Mesothelioma Symptoms

Mesothelioma can cause symptoms such as shortness of breath, a persistent cough, and chest pain. If you have possible mesothelioma symptoms and were exposed to asbestos (the only known cause of this cancer) in the past, seek out medical care. Catching the signs and symptoms of mesothelioma early is key to living longer with this cancer.

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Written and Fact-Checked by: Lung Cancer Group

What Are the Symptoms of Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma causes symptoms that can affect breathing, appetite, and weight.

Common mesothelioma symptoms include:
  • Anemia (low red blood cell count)
  • Appetite loss
  • Blood in mucus or fecal matter
  • Chest pain or abdominal pain
  • Chills and/or fever
  • A cough that won’t go away
  • Coughing up blood
  • Hoarseness
  • Night sweats
  • Pain in the shoulder, ribs, or upper back
  • Unexplained weight loss

Man coughingSymptoms of mesothelioma typically appear 10-50 years after exposure to asbestos fibers. The symptoms of mesothelioma are often mild at first and worsen as the cancer spreads. Patients may have different symptoms depending on what type of mesothelioma they have and how advanced it is.

If you or a loved one is suffering from any symptoms or signs of mesothelioma, don’t wait: Seek out medical attention. You may be able to get your mesothelioma symptoms diagnosed before the cancer becomes difficult to treat, which will give you a better shot at living longer.

Lung Cancer Group can help you or a loved one access top treatments for mesothelioma symptoms faster.

Our team can also work to secure financial aid to help you pay for these treatments. Learn if you qualify right now with a free case review.

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Common Symptoms of Mesothelioma by Type

All types of mesothelioma have unique symptoms. View common symptoms of each type below.

Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms

Malignant pleural mesothelioma develops in the pleura (lung lining). Patients with this type of mesothelioma often have symptoms that impact the chest and lungs.

Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include:

  • Chest, rib, shoulder, or upper back pain
  • Coughing up blood
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Pleural effusion (fluid buildup in the lung lining)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Night sweats
  • Weight loss

Of these symptoms, pleural effusions are among the most common. A 2022 report from the medical journal Pathology International found that a pleural effusion is the first symptom in more than 8 out of 10 pleural mesothelioma cases.

Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma start off mild and worsen as the cancer spreads through the chest wall and into other parts of the body.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms

Malignant peritoneal mesothelioma develops in the peritoneum (abdominal lining). As the cancer invades the abdominal cavity, it can cause changes to appetite, bowel movements, and how the abdomen feels.

Peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain and swelling (distention)
  • Ascites (buildup of abdominal fluid)
  • Changes to bowel movements (diarrhea/constipation)
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplainable weight loss
  • Vomiting up blood

The medical journal Translational Lung Cancer Research notes that the most common symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma are pain and fluid buildup in the abdomen. More than 30-50% of patients report these symptoms.

Patients may also develop a mass within their abdomen or a hernia along their abdominal wall.

Pericardial Mesothelioma Symptoms

Pericardial mesothelioma is a rare form of this cancer that develops in the pericardium (lining of the heart). Symptoms can affect the heart as well as the chest.

Pericardial mesothelioma symptoms include:

  • Atrial fibrillation (irregular, rapid heartbeat)
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing

The symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma stem from the cancer’s growth. For example, patients can develop atrial fibrillation as the pericardial mesothelioma tumors constrict the heart lining.

Testicular Mesothelioma Symptoms

Symptoms of malignant testicular mesothelioma typically include swelling, pain, and fluid buildup around the testicle lining (which is where this type of cancer forms).

The Mayo Clinic notes that this cancer may first be detected as a mass on the testicle or swelling of the testicle.

If you have possible symptoms of any mesothelioma type, contact our team now. We may be able to help you quickly get top treatments for your symptoms.

Symptoms of Mesothelioma by Stage

There are four stages of pleural mesothelioma (which makes up about 80% of all cases). All other types are informally given a “localized” or “advanced” stage by doctors.

Patients may have little to no symptoms in the early stages, and those that do might mistake the symptoms for those of more common health problems. This is very dangerous as it gives the cancer more time to spread.

Early-stage (1 and 2) mesothelioma symptoms include:

  • A cough that won’t go away
  • Chest or abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Fluid buildup in the abdomen/chest
  • Shortness of breath

When patients have late-stage mesothelioma, their existing symptoms will often be worse and new ones will appear.

Late-stage (3 and 4) mesothelioma symptoms include:

  • Changes in bowel movements
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

Remember: If you have any symptoms of mesothelioma, it’s crucial to get them checked out by an oncologist (cancer doctor). Catching symptoms before the cancer spreads is key to living longer.

Diagnosing Symptoms of Mesothelioma

To see if your symptoms are caused by mesothelioma, doctors must use a couple of different tests to look inside your body. The goal of the tests will be to find possible signs of cancer, such as a tumor or other abnormalities.

“If you feel like you’re not getting better [and if] this is something new for you, it’s certainly best to encourage your doctor to proceed with more testing.”

— Amy Fair, registered nurse and mesothelioma patient advocate

Common tests used to diagnose mesothelioma symptoms include chest X-rays, CT scans, and PET scans. Each test is slightly different, but all of them allow doctors to see within the body.

Tech working on blood testsBlood tests may also be recommended if you have mesothelioma symptoms, particularly anemia. A blood test can allow doctors to see if mesothelioma biomarkers (proteins or other substances that mean you have this cancer) are present.

If doctors believe mesothelioma is the cause of your symptoms after these tests, they’ll order a biopsy. A biopsy is a procedure through which a tiny sample of tissue or fluid is removed from your body. Doctors can then look at the biopsy under a microscope to see if cancer cells are present and confirm a mesothelioma diagnosis.

Once your diagnosis is confirmed, doctors can then recommend a plan to treat your mesothelioma symptoms and help you live longer.

Misdiagnosis of Mesothelioma Symptoms

Mesothelioma is often hard to diagnose as the symptoms are shared with more common — and often less serious — health problems. Further, since most mesothelioma symptoms appear decades after asbestos exposure, you might not think that you have this dangerous cancer.

Mesothelioma symptoms can be misdiagnosed as:

  • Hernia (in cases of testicular mesothelioma)
  • Lung cancer
  • Lung infections
  • Ovarian cancer (in cases of peritoneal mesothelioma)
  • Pneumonia
Did You Know?

More than 14% of mesothelioma patients get misdiagnosed in modernized countries, according to an American Cancer Society Journals report. Up to half of patients living in developing countries are misdiagnosed.

The Mayo Clinic recommends telling your doctor about your asbestos exposure history if you have possible symptoms of mesothelioma. Remember: Asbestos exposure is the biggest risk factor and only known cause of mesothelioma. Doctors can recommend testing to see if mesothelioma is the cause of your symptoms.

Get a free case review to learn how we can help you with your mesothelioma symptoms.

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Mesothelioma Symptoms and Treatments

Doctors can use many types of treatments to help ease mesothelioma symptoms, depending on the unique factors in your case.

If your cancer is in an early stage, your medical team will likely recommend treatment options to help you live longer. These treatments can also ease your mesothelioma symptoms as doctors will be able to remove or destroy cancer tumors.

Life-extending mesothelioma treatments include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgery
Clinical trials
Health care professional working on new treatments

Other, newer treatments to improve or manage mesothelioma symptoms are currently being studied in various clinical trials. Some trials and cancer research programs are focused on mesothelioma symptoms exclusively. For example, a recent study from the Journal of Medical Internet Research looked at how a phone app can monitor the symptoms of mesothelioma patients.

Doctors can also recommend palliative care to ease mesothelioma symptoms and side effects of treatments. Palliative care can be used alongside life-extending treatments or it may be the main treatment you receive if you have late-stage mesothelioma.

Palliative cancer treatments include:

  • Catheters or shunts: Doctors may sometimes place a catheter or shunt in your body so you can drain pleural effusions or ascites at home, without the need for hospital visits.
  • Medications: Doctors may prescribe pain-relieving medications to ease mesothelioma symptoms and reduce side effects of life-extending treatments. For example, you may get medication if you suffer from nausea or vomiting after undergoing chemotherapy.
  • Pleurodesis: This is another procedure used to help with pleural effusions. Doctors will put medical talc into the lung lining, which will seal it shut and prevent fluid from building up.
  • Thoracentesis: With this technique, doctors insert a thin needle into the lung lining to drain pleural effusions. Doing so can reduce pain and allow patients to breathe more easily. A similar procedure called a paracentesis is used to drain ascites in peritoneal mesothelioma patients.

The best treatments to ease your mesothelioma symptoms will depend on what type of this cancer you have, how far it’s spread, and how healthy you are. Thankfully, cancer centers all over the country can help treat mesothelioma symptoms.

Our team can help you connect with cancer care teams and treatments to ease your mesothelioma symptoms right now. Call (877) 446-5767 to find out if you qualify.

Get Help for Symptoms of Mesothelioma

If you or a loved one has possible mesothelioma symptoms, don’t wait: See a doctor as soon as possible. Getting an early diagnosis is crucial as doctors have a better shot at removing all visible signs of the cancer and, in turn, relieving your symptoms.

Common symptoms of mesothelioma (like a cough or chest pain) could be mild at first. Always be sure to tell your health care team if you were ever exposed to asbestos in the past. This information can help them pinpoint if your symptoms are caused by mesothelioma or not.

Lung Cancer Group has patient advocates on staff that can help you quickly find and afford top treatments for mesothelioma symptoms. Find out your eligibility with a free case review now.

FAQs About Mesothelioma Symptoms

What are the first signs of mesothelioma?

Some early signs of mesothelioma include shortness of breath, chest pain, and a cough that doesn’t go away. These are sometimes mistaken for less serious health problems. However, mesothelioma symptoms won’t clear up on their own.

If you or a loved one was exposed to asbestos and now has possible mesothelioma symptoms, seek out medical care as soon as you can.

Late-stage mesothelioma patients often report severe symptoms such as coughing up blood, a fever, and night sweats. Many earlier mesothelioma symptoms like chest or abdominal pain might have worsened as well due to the spread of the cancer.

Medical treatments are the best way to improve mesothelioma symptoms. Major treatments like surgery and chemotherapy can destroy as much of the cancer as possible so patients can live longer and with fewer symptoms.

Doctors can also administer palliative (pain-relieving) care, which focuses specifically on easing mesothelioma symptoms and the side effects of treatments.

It depends on the type of mesothelioma a patient has. Pleural mesothelioma and pericardial mesothelioma do have many of the same symptoms of lung cancer, including a persistent cough, chest pain, and difficulty breathing.

That said, lung cancer and mesothelioma are two separate types of cancers and each requires a different treatment approach. Doctors need to properly distinguish between mesothelioma symptoms and lung cancer symptoms to correctly diagnose and treat their patients.

Lung Cancer Group was established by a team of caring advocates so those with lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases can get the help they deserve. Our site provides the most accurate and up-to-date information about lung cancer, its link to asbestos, and financial compensation available to patients. Contact us to learn more and get assistance.

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  2. American Society of Clinical Oncology. (2020, September). Mesothelioma: Symptoms and Signs. Retrieved October 17, 2022, from

  3. Badiyan, S., Molitoris, J., Zhu, M., Glass, E., Diwanji, T., & Simone, C. (2018, April). Proton beam therapy for malignant pleural mesothelioma. Retrieved October 17, 2022, from

  4. Broeckx, G., & Pauwels, P. (2018, October). Malignant peritoneal mesothelioma: A Review. Retrieved October 17, 2022, from

  5. Cancer Council NSW. (2020, May 27). Lack of appetite and weight loss. Retrieved October 17, 2022, from

  6. Carbone, M., Adusumilli, P., Alexander, H. R., Baas, P., & Et al. (2019, July 8). Mesothelioma: Scientific clues for prevention, diagnosis, and therapy. Retrieved October 17, 2022, from

  7. Journal of Medical Internet Research. (2022, November 12). Advanced Symptom Management System for patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma (ASyMSmeso): Mixed methods study. Retrieved October 17, 2022, from

  8. Mayo Clinic. (2022, October 11). Mesothelioma. Retrieved October 17, 2022, from

  9. MD Anderson Cancer Center. (2021, September 15). 6 things to know about peritoneal mesothelioma. Retrieved October 17, 2022, from

  10. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. (n.d.). Symptoms of peritoneal & pleural mesothelioma cancers. Retrieved October 17, 2022, from

  11. Nabeshima, K., Hamasaki, M., Kinoshita, Y., & Et al. (2022, May 21). Update of pathological diagnosis of pleural mesothelioma using genomic-based morphological techniques, for both histological and cytological investigations. Retrieved October 17, 2022, from

  12. National Organization for Rare Disorders. (2020, October 26). Mesothelioma. Retrieved October 17, 2022, from

  13. Vimercati, L., Cavone, D., Delfino, M., De Maria, L., Caputi, A., Ferri, G., & Serio, G. (2019, August 30). Asbestos exposure and malignant mesothelioma of the tunica vaginalis testis: A systematic review and the experience of the Apulia (southern Italy) Mesothelioma Register – Environmental Health. Retrieved October 17, 2022, from

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