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Mesothelioma Symptoms and Other Signs

Mesothelioma is one of the most difficult cancers to diagnose. Malignant mesothelioma may not show itself in any noticeable health problems until 20, 30 or even 50 years after the first exposure to asbestos. Not only does it have an extremely protracted latency period between primary exposure and initial mesothelioma symptoms, it also causes symptoms that are often confused with less serious conditions. Common pleural mesothelioma symptoms include:

  • Pleural effusion (an accumulation of fluid in the pleural cavity, which is the space between the lungs and the interior walls of the chest)
  • Constant chest pain or pain under the rib cage
  • Chronic cough that worsens over time
  • Coughing up blood (hemoptysis)
  • Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath (dyspnea)
  • Fatigue
  • Lung infection (pneumonia, bronchitis)
  • Swollen lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy)
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss for no known reason
  • Wheezing
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms are similar, but it attacks the digestive tract.

Mesothelioma Symptoms may also include:

  • Weight loss for no known reason (although waist may increase in size)
  • Pain, swelling or lumps in the abdomen (caused by fluid retention or tumor growth)
  • Bowel obstruction (blockage in the small or large intestine)
  • Anemia (a reduction in the number of red blood cells)
  • Fever

It is easy to mistake mesothelioma symptoms for indications of something less serious such as the flu, pneumonia, or general fatigue. Unfortunately, because mesothelioma is so rare, doctors usually must have a compelling reason to suspect cancer before making a diagnosis. The most important test to determine the presence of mesothelioma is a biopsy. Usually, a pathologist is required to examine any tissue or pleural fluid obtained from a biopsy for the presence of mesothelioma cancer cells. Other diagnostic tests include x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and sampling of fluid drained from the lungs. Early detection is important because it can allow doctors to provide the patient with a more comfortable life and better treatment options.

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