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Chest Pain/Upper Back Pain in Mesothelioma Patients

Legally Reviewed by Joseph P. Williams on March 25, 2022

Pain is a frequent symptom associated with mesothelioma. Different types of mesothelioma can cause pain in various parts of the body. Pleural mesothelioma, for example, often results in pain in the chest and back. This type of cancer, which affects the lining that surrounds the lungs, can also cause a cough and shortness of breath. Find out what treatments are available if you suffer from pain as a symptom of mesothelioma.

Is Chest or Upper Back Pain a Sign of Mesothelioma?

Pain, stiffness and body aches are common symptoms of mesothelioma, even in the early stages of this disease. However, pain in the chest and back can be caused by a wide variety of other injuries, illnesses and health problems. Don’t dismiss pain as normal aches or just part of the aging process. If you have other symptoms associated with mesothelioma, such as shortness of breath or a persistent dry cough, see a doctor or specialist right away for a potential mesothelioma diagnosis. Mesothelioma can be difficult to diagnose, as the symptoms can be general and indicative of many other medical problems.

What Causes Pain With Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma involves tumors that can press on nerves, organs and tissues and cause pain. Unlike lung cancer, pleural mesothelioma exists in the tissues that line the lungs, which have nerves and pain receptors. This can create chest pain for a mesothelioma patient, as well as pain in the back. Pain in the lower back is more common with pleural mesothelioma, but pain in the upper back may exist as well.

Pleural mesothelioma can also cause a buildup of excess fluid around the lungs, known as pleural effusion. This fluid can build and press against the lungs, causing pressure, pain and difficulty breathing. Pleural mesothelioma can also cause a persistent dry cough, which can be painful for a patient. 

If mesothelioma spreads through other parts of the body (metastasizes), tumors may appear elsewhere and press on nerves. Pleural mesothelioma, for example, starts in the lining of the lungs but can spread to nearby areas, such as the spine and vertebrae. This can cause pain or discomfort in the back, neck or buttocks.

Are There Treatments for Chest or Back Pain From Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma may be a terminal type of cancer, but this doesn’t mean that a patient who is diagnosed with this illness must live the rest of his or her life in pain or discomfort. Pain management is a key part of treating mesothelioma. Medications, therapies and other options for relieving pain caused by mesothelioma can improve your quality of life. You may be able to address chest or upper back pain from mesothelioma with the following:

  • Palliative care. Palliative care describes any type of medical care to make a patient more comfortable, even if their illness is terminal and curative treatments are unavailable.
  • Medical procedures. Palliative surgeries and therapies are available to decrease pain related to mesothelioma. Used in combination with pain relief medications, these treatments can soothe chest and back pain.
  • Medical cannabis. Medical cannabis is available for treating mesothelioma pain and other symptoms in many states. As a cancer patient, you can use medical marijuana to reduce pain, anxiety and insomnia.
  • Therapies for pain relief. Aside from medical treatments and medications, you may be able to use complementary therapies and alternative medicine to reduce pain. Examples include massage, acupuncture, hypnosis, breathing exercises and biofeedback.
  • Pain management techniques. You may benefit from meditation, relaxation and visualization to reduce pain from mesothelioma. Working with a mesothelioma support group can help you cope with your diagnosis and reduce related anxiety.

If you suffer from chronic pain because of mesothelioma, communicate your issues and symptoms with a doctor or specialist. Treatments and solutions are available to help you alleviate pain and reduce other symptoms, such as chest tightness or breathlessness. You may qualify for pain-relief treatment or a mesothelioma clinical trial to treat your disease or manage symptoms.

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