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Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that develops in the lining of the outer surface of certain organs of the body. This is usually related to asbestos exposure.


Mesothelioma mainly affects the lining of the lungs (Mesothelioma of the Pleura), but it can also affect the lining of the belly (Peritoneal Mesothelioma), heart or testes.

Every year in the UK, more than 2,600 people suffer from it. Most cases are diagnosed in people 60 to 80 years old and men are more affected than women.

Unfortunately, it is rarely possible to cure mesothelioma, although the treatment may help control symptoms.

Symptoms of Mesothelioma

The symptoms of mesothelioma tend to develop gradually. They usually only appear several decades after exposure to asbestos.

The symptoms of Mesothelioma in the lining of the lungs include:

  • Chest pain
  • Breathlessness
  • Fatigue (extreme tiredness)
  • High temperature (fever) and sweating, especially at night
  • A persistent cough
  • Loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss
  • Quilted (swollen) fingertips

The symptoms of Mesothelioma in the stomach lining include:

  • Stomach pain or swelling
  • To feel or to be sick
  • Loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss
  • Diarrhea or constipation

Consult your doctor if you have persistent or disturbing symptoms. Talk to them about any exposure to asbestos that you may have had in the past.

What are the causes of mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos, a group of minerals made up of microscopic fibers that were widely used in construction.

These tiny fibers can easily enter the lungs, where they get stuck, damaging the lungs over time.

It usually takes a while to pose obvious problems, mesothelioma usually developing more than 20 years after exposure to asbestos.

As the use of asbestos was completely banned in 1999, the risk of exposure is much lower nowadays. But materials containing asbestos are still present in many old buildings.

Learn about asbestos and people at risk of exposure and avoid exposure to asbestos.