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Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart. It is primarily caused by exposure to asbestos, a mineral that was widely used in construction and other industries until its harmful effects were discovered. Mesothelioma often goes undiagnosed until it reaches an advanced stage, making it difficult to treat. However, early detection and treatment can significantly improve a patient’s prognosis.

Chest Pain: A Common Symptom

One of the most common symptoms of mesothelioma is chest pain. This pain can be sharp or dull and may worsen with deep breathing or coughing. It is caused by the tumor pressing against the chest wall or the lining of the lungs. If you experience persistent chest pain, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation.

Shortness of Breath: A Sign of Lung Involvement

Shortness of breath is another common symptom of mesothelioma, particularly when the cancer affects the lining of the lungs. As the tumor grows, it can restrict the expansion of the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. If you find yourself becoming easily winded or struggling to catch your breath, it is essential to seek medical attention.

Persistent Cough: A Red Flag

A persistent cough that does not go away is another potential symptom of mesothelioma. This cough may be accompanied by blood in the sputum or chest pain. It is important not to dismiss a chronic cough as a minor issue, as it could be a sign of a more serious underlying condition.

Fatigue: A Debilitating Effect

Fatigue is a common symptom experienced by mesothelioma patients. The cancer itself, as well as the treatments, can cause extreme tiredness and lack of energy. It is important for patients to prioritize rest and self-care to manage their fatigue levels.

Weight Loss: Unintended and Unexplained

Unintended weight loss is a common symptom of many cancers, including mesothelioma. The cancer cells can alter the metabolism, leading to a loss of appetite and weight loss. If you notice a significant and unexplained drop in your weight, it is crucial to consult a healthcare professional.

Abdominal Swelling: A Sign of Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Abdominal swelling is a symptom specific to peritoneal mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the abdomen. This swelling is caused by the accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity. If you experience persistent bloating or swelling in your abdomen, it is important to seek medical attention for further evaluation.

Treatment Options and Prognosis

While mesothelioma is a challenging disease to treat, there are treatment options available that can help improve a patient’s quality of life and potentially extend their survival. The treatment approach depends on several factors, including the stage of the cancer, the location of the tumor, and the overall health of the patient.


Surgery may be an option for some mesothelioma patients, particularly if the cancer is detected at an early stage. The goal of surgery is to remove as much of the tumor as possible and potentially improve the patient’s prognosis. However, surgery is not always feasible, especially if the cancer has spread extensively.


Chemotherapy is a common treatment for mesothelioma and involves the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. It can be administered orally or intravenously and may be used before or after surgery to target any remaining cancer cells. Chemotherapy can help shrink tumors, alleviate symptoms, and improve overall survival rates.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to target and kill cancer cells. It can be used as a standalone treatment or in combination with surgery and chemotherapy. Radiation therapy can help relieve pain, control tumor growth, and improve overall quality of life for mesothelioma patients.


Immunotherapy is a relatively new treatment approach that harnesses the body’s immune system to fight cancer. It involves the use of drugs that stimulate the immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. Immunotherapy has shown promising results in some mesothelioma patients, particularly those with certain genetic mutations.

Can Mesothelioma Be Cured?

While there is currently no cure for mesothelioma, advancements in treatment options have significantly improved the prognosis for many patients. Early detection and aggressive treatment can help extend survival rates and improve quality of life. It is important for individuals with a history of asbestos exposure to undergo regular medical check-ups and screenings to detect mesothelioma at its earliest stages.

Tips for Coping with Mesothelioma

  • Seek support from friends, family, and support groups who understand the challenges of living with mesothelioma.
  • Take care of your physical and emotional well-being by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and practicing stress-reducing activities.
  • Stay informed about the latest advancements in mesothelioma treatment and consider participating in clinical trials if eligible.
  • Work closely with your healthcare team to develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses your specific needs and goals.
  • Consider seeking a second opinion to ensure you are receiving the most appropriate and up-to-date treatment options.

In conclusion, mesothelioma is a challenging and aggressive form of cancer that primarily affects the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart. It is important to be aware of the common symptoms, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, persistent cough, fatigue, weight loss, and abdominal swelling, and seek medical attention if any of these symptoms persist. While there is currently no cure for mesothelioma, early detection and aggressive treatment can significantly improve a patient’s prognosis. By staying informed, seeking support, and working closely with healthcare professionals, individuals with mesothelioma can effectively manage their condition and improve their quality of life.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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