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Symptoms of mesothelioma

Mesothelioma may not cause any signs or symptoms in its early stages. Symptoms appear once the tumour grows into surrounding tissues and organs or fluid builds up around the lung (pleural effusion) or in the abdomen (ascites). Most people with mesothelioma have advanced or widespread disease at the time of diagnosis.

If you have been exposed to asbestos, it’s important to know the symptoms of mesothelioma. Exposure to asbestos is the most important risk factor for mesothelioma. But often the signs and symptoms of mesothelioma do not show up for 20 to 60 years after asbestos exposure.

The signs and symptoms of mesothelioma may vary depending on the location of the tumour. Other health conditions can cause the same symptoms as mesothelioma.

Pleural mesothelioma

The signs and symptoms of mesothelioma of the lung (pleural mesothelioma) include:

  • aching or pain in the chest or lower back
  • cough
  • shortness of breath (may be caused by pleural effusion)
  • fatigue
  • weight loss
  • fever
  • sweating
  • problems swallowing, feeling like food is getting stuck in the throat
  • swelling of the face and arms
  • hoarseness

Peritoneal mesothelioma

The signs and symptoms of mesothelioma in the abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma) include:

  • pain in the abdomen
  • swelling of the abdomen (may be caused by ascites)
  • nausea and vomiting
  • constipation
  • weight loss
  • blockage of the small intestine or colon

In some cases, mesothelioma or its treatment can cause serious problems. These cancer-related emergencies need to be treated right away:

pleural effusion

An abnormal buildup of fluid in the pleural cavity (space between the lungs and the walls of the chest).


Abnormal buildup of fluid in the abdomen.