Early signs of mesothelioma are non-specific, may be confused with other conditions or illnesses. As a result, accurate diagnosis is often delayed.
A chest x-ray can greatly contribute to determining whether mesothelioma is present. The three types of mesothelioma are pleural, peritoneal, and pericardial. Each type has a set of common signs and symptoms, however, only a physician can give a proper diagnosis.
A fluid increase within the parietal pleura; which covers and protects the chest wall and diaphragm, and the visceral pleura; which covers the lungs, is indicative of pleural effusion. Normally, a small amount of fluid is present simply as a lubricant, between the chest and the lungs. The blood and the lymph nodes serve to drain away any unneeded fluid. An excess of fluid signals an imbalance in the process. The increased fluid may cause the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath accompanied by Pain either mild or stabbing.
- A dry cough may also be present.
Pleural mesothelioma is best diagnosed with a chest x-ray, CT scan. Diagnosis is confirmed by a physician, with a biopsy. Additional symptoms associated with pleural mesothelioma are:
- Difficulty Swallowing
- Weight Loss
- Swelling in the upper body, especially the face and arms
- Lower Back Pain
- Pain in the side of the chest
- Muscle Weakness
Peritoneal mesothelioma is cancer of the lining of the abdominal cavity. It is less prevalent than pleural mesothelioma. A distended abdomen, fluid or abdominal mass, increase in waist size or abdominal mass, fever, weight loss, fatigue, anemia and digestive disturbances are all indicative of peritoneal mesothelioma.
Additional symptoms include:
- Stomach Pain
- Weight Loss
- Swollen Belly
- Bowel Obstruction
- Blood Clotting Abnormalities
Pericardial mesothelioma is the least prevalent of the three. Only 10% of patients are impacted by this form of the cancer. It affects the lining of the heart, but research has not yet determined how it is contracted.
Theories suggest that asbestos enters the bloodstream and fibers passing through the heart stimulate tumor growth. As a result, the tissue swells and fluid around the heart increases. Pericardial mesothelomia may be confused with heart disease due to chest pain, just one of the symptoms below:
- Heart Palpitations
- Chest Pain
- Shortness of Breath
- Persistent Coughing
- Extreme Fatigue
Other Signs and Symptoms
Mesothelioma patients, like patients of other cancers, can suffer from fatigue. Fatigue can be attributed to a number of factors, which may include:
- The physiological or emotional experience of living with cancer.
- The duress of the treatment of cancer.
- Anemia from chemotherapy (which kills red blood cells along with cancer cells).
- Fatigue can be acute or chronic. Typical symptoms are weakness, dizziness, shortness of breath. These symptoms may range from mild to extreme exhaustion.
Mesothelioma can spread to other parts of the body, excluding the bone, brain or adrenal glands. When this occurs, patients can suffer from trouble swallowing and/or swelling in the neck or face. In perineal mesothelioma, patients can be affected with abdominal pain and swelling, increase in waistline, and excessive fluid in the abdomen.
In pericardial mesothelioma, the rarest form, it is the fluid around the heart that is primarily responsible for the symptoms.
In very severe cases, patients may suffer from a number of various disorders:
- Pneumothorax: A collapse of the lung that is caused by excess air in the pleural cavity and can be accompanied by sudden shortness of breath, pain in the chest, back or arms and turning blue (cyanosis)
- Many Tumor Masses: Tumors may not be malignant but in the late stages of peritoneal mesothelioma they may bowel obstructions, abdominal pain, excess fluid in the abdomen and or weight loss.
- Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation: This troublesome disorder occurs when small blood clots which begin to consume all of the coagulants. Since these resources are not available to other parts of the body abnormal bleeding occurs at sites of blood samples or surgical wounds, for example.
- Thrombophlebitis: Blood clots in the vein, usually in the deep veins of the leg. These blood may cause fatal pulmonary embolism.
- Jaundice: This disorder occurs when there is a disruption in the complex normal processes of the metabolism and the excretion of bilirubin, the yellow breakdown product excreted in the liverís bile.
- Hypoglycemia: This is lower than normal blood sugar level which translates to dysfunctions, such as disorientation, slurred speech, resulting from inadequate supplies of glucose to the brain.
- Pulmonary Embolism: Blood clot in the arteries of the lungs which have traveled through the bloodstream from the site of formation causing symptoms from difficulty breathing to sudden death.