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Illustration of a person's chest with the lungs highlighted in orange to show where mesothelioma can occur.

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer, which is sometimes due to exposure to asbestos. Mesothelioma typically begins in the pleural lining that surrounds the lungs. It can also develop in the abdominal lining called the peritoneum. Even more rare, it can develop in the pericardium around the heart, or in the testicles.

Men are most commonly diagnosed, but mesothelioma in women and children can occur. It is typically seen in older people, age 65 or older.

Some known risk factors for Mesothelioma are:

Exposure: Asbestos exposure is the largest cause by far of Mesothelioma. People who have lived or worked in areas where they have inhaled or swallowed asbestos fibers are at in increased risk of developing malignant mesothelioma. Smoking, along with exposure to asbestos can increase the risk of developing certain types of lung cancer.

Medical history: A very small population of people who have received radiation treatment for lymphoma are at a higher risk, usually due to a genetic mutation in a BAP1 gene.

Signs & Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of mesothelioma are different depending on the area of the body that is affected and are different for each person. They may include:


  • Pleural effusion (build of of fluid surrounding the lungs)

  • Chest pain under the rib cage

  • Shortness of breath due to increased thickness of the lining surrounding the lungs, limiting the ability for the lungs to expand.

  • Cough


  • Abdominal pain or swelling caused by accumulation of fluid

  • Unusual lumps in the abdomen

  • Constipation or bowel obstruction

General (both lung and abdominal):

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Fatigue

  • Blood clots that form when they shouldn’t

Screening & Diagnosis

A complete physical exam and medical history should be done. The exam will check for any unusual physical signs. A complete medical history is also important to fully understand a person’s health habits, family history, previous illnesses, and past exposure. Additional testing may include:

  • Imaging: XRay, CT

  • Biopsy

  • Thoracoscopy

  • Thoracotomy

  • Peritoneoscopy

  • Tissue Sampling

Helpful Patient Resources:

We understand that receiving a cancer diagnosis can be a very scary and it is an emotional time for the patient and their families. It is very important to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your oncologist. We highly recommend that if you do any research about your disease, that you do so only with reputable sources. For your convenience, we’ve listed some below.

National Cancer Institute:

Malignant Mesothelioma - Patient Version

American Cancer Society:

Malignant Mesothelioma

National Comprehensive Cancer Network

Guidelines for Patients