The case of a mesothelioma patient in Spain could suggest that having a hard time swallowing could be a rare, early sign of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a very serious cancer that begins in the thin membrane that lines the chest and abdomen. A problem swallowing, which is known as dysphagia, is not always associated with the cancer. (

But according to a recent article in a Spanish medical journal, it could be time to consider trouble swallowing as a potential early sign of mesothelioma. (

Mesothelioma Symptoms

The two most common types of mesothelioma are pleural and peritoneal. Pleural mesothelioma develops in the lining surrounding the lungs. Peritoneal mesothelioma develops in the lining surrounding the abdomen.

In patients with pleural mesothelioma, breathing problems and chest pain are the most common signs of mesothelioma in the early stages. A tumor caused by mesothelioma can press on the lungs, making it very difficult to breathe. Almost 90% of all pleural mesothelioma patients have one or both of the above symptoms in the early stages of the disease. Pleural mesothelioma also can lead to a chronic cough.

In peritoneal mesothelioma, abdominal pain, bloating and various gastrointestinal problems are common early signs of the disease. Peritoneal mesothelioma comprises about ⅕ of the 3100 cases of mesothelioma that are diagnosed in the United States every year.

Dysphagia As Possible Early Sign of Mesothelioma

There are many health problems that can lead to problems swallowing. Some of the most common relate to the nervous system. Some of these are stroke, head injury and dementia. Cancer in the mouth or esophagus and reflux disease also can lead to dysphagia. It is uncommon for it to be an early sign of mesothelioma.

But in the aforementioned Spanish report, difficulty swallowing was the man’s first sign that he had anything wrong with him. Doctors did an endoscopy on him to look closely at his esophagus with a camera. They also did an x-ray of the chest.

His medical team found a mesothelioma tumor on the back of the esophagus between the lungs and esophagus. The tumor had gone around the outside of his esophagus, making it difficult for his swallowing muscles to contract. Just 1.4% of patients with mesothelioma report trouble swallowing as an early sign of the disease.

Other Early Signs of Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is one of the deadliest and most difficult to treat cancers. One of the problems with it is there are few early warning signs. By the time a mesothelioma patient is showing signs of the cancer, it often is in stage 3 or 4 and it is too late for treatment to help much.

Many doctors and scientists are devising better ways to spot early signs of the cancer. One of the newer ideas is low dose CT scans for people who have been exposed to asbestos. This therapy is already being utilized to screen people for lung cancer who smoke heavily. Studies are being continued to determine if these types of tests could be used to more effectively screen patients for mesothelioma.

Major Mesothelioma Lawsuits Becoming Commonplace

In recent years, companies have come under increasing legal fire for allegedly causing mesothelioma in some people who claim their products contained asbestos.

For example, a jury in Manhattan recently ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $325 million to a woman who said asbestos-laced talcum powder in the company’s baby powder caused her to develop mesothelioma.

The state jury in the case of Donna Olson provided her with $25 million to compensate her for her medical bills, ongoing care and pain and suffering, and also included $300 million in punitive damages. Juries sometimes award punitive damages to plaintiffs to punish the defendant for reckless behavior.

Johnson & Johnson currently faces at least 14,000 talcum powder lawsuits that allege its Johnon’s Baby Powder once contained asbestos fibers and caused mesothelioma and ovarian cancer. This verdict, as well as other recent, large verdicts, could lead to other major verdicts and settlements, legal experts say.

For its part, Johnson & Johnson say the Olson trial was flawed from the start and plans to appeal. A company spokesperson noted that all of the verdicts against J&J that have gone through the full appellate process have been overturned after appeal.

At the end of 2018, J&J lost its effort to reverse a talc verdict of $4.7 billion that was awarded to 22 women with ovarian cancer. But the healthcare giant says it believes to verdict will be overturned.

Johnson & Johnson has claimed for years that its talcum powder products have never contained asbestos. But according to company documents that have been released, executives knew for years that its products had asbestos in them. Legal experts believe that when plaintiffs show documents from the company that go back to the 1960s that show the company knew its products contained asbestos, it angers juries and tends to make them hand out larger awards to people suffering from painful cancers.

J&J is always quick to blame the verdicts on plaintiffs’ attorneys and generally misinformed juries. The firm has accused attorneys for plaintiffs ‘cherry picking’ legal documents and using them out of their proper context.

If you think your mesothelioma was caused by asbestos exposure from the products of a certain company, it is recommended to speak to an experienced mesothelioma attorney immediately.


  • Early Signs of Mesothelioma. (2019). Retrieved from
  • Dysphagia as an Early Sign of Mesothelioma. (2018). Retrieved from
  • J&J to Pay $325 Million in Talcum Powder-Mesothelioma Lawsuit. (2019). Retrieved from