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What are the symptoms of mesothelioma?

On this page we cover the main symptoms of mesothelioma, other symptoms to look out for and what you should do if you have symptoms you’re worried about.

The symptoms of mesothelioma usually 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 the affected lung, so it can’t expand fully as you breathe. This can make you feel out of breath. Tumours growing around a lung can also stop it expanding properly.

Mesothelioma usually starts in the lining of your chest wall and ribs. If the tumour grows into your chest wall, it can cause pain. 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), hot flushes or sweats, loss of appetite and weight loss.

Symptoms tend to develop gradually over weeks or months.

I have symptoms – what should I do?

If you have any of these symptoms, you should ask your GP for a chest X-ray. 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

Download our mesothelioma information (PDF, 166KB)

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Last medically reviewed: November 2020. Due for review: November 2023

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.