Mesothelioma: Types, Symptoms & Diagnosis

by Kiran Patil last updated -

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Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is caused due to exposure to asbestos. While there are several types of mesothelioma, it is most commonly found in the lining of the lungs and abdomen.

In most patients, it is detected only when it has reached an advanced stage. This is because serious mesothelioma symptoms can take up to 10-15 years to show up. Until this period, the patient does not have any unusual cancer-related symptoms. Early stage symptoms such as colds, cough, and fatigue are so common and associated with so many other bodily disorders that they are seldom taken as symptoms of mesothelioma. This is what makes the prognosis of mesothelioma patients so poor.

Types of Mesothelioma

There are five kinds of mesothelioma:

  • Pleural: develops in the lining of the lungs
  • Peritoneal: develops in the lining of the abdomen cavity
  • Pericardial: affects the lining of the heart
  • Testicular: affects the testes
  • Omental: affects the abdomen

Symptoms of Pleural Mesothelioma

People usually show symptoms of cancer usually after 10 to 15 years after their initial exposure to asbestos, according to the Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Center. Pleural mesothelioma, which is cancer in the lining of the lungs, is the most common type. Here are the most common symptoms:

Pleural effusions are one of the most important and definitive symptoms of pleural mesothelioma. A pleural effusion is a build-up of fluid between parietal pleura and the visceral pleura. One research points out that close to 90% of pleural mesothelioma patients had pleural effusions.

Shortness of breath is the second most common symptom related to pleural. Some of the other symptoms include the following.

  • Pain in chest/ribs while breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Dry cough
  • Sweating
  • Weight loss with no apparent reason

Mesothelioma Asbestos Sheet

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms

Peritoneal Mesothelioma is the second most common type and occurs in the lining of the abdominal cavity known as the peritoneum. In peritoneal, it is a build-up of fluid between the peritoneum and the abdominal organs called Ascites. Some of the other symptoms include:

  • Pain/swelling in the abdomen area
  • Weight loss without any reason
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation

Pericardial Mesothelioma Symptoms

Pericardial mesothelioma occurs in the lining of the heart, which is called the pericardium. This cancer is relatively rare as compared to the above two. The most common symptoms are:

  • Problems in breathing are one of the most common symptoms
  • Patients also witness chest pain
  • Fever and sweating
  • As in the case of other mesothelioma types, here too sudden weight loss may take place.

The other two forms are very rare and their symptoms are not very well established.

How to Diagnose Mesothelioma at an Early Stage?

An early diagnosis can help in its effective treatment and extend the life of the patient, but as discussed, it is not easy to do. Here are some simple tips that can really help in early diagnosis.

Work History

If your current or past workplace involved dealing with asbestos or its products, then you face higher risks of asbestos exposure and malignant mesothelioma. If this is true, then you should take sudden weight loss, chest pain, and coughs (which last for a long time) seriously. As you can see, all of them are common symptoms of mesothelioma.

Living Environment

If your house is located near an asbestos mine or a factory that processes asbestos, you need to be extra cautious and take the above-mentioned symptoms seriously.

Seek Medical Advice

The key point here is to be extra cautious, even for common symptoms, if you feel that you might have been exposed to asbestos. Remember, you need to consider the last 10-20 years of your personal history since mesothelioma takes a long time to develop. In the case of such symptoms, visit your doctor and mention your past history with asbestos and insist on having a detailed check-up.

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About the Author

Kiran Patil is the founder of Organic Facts. He has a keen interest in health, nutrition, and organic living. He completed his B.Tech and M. Tech (Chemical Engineering) from IIT Bombay and has been actively writing about health and nutrition since over past 12 years. When not working he likes to trek and do gardening.

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