What are the first signs and symptoms of mesothelioma?

Posted: 24th Oct 19 8:00 AM

Mesothelioma is a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos dust and fibres. We understand that this disease will have an impact on your life and the lives of those around you.

If you have been exposed to asbestos in the past, whether through work or from secondary exposure from your loved ones, it is important for you to be vigilant and keep an eye out for any changes in your health and wellbeing.

What are the first signs and symptoms of mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma starts off as small nodules on the tissue of the lining of the lungs and abdomen, and doesn’t usually cause symptoms until 10 to 50 years after exposure and inhalation of asbestos dust and fibres and the cancer has started to grow.

Most noticeable symptoms don’t start until the cancer is in its later stages. These include:

  • Pain in the chest or abdomen
  • Pleural effusions (a build-up of fluid in the lungs)
  • Dry cough or wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Fever or night sweats


In some cases, mesothelioma in its early stages can cause pleural effusions with enough of a fluid build-up to cause coughing or shortness of breath without the cancer having spread.

What causes late-stage mesothelioma symptoms?

Most cases of mesothelioma are only caught when the cancer is in its later stages.

This is because noticeable symptoms usually only start when the tumours start to grow and spread. This growth is known as metastasis.

The growing tumour can press against the lungs and other organs, causing chest pain and restricted breathing.

Who is at risk of developing mesothelioma?

Nearly all cases of mesothelioma are caused by exposure to asbestos dust and fibres.

Mesothelioma can develop after minimal exposure to asbestos, often from work or an occupational activity.

People who worked as laggers, heating and ventilation engineers, boiler makers, joiners, fitters and shipbuilders are all at a higher risk of developing mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is also known to develop following secondary exposure to asbestos. Those who worked with asbestos would come home to their families, covered in asbestos dust, unknowingly putting their family at risk of exposure.

What should I do if I have been diagnosed with mesothelioma?

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you should get in touch with the National Asbestos Helpline to discuss what support is available for you.

We can offer guidance and advice, as well as put you in touch with some amazing charities and organisations set up to help people in your situation.

You may also be eligible for financial compensation and/ or benefits. We work closely with a team of specialist mesothelioma solicitors from Birchall Blackburn Law, who work tirelessly to guide you through the compensation claims process, and will take on all responsibility to let you focus on what matters most.

If you or a loved one is ever diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related condition, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the National Asbestos Helpline. We’re here to help you with advice about your condition and how to cope with it, and can also advise on any benefits and/ or compensation you might be entitled to. Call us on Freephone 0800 043 6635, or email enquiries@nationalasbestos.co.uk.

Further reading

Practical information

What is mesothelioma?

How long do mesothelioma claims take?

What is a pleural effusion?

What is the asbestos compensation claims process?

Is there a time limit on asbestos compensation claims?

Signs and symptoms of mesothelioma – Infographic