Understanding the Types of Mesothelioma and Their Symptoms

Mesothelioma is so named because it is a type of cancer that affects the mesothelial (membrane lining) cells of the body’s organs. The primary cause of this condition is exposure to asbestos fibres.

Unlike asbestosis, which is severe lung damage caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos materials, breathing in a relatively small amount of asbestos can cause this type of cancer. Additionally, diagnosis in the early stages is difficult and mesothelioma can take as long as 40 to 60 years to become apparent, by which time is has advanced to a life threatening stage.

Treatment of e condition will depend on the area it has affected and how far the cancer has progressed – the following guide will explain the four types of mesothelioma and their related symptoms. . All types progress fairly rapidly, so if you suspect you have this illness, it is crucial to visit your GP immediately.

Pleural (lung) and peritoneal (abdominal) are the main forms of mesothelioma, comprising approximately 90% of all cases.

Pleural (Lung) Mesothelioma

This is the most common form of mesothelioma (resenting in around 70% of cases), since breathing in harmful asbestos fibres damages the mesothelial lining of the lungs (pleura).


• Difficulty swallowing
• Fatigue
• Fever or night sweats
• Persistent chest pain
• Persistent dry cough
• Shortness of breath.

Peritoneal (Abdominal) Mesothelioma

Affecting the mesothelial lining of the abdomen, peritoneal mesothelioma is generally caused by swallowing asbestos materials inadvertently. This condition comprises approximately 20% of all mesothelioma cases and tends to spread throughout the body faster than the other types.


• Abdominal pain
• Abdominal swelling
• Constipation or diarrhoea
• Fatigue
• Nausea and vomiting
• Weight loss.

Additionally, when examined by your GP, they will frequently detect a thickening of the peritoneal membrane and the build-up of fluid in the abdomen.

Pericardial (Heart) Mesothelioma

A rare form of this type of cancer (only accounting for about 1% of cases), pericardial mesothelioma develops on the exterior lining of the heart (pericardium). At present, it is not known how asbestos materials trigger mesothelioma in this part of the body.

Symptoms for pericardial mesothelioma are caused by fluid building up in the spaces between the layers of the heart:

• Chest Pain
• Coughing
• Difficulty Breathing
• Fatigue
• Fever or night sweats
• Irregular Heartbeat.

Testicular Mesothelioma

Least common of all four types, testicular mesothelioma develops in the lining of the testes (tunica vaginalis). It is most often discovered when patients are receiving surgery or treatment for another condition. At present, it is not known how asbestos materials trigger mesothelioma in this part of the body.

Because of its rarity, a set collection of symptoms have not yet been identified, however the two main indicators are painless testicular lumps and a swelling of the scrotum.


Around 1,800 deaths are caused by mesothelioma every year in Britain, and due to the huge gap between asbestos exposure and the onset of this cancer, the figure is expected to rise. If you have any of the symptoms listed above, please visit your GP as a matter of priority.