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Diagnosing mesothelioma cancer is challenging. Not only do symptoms of the deadly disease take anywhere from 10 to 50 or more years to emerge, but also they often mirror other illnesses, making the cancer hard to detect.
Symptoms of Mesothelioma
Pain, cough, fever, fatigue, shortness of breath — all are symptoms that could be caused by a number of conditions. That’s why people at first may ignore these symptoms of mesothelioma cancer or mistake them for common ailments.
But mesothelioma is far from common and far from minor. It’s a rare and deadly asbestos-related cancer that can take decades to emerge and at least a few months on top of that to diagnose.
Because mesothelioma is an uncommon type of cancer, there are no widely recommended screening tests for people who are not at an increased risk of developing the disease. As a result, the cancer is usually found when a person goes to a doctor because of symptoms. However, by that time, the cancer often has spread, making it difficult for doctors to treat.
Mesothelioma Symptoms by Type
Mesothelioma symptoms may vary, depending on where the tumors develop in the body.
The primary types of mesothelioma are pleural mesothelioma and peritoneal mesothelioma. Two other types — pericardial mesothelioma and testicular mesothelioma — may also develop, but these cases are fewer.
Although some symptoms may affect the entire body, the majority surface around the primary tumor. Most symptoms gradually worsen over time.
Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of mesothelioma. It accounts for more than 75 percent of all diagnoses. This type of mesothelioma develops in the lining of the lungs, known as the pleura. Unfortunately, many people may not notice or experience symptoms until this type of cancer has progressed.
Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include:
- Pain in the side of the chest or lower back
- Shortness of breath
- Excessive sweating
- Weight loss (without trying)
- Trouble swallowing (feeling like food gets stuck)
- Swelling of the face and arms
Accounting for 15 to 20 percent of all mesothelioma diagnoses, peritoneal mesothelioma develops in the lining of the abdomen, known as the peritoneum. Early symptoms include abdominal pain, while small bowel obstruction is often a late-presenting symptom and usually indicates that the cancer is in an advanced stage.
Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include:
- Abdominal pain
- Swelling or fluid in the abdomen
- Weight loss (without trying)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Night sweats
- Loss of appetite
Pericardial mesothelioma accounts for just 1 to 2 percent of mesothelioma diagnoses. This cancer develops in the lining of the heart, known as the pericardium, and is the most difficult form to diagnose and treat. Some symptoms of this type of mesothelioma, such as chest pain and shortness of breath, are also the warning signs of pleural mesothelioma.
Symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma include:
- Heart palpitations or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
- Heart murmurs
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath (dyspnea) – especially when lying flat
Only about 250 total cases of testicular mesothelioma have ever been recorded, making it the rarest type of mesothelioma cancer. Accounting for less than 1 percent of all mesothelioma diagnoses, testicular mesothelioma develops in the membrane that lines the testes.
Patients diagnosed with testicular mesothelioma have reported swelling and/or fluid in one or both testicles. But because few patients have been diagnosed with this type of cancer, researchers have not conclusively linked it to specific symptoms. 
Symptoms that Indicate Mesothelioma Has Spread
Mesothelioma may spread from its original site to other parts of the body such as the bones or other organs. Once the cancer has advanced this far, surgery is generally not an option, and most treatments are to relieve pain or other symptoms.
Warning signs of mesothelioma cancer that’s spread include:
Hemoptysis – Coughing up blood
Horner’s Syndrome – Nerve damage to the face
Laryngeal Nerve Palsy – Hoarseness
Mesothelioma Symptoms Emerge Years After Exposure
Anywhere from 10 or 15 to 50 or more years can pass before warning signs of mesothelioma cancer become noticeable. This period of time is known as the “latency period.” The average latency period for men is 47.9 years and 53.3 years for women.
The long latency period makes accurately diagnosing mesothelioma cancer difficult. This difficulty is further compounded by the fact that the symptoms are easily mistaken for those of less serious illnesses.
The clinical misdiagnosis rate for pericardial mesothelioma, for example, is extremely high because the symptoms are often confused with those of coronary heart disease, heart failure, and other heart conditions. Moreover, the symptoms of pleural mesothelioma can often be mistaken for influenza or pneumonia.
Mesothelioma treatments to date have not led to a cure. However, the earlier doctors detect the cancer, the more treatment options you may have available to you to help lessen symptoms and help you potentially live longer.
People who have the highest need for mesothelioma screening include:
- Construction workers
- Boiler workers
- Workers from other industrial occupations
Investigators have found asbestos-related diseases in people with only brief asbestos exposure, but people who have been heavily exposed to asbestos for a prolonged period of time have the highest risk of developing mesothelioma.  
If You Experience Mesothelioma Symptoms
People who experience symptoms of mesothelioma should consult a doctor immediately. Mesothelioma patients may then choose to contact an experienced mesothelioma attorney to discuss their legal options.
Weitz & Luxenberg’s reputable team of attorneys has 30 years of experience in asbestos cases and has won $8.5 billion in settlements and verdicts for victims of asbestos-related diseases. We’ve helped more than 33,000 asbestos victims get the justice and compensation they deserve, and we’d be honored to do the same for you.*
For a free consultation, call (877) 516-9192 or fill out a form to speak with one of our attorneys.
*While our past record doesn’t guarantee future success, it is something you may want to consider when evaluating our experience.
 American Cancer Society. (2016, February 17). Signs and symptoms of mesothelioma. Retrieved from http://www.cancer.org/cancer/malignantmesothelioma/detailedguide/malignant-mesothelioma-signs-symptoms
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