Mesothelioma is difficult to diagnose because the early signs and symptoms of the disease can be subtle or mistaken. Symptoms are all too frequently ignored or dismissed by people who are inclined to attribute them to common every day ailments. Sometimes patients live with symptoms for up to 6 months before being diagnosed but usually the symptoms are present for two to three months prior to a mesothelioma diagnosis.
About 60% of patients diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma experience lower back pain or side chest pain, and there are frequent reports of shortness of breath. Lower numbers of people may experience difficulty swallowing, or have a persistent cough, fever, weight loss or fatigue. Additional symptoms that some patients experience are muscle weakness, loss of sensory capability, coughing up blood, facial and arm swelling, and hoarseness.
Peritoneal mesothelioma originates in the abdomen and as a result, symptoms often include abdominal pain, weight loss, nausea, and vomiting. Fluid buildup may occur in the abdomen as well as a result of the cancer.
Asbestos exposure is considered the primary risk factor for the development of the cancer. Anyone previously exposed to asbestos displaying any of these symptoms should seek medical attention from their doctor first, only to be referred to a doctor who specializes in the treatment of mesothelioma and thoracic oncology after receiving a positive diagnosis.
How long does it take for mesothelioma symptoms to appear?
One of the most unique facts about mesothelioma is that the disease is characterized by a long latency period that is very often associated with the disease. The latency period is the amount of time that elapses from the first point of asbestos exposure to the point where symptoms begin to appear so that a diagnosis can be made. In some mesothelioma cases the latency period is reported to be 10 years but the average latency for the majority of cases is between 35 and 40 years. As a result, the cancer often progresses to later stages before a diagnosis is made. When diagnosed in the later stages, mesothelioma treatment options become more limited and are less effective.
Symptoms of Mesothelioma
Provided below is a list of symptoms that mesothelioma patients may experience. Please click on a symptom to learn more about it.
Mesothelioma patients diagnosed with anemia have a lower than normal red blood cell count or hemoglobin in the blood.
Blood Clotting Disorder
A symptom experienced by many mesothelioma patients that can lead to anemia and other serious complications if not given appropriate medical attention.
Bowel obstructions can be a direct effect of the cancer. It is a very painful symptom that can sometimes develop in peritoneal mesothelioma patients.
Often experienced in pleural mesothelioma and pericardial mesothelioma patients, chest pain can develop as the tumor grows and places strain on the lungs and heart.
Pleural mesothelioma patients often develop difficulty swallowing (esophageal dysphagia) as the mesothelium continues to grow on the lungs.
An effusion can occur in mesothelioma patients when there is fluid buildup affecting either the pleura or pericardium. This may need to be drained in a relatively limited surgical procedure to control the effusion and associated symptoms.
Hemoptysis, or the symptom of coughing up blood, can have its origins in the lungs, bronchi or trachea of mesothelioma patients.
Nausea is experienced in a number of cancer patients, as it is often a side effect of chemotherapy treatment and sometimes the underlying cancer. Those diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma may also experience nausea as a result of increasing abdominal pressure.
Peritoneal mesothelioma patients may experience a buildup of fluid in the peritoneum as the tumor continues to grow. This can result in an effusion which can inhibit the function of abdominal organs.
In pleural mesothelioma patients, pleural effusion may develop when there is a large amount of fluid present in the pleura, the lining between the lungs and chest cavity.
Weight loss can occur in mesothelioma patients as a side effect from cancer treatment or as the result of other symptoms that may also be present, such as difficulty swallowing or nausea.