One reason that mesothelioma is so dangerous and particularly difficult to treat is that even well-known mesothelioma symptoms are difficult to recognize and easy to overlook, making an early diagnosis very challenging and rare. This is because early-stage meso symptoms typically look like garden variety symptoms that may occur in a variety of illnesses—including colds and viruses that most of the population contracts multiple times every year. Therefore, even if someone in the early stages of mesothelioma cancer is bothered enough by his or her symptoms to see a doctor, there is no guarantee that even a very qualified and competent medical professional will be able to pinpoint the cause.
Different types of the disease exhibit different mesothelioma symptoms.
Pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the lungs and chest cavity, commonly produces coughing and wheezing. What may be telltale about these symptoms is that they will be both persistent and consistent. They will not respond to conventional, common treatments—like over-the-counter medications—and will not go away with time. Ongoing hoarseness of the voice is a similar and related symptom. Chest pain is also not uncommon in the illness’ early stages but may not be severe enough to warrant considerable concern.
In the case of peritoneal mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the stomach and abdominal cavity, symptoms will be most noticed in the gastrointestinal system. Weight loss and abdominal pain are common and may easily be explained away by other, less worrisome causes—for instance, dietary changes or common conditions, including acid reflux or irritable bowel syndrome. Other mesothelioma symptoms seen in the peritoneal variety include swelling within the abdomen and fever.
A third, far less common form of mesothelioma develops around the body’s most vital organ—the heart. Called pericardial mesothelioma, many of its symptoms are the same as those found in cases of pleural mesothelioma—cough, chest pain and fatigue. Others include heart palpitations and murmurs. It should be noted however that with only about 200 documented cases of this type of the disease in current medical literature, it is considered a markedly less concerning condition than the varieties affecting the pleura and peritoneum.
Mesothelioma symptoms presented in anyone who knows that they have been exposed to meso’s primary cause—asbestos—should always be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly. Additionally, history of past exposure should be fully and emphatically expressed to any evaluating physician. This is because, without knowledge of past asbestos exposure, it is not particularly likely that a physician will automatically consider mesothelioma to be a highly concerning diagnostic possibility—even with the presence of mesothelioma symptoms—and thus, may fail to order appropriate screening procedures and tests—such as a lung x-ray or MRI.
Because mesothelioma symptoms can be so difficult to recognize and because the latency period between exposure and development of the disease is generally exceptionally long, anyone who even believes that they may have a history of exposure is advised to get familiar with possible symptoms and follow up as necessary.