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What are the symptoms of mesothelioma?

The symptoms of mesothelioma only show up 30 to 40 years after a person came into contact with asbestos. The condition is slow to appear and then quick to progress.

The main symptoms are:

  • feeling out of breath
  • coughing
  • chest pain

As mesothelioma develops, it often causes fluid to build up in your pleural space. This is called a pleural effusion. This build-up of fluid squashes your lung, so it can’t expand fully as you breathe. This makes you feel out of breath. Tumours growing around your lung can also stop your lung expanding properly.

Mesothelioma usually starts in the outer pleural membrane that lines the inside of your chest wall and ribs. The tumour often causes pain in your chest as it grows into your chest wall. It sometimes spreads outside your chest to other organs of your body, but it’s unusual for this spread to cause symptoms.

You might experience other symptoms such as fatigue (feeling tired), loss of appetite and weight loss.

Symptoms tend to develop gradually over weeks or months. Some patients put up with the symptoms until they’re really struggling with breathing, and then have to be admitted to hospital urgently for treatment.

I have symptoms that I’m worried about – what should I do?

If you have any of these symptoms, you should talk to your GP. Remember that in many cases these symptoms could be caused by something other than cancer. They’re common symptoms, particularly if you have another long-term lung condition. But it’s very important to tell your doctor if your usual symptoms change or become worse.

Next: Diagnosing mesothelioma >

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Last medically reviewed: November 2017. Due for review: November 2020

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.