pain. In particular, shortness of breath can progress so gradually that the presence of verifiably restricted breathing can develop unnoticed. In 60 percent of cases, pleural effusion develops in the right lung. Both lungs are affected in about five percent of cases.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms

Peritoneal mesothelioma occurs in the lining of the abdominal cavity, or the peritoneum. Similar to pleural mesothelioma, symptoms can be attributed to tissue thickening and the buildup of fluid between membrane layers. The resulting increase in intra-abdominal pressure causes a range of symptoms such as: abdominal pain and/or swelling, unexplained weight loss, nausea, vomiting, bouts of constipation or diarrhea, anemia, swelling of the feet, frequent urination, heart palpitations, night sweats, severe fatigue, chest pain and bowel obstruction caused by the increasing intrusion of the tumor on the bowel walls.

As with pleural mesothelioma, while not all symptoms occur in every patient at the same time, certain symptoms may appear more or less frequently. For example, 70 percent of patients experience abdominal swelling and 63 percent of patients complain of abdominal pain. Additionally, 40 percent of patients may develop an abdominal mass. This causes a loss of appetite and ability to eat due to the tumor pressing on the stomach.

Weight loss can often be accompanied by a fluid buildup that expands the patient's waist and visibly distends the abdomen. This fluid buildup is usually responsible for the abdominal pain experienced by the patient. The fluid buildup is a condition itself known as ascites. As mesothelioma progresses, cancer cells can be found in the ascitic fluid as well as the tumor encasing the abdominal wall.

Pericardial Mesothelioma Symptoms

Pericardial mesothelioma occurs less frequently than pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma. This form of mesothelioma affects the lining of the heart, the pericardium. The cancerous cells cause fluid buildup and a subsequent decrease in cardiac function. As with other forms of mesothelioma, non-specific symptoms make a timely diagnosis difficult.

Symptoms that have been associated with pericardial mesothelioma include shortness of breath, chest pain, heart palpitations, fever, severe fatigue and night sweats. Tumor encroachment on the heart causes episodes of heart palpitations that can increase in frequency and severity. When the pericardium fills with excess fluid a condition known as cardiac tamponade can develop. Cardiac tamponade causes decreased cardiac efficiency by decreasing blood flow to the heart and causing the ventricles to be unable to fill completely. This results in an abnormal heart rhythm, particularly upon inhalation.

The chest pain and shortness of breath experienced in pericardial mesothelioma patients are often thought to be due to a heart attack. Bleeding into the pericardium and pericarditis (inflammation of the pericardium) are other symptoms attributed to pericardial mesothelioma.

Testicular Mesothelioma Symptoms

Testicular mesothelioma accounts for less than 100 recorded cases of mesothelioma. With so few cases of the cancer, symptoms of testicular mesothelioma are not as well known as the symptoms of other forms of mesothelioma. Symptoms of testicular mesothelioma have been confined to testicular lumps or swelling of the scrotum.

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