When Do Mesothelioma Symptoms Develop? Early Symptoms & Latency Period

Mesothelioma is an aggressive and painful form of cancer with symptoms varying from one individual to another and with the body area that has been affected. The most common form of this cancer, pleural mesothelioma occurs in tissue surrounding the patient’s lungs. The cancer can also form in other tissue including those of the abdomen, heart, and testicles.

The prognosis and treatment of a patient having mesothelioma depend on when they are diagnosed, so it is important that you understand the symptoms and get medical help as early as possible upon diagnosis. If you have been diagnosed with the cancer or if someone you know has the disease, they may be compensated for things like lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering they have endured.1,2

When Do Mesothelioma Symptoms Develop?

Mesothelioma develops slowly and it may take decades, often until 20 to 50 years from the time of exposure to asbestos for doctors to detect that a patient is having the cancer. The period from the time of exposure to the time a patient is shows symptoms is known as the latency period. Many people are diagnosed with mesothelioma in stages III and IV, which are regarded as late or end stages of the disease.1

Early Symptoms of Mesothelioma and Latency Period

The first symptoms a patient having mesothelioma will experience include chest and abdominal pain, shortness of breath, and bloating, however, these first symptoms depend on the location of the tumor. Early stage signs may not be intense and doctors may mistake them for symptoms and signs of less serious illnesses or normal pains and aches. Mesothelioma starts as tiny nodules forming on the lining tissue around the lungs and abdomen.2

A patient may not show symptoms until his or her tumors have grown and metastasized or spread to other areas, and this usually happens around stages III and IV of the disease. During these stages, the tumors have advanced and started pressing against abdominal cavity or chest wall.

It’s almost impossible for doctors to detect the development of mesothelioma during the early stages because there aren’t any symptoms to identify.

When a patient begins to show symptoms, they manifest in form of:1,2

  • Shortness of breath or dyspnea
  • Dry cough or wheezing
  • Fever or night sweats
  • Respiratory complications
  • Muscle weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Pleural effusion or fluid accumulating around the lungs
  • Pain the chest or the abdomen.

Early symptoms of mesothelioma

If there are early mesothelioma diagnoses, they do happen accidentally through routine blood tests or X-rays. Usually, by the time doctors identify symptoms and warning signs of the cancer, it has spread and advanced to levels that make it difficult to treat. People are asked to inform their doctor about any possible asbestos exposure even if it occurs at home.

There are incidents where people who washed or came in contact with clothes of individuals that worked in areas of exposure to asbestos have developed mesothelioma. Seeking regular screening for cancer and talking of exposures to asbestos can help with mesothelioma diagnosis ensuring that the cancer is detected earlier than normal. This also helps in administering a better therapy to treat the disease.


  1. What Are the Most Common Mesothelioma Symptoms? https://www.asbestos.com/mesothelioma/symptoms.php
  2. Mesothelioma Early Symptoms and Latency Period. https://www.mesotheliomahelp.org/mesothelioma/symptoms/

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