Mesothelioma can cause fluid buildup in your heart, lungs, and abdomen; pain in your chest, stomach, and back; and flu-like symptoms. It can also bring on weight loss and fatigue. Although mesothelioma is a challenging disease to manage, knowing how it will impact your body may better help prepare you for the road ahead.
Head and Brain
- Mesothelioma can affect a patient‘s mental stability leading to depression, anxiety, and sadness.
- Confusion, forgetfulness, and brain fog are common complaints for mesothelioma patients on chemotherapy. This is sometimes referred to as “chemo brain.”
- Patients may experience general malaise from mesothelioma, including flu-like symptoms such as chills, fever, night sweats, headache, runny nose, congestion, sore throat, and cough.
- Pericardial mesothelioma patients can feel lightheaded or dizzy.
- Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of the asbestos cancer, found in the outer lining of the lungs and primarily causing respiratory issues.
- Fluid builds up between the lungs and chest, known as pleural effusion, impeding the patient‘s breathing by limiting the expansion of the lung. This results in chest pain and a shortage of oxygen that leads to shortness of breath and fatigue.
- Infection of the airways and lungs, often caused by bronchitis and pneumonia, is accompanied by excessive coughing, a tight feeling in the chest, increased rate of breathing, and wheezing. These infections are life-threatening to mesothelioma patients and require immediate medical attention.
- Constant and acute coughing can be painful and exhausting.
- Mesothelioma tumors present as a large mass that blends in with healthy tissue and may lead to pain under the rib cage and/or unusual lumps of tissue under the skin on the chest.
- Over half of pleural mesothelioma patients suffer pain in the lower, back, and sides of the chest caused by pressure from the tumors.
- For surgical patients, the pleurectomy/decortication (P/D) or extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) procedures result in significant pain from the incision made on the side of the chest (thorax) to get to the lungs. Pain in the chest area and incision site can last for several weeks or for months after surgery.
- Pericardial mesothelioma attacks the pericardium, or the tissue sac that contains the heart and the primary blood vessels. Pericardial mesothelioma patients are said to experience the most severe cancer pain.
- Chest pain and fatigue after exertion are common among pericardial mesothelioma patients.
- The heart struggles to fully expand from the inflammation and can be constricted. Heart palpitations, irregular heartbeat, and heart murmurs are all symptoms.
- Fluid can build in the heart, causing the heart to try to work even harder and resulting in overall fatigue.
- Peritoneal mesothelioma affects the lining of the abdomen and can cause significant discomfort in the abdominal area.
- Patients can experience abdominal pain and tenderness as a result of the tumor, swelling, and surgery.
- Nearly all patients suffer from fluid accumulation, which leads to uncomfortable abdominal swelling or distension.
- Lumps of tissue in the abdomen may be noticed.
- Weight loss is often experienced by patients of all types of mesothelioma.
- Mesothelioma patients are especially susceptible to blood clots, or deep vein thrombosis, due to the high doses of chemotherapy, limited mobility from fatigue and breathing difficulties, and the invasive surgeries that require significant time confined to a bed. Deep vein thrombosis occurs when a blood clot forms in one or more of the deep veins in your body and most often is found in the legs.
- Pericardial mesothelioma patients often experience swelling of the legs, ankles, and feet due to fluid retention.
- Neuropathy, also called peripheral neuropathy, is weakness, numbness, tingling, or burning often felt in the feet and hands caused by nerve damage. Neuropathy often results from chemotherapy treatments for mesothelioma. Neuropathy can impair a patient‘s ability to walk, and a cane may be needed for stability.
Psychological Effects of Mesothelioma
Dealing with the physical effects of mesothelioma is hard enough, but managing family and financial issues at the same time can lead to additional harmful health effects from the stress. A stressed patient is less likely to respond to cancer treatments and could experience a further decline in health.
Physicians believe that a positive outlook and affirming thoughts can result in the improvement in a patient‘s health. Many mesothelioma patients try to look beyond the disease and focus on what they can control.
Some ways to ease stress include: