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Mesothelioma Symptoms

Mesothelioma is cancer that forms in the mesothelium, or membrane, of various organs, such as the lungs, heart, and digestive system. Symptoms of mesothelioma vary depending on where cancer develops. General symptoms may include unexplained weight loss, fever, night sweats, and fatigue.


Medically Reviewed By:
Patricia Shelton, M.D.

Patricia Shelton

Medically Reviewed By:Patricia Shelton, M.D.

In general, the symptoms of mesothelioma are nonspecific, which means that similar symptoms are also caused by many other diseases. This can complicate the process of mesothelioma diagnosis.

Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms

Malignant pleural mesothelioma develops in the pleura, which is a membrane that surrounds the lungs. Common symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include:

chest pain

Dyspnea (shortness of breath).

This may occur due to the space that the cancer takes up in the chest, which can put pressure on the airways or on the lungs themselves, leaving less room for air movement. It may also be due to a pleural effusion, which is a buildup of fluid around the lungs that restricts their ability to fill with air.
itchy throat

Difficulty swallowing

This can occur when the cancer grows large enough to put pressure on the esophagus, which is the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach.
swollen mouth

Swelling of the face and/or arms

This can happen when the cancer puts pressure on structures of the lymphatic system, which drains excess fluid from tissues. If the cancer has spread to lymph nodes, then it can block the flow of lymphatic fluid, leading to swelling in certain areas.
woman coughing

Dry cough

This is often related to irritation or compression of the airways by the cancer. It can also happen when the cancer puts pressure on certain nerves, or because of the inflammatory response of the body to the cancer, which can trigger a cough response.
chest pain

Chest pain.

This occurs as the cancer invades the tissues of the chest.
itchy throat

Hoarseness of the voice.

This often means that the cancer is pressing on a nerve in the chest known as the recurrent laryngeal nerve, which is involved in voice production.

Similar symptoms are common in a number of other diseases, such as pneumonia, COPD (emphysema), asthma and lung cancer.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms

Malignant peritoneal mesothelioma forms in the peritoneum, which is a membrane around the digestive system. Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma may include:
Similar symptoms can also be caused by a variety of other conditions, including Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease and colon cancer.
helping up elderly man

Pericardial Mesothelioma Symptoms

Pericardial mesothelioma occurs in a membrane around the heart known as the pericardium. Common symptoms experienced by pericardial mesothelioma patients include:
man with chest pain

Pain in the chest or shoulder

This is caused by the cancer invading the tissues of the heart and surrounding areas. Pain from the heart may be felt in the left shoulder; this is known as referred pain.
tired lady

Dyspnea (shortness of breath)

This can occur because the tumors take up space in the chest cavity, which leaves less room for the movement of air through the lungs and results in difficulty breathing. It may also be due to heart failure caused by the cancer, which causes fluid to build up in the lungs.
itchy throat

Trouble swallowing

This is a result of the cancer pressing on the esophagus, which is the muscular tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach.

Irregular heartbeat or heart palpitations

These occur when the cancer starts to put pressure on the heart or invade the heart muscle, which interferes with the heart’s function.
man with chest pain