As in other type of cancer or diseases it is important to recognize the symptoms as early as possible in order to start treatment in time. Proper attention to symptoms can lead to a considerable improvement in the chances that treatment will extend the life of the individual, relieve other symptoms and may even result in cure for some patients. In the case of mesothelioma, symptoms usually do not manifest themselves after 20 to 50 years after the individual has been exposed to asbestos fibers. This lengthy latency period of mesothelioma makes the disease difficult to diagnose. Unfortunately when it is diagnosed it is usually in its later stages. When symptoms start to appear the disease usually may have already progressed considerably making treatment less effective. Further more early symptoms of the disease may be quite subtle and so people may easily ignore them, attributing them to other common diseases such as flu, bronchitis or pneumonia.
Therefore if an individual has been exposed to asbestos in the past, it is important for such an individual to have regular check ups even in the absence of symptoms. Patients also differ in the length of time they report the symptoms. Also, as in other types of cancer or disease, symptoms may vary from one patient to another. Symptoms may be affected by a number of variables such as the location of the tumor, the size of the tumor, the severity of the illness, the type of mesothelioma (whether it is pleural, peritoneal or pericardial), the age of the patient and the general health of the individual. These factors also determine which symptoms are more bothersome to the individual.
The general symptoms of mesothelioma are as follows:
- Persistent coughing
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Fluid in the chest
- Fluid in the lungs
- Fluid in abdomen
- Pain in chest
- Pain in abdomen
- Trouble in swallowing
- Difficulty in sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Weight Loss
- Coughing up blood
- Unexplained fever
- Recurring infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia
- Bone pain
- Muscle weakness/muscle numbness
- Sensory loss
- Swelling of the face, arms or neck
- Masses near the surface of the body
The above are however general symptoms but the individual may suffer from some of the above. Usually it is persistent coughing and difficulty in breathing that will make an individual to seek medical advice. A growing tumor will cause the pleura, pericardium, or peritoneum to expand and so allowing fluid to enter. This usually will cause pain in the abdomen or chest. Difficulty in breathing will make it difficult for the individual to sleep. Consequently this will result in loss of appetite and so in weight loss. The spreading of cancerous cells to other parts of the body will cause weakness and fatigue. The body may find it difficult to absorb nutrients and may result in weight loss. The spreading of the cancer to other parts of the body may also produce symptoms such as pain, trouble in swallowing and swelling of the face, arms or neck.