Uncommon Mesothelioma Symptoms Veterans Should Know

3 Min Read

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It’s important to know the common symptoms of mesothelioma, but veterans also need to be aware of uncommon symptoms too.

Common mesothelioma symptoms — such as chest pain, shortness of breath and weight loss — may be mistaken for other diseases like the flu or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). As a result, veterans may not seek out medical care until the cancer has spread.

Knowing the rare signs of mesothelioma can help rule out other conditions. This is very helpful as more life-extending treatments are available to patients diagnosed early on.

Rare mesothelioma warning signs include:

  • Horner’s syndrome
  • Night sweats
  • Shoulder pain

Our team breaks down each of these signs in more detail below.

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1. Shoulder Pain

While muscle injuries or inflammation usually cause shoulder pain, it is sometimes a symptom of mesothelioma.

In a 2015 study, 14% of pleural mesothelioma experienced shoulder pain as their first symptom. Researchers in the study suggested that shoulder pain may be an uncommon, early sign of this cancer.

Pleural mesothelioma develops lung lining (pleura). A buildup of pressure in the pleura puts a strain on the chest cavity, causing discomfort in other areas of the body like the shoulder. However, this does not mean that cancer has spread.

Cancer-related shoulder pain tends to be mild. However, some people with mesothelioma experience decreased shoulder mobility as well.

2. Horner’s Syndrome

Horner’s syndrome is a condition marked by a droopy eyelid and decreased pupil size on one side of the face.

While it is often caused by a spinal cord injury, nerve damage, or stroke, pleural mesothelioma can also cause Horner’s syndrome in rare circumstances. A tumor in the lung lining can spread to other sites in the body and obstruct the nerves running between the brain and face.

Horner’s syndrome causes these symptoms:

  • Delayed dilatation of the pupil in dim light
  • Drooping eyelid
  • Elevation of the lower lid
  • Eye appearing sunken
  • Little or no facial sweating
  • Smaller pupil size

In a 2012 report, one patient with pleural mesothelioma developed Horner’s syndrome after undergoing a surgery called extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP).

3. Night Sweats

Night sweats may be an early indication of cancers like leukemia, bone cancer, liver cancer, or mesothelioma.

With mesothelioma, night sweats are caused by the immune system’s response to cancer. The body tries to fight cancer in the same way it responds to the flu: by increasing body temperature and causing a fever.

Excessive sweating can occur at any time during the day, not just at night. Sadly, since night sweats come on suddenly and pass quickly, most people don’t think that they’re cause for concern until other symptoms develop.

Diagnosing Uncommon Mesothelioma Warning Signs

While it’s crucial to look out for the common symptoms of mesothelioma, veterans should be aware of these rare signs as well. An uncommon symptom like shoulder pain may be the very first sign that something is wrong.

If you or a loved one is a veteran who may have been exposed to asbestos, getting a mesothelioma diagnosis is extremely important. Remember, an early diagnosis means more treatments may be available.

Whether you have typical or rare symptoms, see a specialist to receive an accurate diagnosis. Mesothelioma is very rare so most general practitioners do not have experience diagnosing or treating it. A specialist can correctly diagnose you and set you on the right treatment path.

Our team can help you learn more about mesothelioma symptoms and connect you with top doctors. Get a free veterans packet to learn more.

Veterans Support Team
Christopher Dryfoos PhotoWritten by:

Contributing Author

Christopher Dryfoos is a journalist and member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). As the grandson of the U.S. Navy’s first forensic pathologist, he aims to help veterans with mesothelioma access needed care.

View Sources

“The link between lung cancer and shoulder pain" Medical News Today. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/316346.php/. Accessed on May 9, 2019.

“Shoulder ring complaints as a rare first symptom of malignant pleural mesothelioma.” Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25724794. Accessed on May 9, 2019.

“Horner syndrome” Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/horner-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20373547. Accessed on May 9, 2019.

“Does cancer cause night sweats?” Medical News Today. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/314008.php. Accessed on May 9, 2019.

“Horner's syndrome in a patient with diffuse malignant pleural mesothelioma.” Nihon Kokyuki Gakkai Zasshi. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10390966. Accessed on May 9, 2019.