Mesothelioma occurs in four areas of the body – the lungs, the heart, the abdomen and the testes. It is found in the mesothelium – the thin lining that covers these organs – and the symptoms that an individual will experience can differ slightly depending on which of these three areas the asbestos is lodged in.
The Lungs or Pleural Mesothelioma – About 75% of mesothelioma cases occur in the lungs. This is not all that surprising, as the dust is breathed directly into the lungs in the first place, so it’s only normal that this will be the first place to experience issues. The asbestos finds its way into the pleural linings and creates inflammation and irritation, which is why this version of the disease is also called pleural mesothelioma.
If you are suffering from this type of mesothelioma, you may experience one or a combination of these symptoms:
- pain in side of the chest or the lower back area
- losing weight without trying and loss of appetite
- feeling short of breath
- finding swallowing difficult
- high temperature and sweating
- a husky or hoarse voice
- a cough that won’t go away
However, the asbestos can move around once it’s inside the body and this can lead to a build-up in other areas of the body, which can cause cancer of:
The Abdomen or Peritoneal Mesothelioma – About 25% of cases are located in the peritoneal lining. Cancer located here, develops in the same way as the others, irritation leads to inflammation, which leads to damage and, eventually, cancerous tumours. The only difference is that the asbestos, rather than irritating the lining of the lungs, irritates the mesothelium of the abdomen, which is called the peritoneum.
If you have peritoneal mesothelioma, you could experience the following symptoms:
- swelling and pain in the stomach area
- poor appetite
- losing more than 10 per cent of your body weight, even though you’re not trying
- feeling sick and vomiting
- constipation or diarrhoea
The Heart or Pericardial Mesothelioma – Finally, most of those left will develop mesothelioma in the lining that covers the heart, known as the pericardium. However, this is a very rare cancer and only accounts for 1% of all mesothelioma cases diagnosed, which works out at about only 200 known cases detailed in current medical literature.
Pericardial mesothelioma can include one or more of these symptoms:
- fever and night sweats
- pain in the chest
- a persistent cough
- shortness of breath when lying down or resting, which is known medically as dyspnea
- an irregular heartbeat, which is called arrhythmia in medicine, heart palpitations or murmurs
- tiredness or fatigue
There is one more version of mesothelioma, but it is so rare that it barely features at all in literature and there is no agreed-upon set of symptoms to refer to. This kind of mesothelioma affects the lining of the testicles and is known as testicular mesothelioma. When it is seen, it’s often as a secondary growth that’s a branch of the main tumour, which is usually located in the peritoneum. As bad as that sounds, it’s actually one of the less aggressive variations of the disease, with one of the best long-term prognoses.
Something to Keep in Mind!
Whilst these lists are useful, you could still have mesothelioma and not yet know it, because you’re not displaying any of the symptoms detailed. And, the opposite is also true – you may have many of these symptoms, but they are created by another, easily cured infection. For example, fever and night sweats, shortness of breath, tiredness and fatigue and pain in the chest are all common symptoms of a viral chest infection, such as bronchitis.
So, don’t panic if you suddenly develop these symptoms, but do make sure that you get them checked out as soon as possible.
Further in-depth information about mesothelioma, including the emotional effects,what your employer should be doing to protect you and possible future treatments can be found in Mesothelioma – What You Need to Know