Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer of the lining around the lung caused by exposure to asbestos and products made with or contaminated with asbestos. In the United States, doctors diagnose between 2,000 and 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma each year. If not diagnosed in its early stages, mesothelioma is often fatal within months of diagnosis and it has proven difficult to cure.

The most prevalent mesothelioma is pleural mesothelioma, which develops in the cell layer lining the lungs. The two other mesotheliomas are found in the lining of the abdominal cavity (“peritoneal mesothelioma”) and in the lining of the heart (“pericardial mesothelioma”). The chance of developing mesothelioma is correlated with the amount of asbestos to which a person has been exposed and the duration of the exposure, although very limited exposures have been shown to trigger the disease.

Symptoms of mesothelioma often appear decades after exposure, adding to the difficulty of diagnosis. While a definitive diagnosis of mesothelioma requires a biopsy, the following are some of the prevalent symptoms that should be brought to the attention of a doctor:

Pleural mesothelioma

  • Chest pains
  • Chronic coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Fever and night sweats
  • A buildup of fluid around the lungs (“pleural effusion”)
  • Weight loss

Peritoneal mesothelioma

  • Abdominal pain and swelling
  • Unexpected or sudden weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • A buildup of fluid in the abdomen
  • Anemia
  • Bowe obstruction
  • Fever
  • Nausea

Pericardial mesothelioma

  • Chest pain
  • Fluid buildup around the heart (“Pericardial effusion”)
  • An irregular heartbeat or palpitations (“Arrhythmia”)
  • Heart murmur
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever and night sweats