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Mesothelioma cancer symptoms include cough, difficulty breathing and chest pain. Symptoms vary by mesothelioma type and cancer stage. Treatment to reduce symptoms and improve comfort is palliative treatment.

There are several ways patients can manage their symptoms. This may include prescription medication or surgical procedures. Symptom management will be different for every patient.

1. Chemotherapy and Radiation

Chemotherapy and radiation can be palliative treatments for mesothelioma. Mesothelioma tumors can put pressure on the organs. This pressure can cause an array of symptoms.

For example, pleural mesothelioma tumors develop in the lung linings. This can put pressure on the lungs. Pleural mesothelioma patients may experience difficulty breathing and chest pain.

Chemotherapy and radiation can shrink tumors. Shrinking mesothelioma tumors relieves pressure and associated symptoms.

Before trying palliative chemotherapy or radiation, patients should also consider treatment side effects. These treatments often have their own side effects, including nausea, vomiting and fatigue.

2. Mesothelioma Surgery

Mesothelioma surgery can also help with symptoms by relieving pressure. Surgery may remove malignant masses and/or excess fluid. This can help patients with pain, coughing, trouble breathing and fluid buildup.

Surgery for Pleural and Peritoneal Effusion

Fluid buildup is a common mesothelioma symptom that may be treated with surgery.

Surgery can remove excess fluid from the body. This helps reduce symptoms associated with fluid buildup, including:

  • Chest pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing

Surgery also has risks and side effects. Patients should discuss these with their physician.

Fluid Buildup & Treatment by Mesothelioma Type
Pleural Mesothelioma
Peritoneal Mesothelioma
  • Peritoneal Effusion: Fluid builds up in the abdominal linings (peritoneum).
  • Paracentesis: Removes excess fluid from the peritoneum.
Pericardial Mesothelioma
  • Pericardial Effusion: Fluid builds up in the heart linings (pericardium).
  • Pericardiocentesis: Removes excess fluid from the pericardium.

Many palliative surgeries do not require a hospital stay. This often allows patients to achieve quick relief and then recover at home.

However, surgery is not an option for all patients. Individuals should discuss with their doctor before considering surgery for symptom management.

3. Mesothelioma Pain Medication

Medication is often used to treat mesothelioma pain.

For pleural and pericardial mesothelioma patients, chest pain is a common symptom. Peritoneal mesothelioma patients commonly have abdominal pain.

Pain medication is an option that can greatly improve quality of life.

Doctors will often prescribe medication based on the patient’s pain level. For example, minor pain is often treated with Advil or Tylenol. Doctors may prescribe opioids for moderate to severe pain.

4. Alternative Therapies for Pain

Some patients have found success with alternative therapies.

Physicians may recommend exercise to reduce patient pain. Exercise can help with fatigue, loss of appetite and stress. A healthy diet can also help with nausea, vomiting and appetite.

Other alternative therapies for mesothelioma pain include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Medical marijuana
  • TENS therapy
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Physical therapy
  • Energy therapy
  • Massage

Many alternative therapies help with both mental and emotional well-being. Patients should discuss alternative therapies with their physician. Specialists can ensure they don’t interfere with other therapeutic treatments.

Emotional Impact of Mesothelioma Symptoms

Mesothelioma symptoms can have an emotional impact on patients. Patients may struggle with fear, anxiety, depression, sadness and anger.

Patients should discuss all physical and mental challenges with their doctors.

There are many ways patients can nurture their emotional well-being.

  • Alternative therapies often impact the mind and the body. For example, yoga can be calming and relieve stress.
  • Medication may be prescribed for depression and anxiety.
  • Counseling is also an option to talk through thoughts, feelings and experiences.
  • Cancer support groups bring patients and caregivers together as part of a community. Patients may find comfort talking with others going through a similar experience.

Many cancer centers provide individuals with a treatment coordinator. The coordinator can help patients navigate their options and schedule treatments. Treatment centers may also offer therapy, nutritional counseling and other services for patients.