Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type of this specific cancer, accounting for 3 out of 4 diagnosed cases. It affects the pleura, the lining of the lungs made up of mesothelial cells, but can spread from there to other tissues. For this reason, you may feel more symptoms affecting this area and your respiratory system than other parts of your body.
There are two types of symptoms of pleural mesothelioma. The first are general ones, which may be felt by all mesothelioma patients. The second are specific ones, which only patients with the pleural type may experience.
These symptoms are related to all types of mesothelioma.
- weight loss
- night sweats
- loss of appetite
Specific to pleural mesothelioma
In the early stages of the disease, you may not feel anything at all. However, chest pain and shortness of breath are common symptoms that appear early on. More symptoms that develop as a result of tumors increasing in size and quantity include:
- breathing difficulty
- tightness in the chest
- chronic cough
- painful cough
- coughing up blood
- excess fluid around the lungs (pleural effusions)
- pain in the lower back
- difficulty swallowing
- palpable lumps in the chest
- a husky or hoarse voice
Another symptom, albeit rare, that is related to both pleural and pericardial mesothelioma is finger clubbing. This is when your finger tips become wider and your nails become more curved. It is believed to be caused by fluid collection.
As your tumors grow and cancer cells spread to other tissues in your body, your symptoms will become worse and more varied. You may also begin to feel symptoms that are unique to the other types of mesothelioma.
Why symptoms may lead to a misdiagnosis
Mesothelioma, in general, is a rare disease that has not been as researched as other cancers. Statistically, about 2,000 people are diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma every year in the US, while 150,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer. It is not unusual for a patient to be misdiagnosed with having lung cancer, since the symptoms associated with both diseases are very similar. Pleural mesothelioma may even be confused with a respiratory ailment, such as asthma.
To make a proper diagnosis, your doctor will most likely need to perform imaging scans and a biopsy rather than rely on symptoms alone.
There is no cure for mesothelioma, but your doctor can design an effective treatment plan that can help decrease or control the severity of your symptoms. This is usually the primary goal of treatment, regardless of what it may be (surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, clinical trial and/or complementary and alternative therapy).