Symptoms of mesothelioma

Mesothelioma usually starts in the layers of tissue that cover each lung (the pleura). This is called pleural mesothelioma. More rarely it can start in the peritoneum. The peritoneum is the layer of tissue that covers the organs in your tummy (abdomen). This is called peritoneal mesothelioma.  

Mesothelioma doesn’t usually cause many symptoms in the early stage. But it can cause symptoms as it grows and presses on a nerve or on another body organ. 

Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma

The symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include:

  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • tiredness (fatigue)
  • sweating and high temperatures
  • a persistent cough
  • losing weight when not dieting
  • loss of appetite
  • difficulty swallowing
  • a hoarse or husky voice
  • changes in the shape of your fingers and nails (finger clubbing)

Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma

The symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include:

  • pain in the tummy (abdomen)
  • swelling in the abdomen
  • feeling or being sick
  • poor appetite
  • losing weight when not dieting
  • diarrhoea or constipation
When to see your doctor

You should see your doctor if you have the above symptoms. Particularly if you have been exposed to asbestos in the past.

Your symptoms are unlikely to be cancer but it's important to get them checked by a doctor. The earlier a cancer is picked up, the easier it is to treat it and the more likely the treatment is to be successful.

  • Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology (12th edition)
    VT DeVita, TS Lawrence, SA Rosenberg
    Wolters Kluwer, 2023

  • Suspected cancer: recognition and referral
    The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), June 2015

  • Malignant peritoneal mesothelioma: Epidemiology, risk factors, clinical presentation, diagnosis, and staging
    R Alexander
    UpToDate, accessed May 2023

  • Presentation, initial evaluation, and prognosis of malignant pleural mesothelioma
    D Sterman and others
    UpToDate, accessed May 2023

Last reviewed: 
17 May 2023
Next review due: 
17 May 2026

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