Illnesses With Similar Symptoms

One of the reasons that mesothelioma can be difficult to diagnose is that its symptoms, particularly early on, can be confused with the symptoms of several other common illnesses. Quite frequently, patients who are eventually diagnosed with mesothelioma first tend to think they have a cold, the flu, bronchitis, or pneumonia. Doctors will often prescribe antibiotics or other types of treatment that do not work for mesothelioma. This delayed treatment allows the disease to spread.

The Common Cold

Cold symptoms can begin slowly with the onset of a sore throat, then nasal drainage that is clear and watery. This is followed by sneezing, fatigue and a slight fever, normally 100 F or less. Post-nasal drip can cause the coughing and sore throat to worsen. The cough is a fairly common symptom of a cold. While usually not severe, the cough can last as long as two weeks and will be worse in people who have asthma or other lung-related problems. Colds can sometimes be accompanied by bacterial infections, the signs of which are cough that is worse and coughing up dark mucus. It can even cause some pain in the lower section of the lungs. A cold will normally last only from 4 to 10 days.


The flu is often confused with a cold because many of those symptoms are similar. The flu comes on more suddenly than a cold and the symptoms that accompany the flu will usually make you feel worse than a cold. Some of those symptoms are:
  • Fever typically over 100 degrees. The fever is usually ongoing, although it can come and go. If the fever is high, the other symptoms are often more severe.
  • Sweats and chills
  • Headache
  • Dry cough, sore throat, and runny nose. These symptoms may be more noticeable after the fever stops.
  • Muscle pain and body aches in the back, arms, and/or legs
  • Fatigue and an overall feeling of weakness and a loss of appetite
  • Nasal congestion
The symptoms of the flu normally don’t include anything stomach or intestinal related.


Bronchitis symptoms usually start after some type of upper respiratory infection like a cold or the flu, about 3 or 4 days later. The symptoms include:
  • Cough. This is the primary symptom of acute bronchitis. It will start out as a dry cough without mucus and eventually will begin to produce mucus.
  • Low-grade fever under 101 degrees.
  • Feeling fatigued
  • Pain, tightness, or burning in the chest that is worse when breathing and coughing
  • Wheezing sounds when breathing, particularly during any type of exertion
  • Hoarseness
A normal case of acute bronchitis lasts from 2 to 3 weeks, but often they can last a month or more. Chronic bronchitis results from long periods of inflammation that scars the bronchial tubes. The cough that accompanies chronic bronchitis is worse in the morning and when the weather is damp. People with chronic bronchitis are subject to frequent colds and flu.


Pneumonia that is caused by bacteria normally starts after a cold or influenza. The symptoms are:
  • A cough that produces mucus
  • Fever, but in older adults this is not as common is it is in children and young adults
  • Chills and shaking
  • Shortness of breath and shallow breathing
  • Pain in the chest wall that is worse when coughing and breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
Non-bacterial pneumonia symptoms include the cough with mucus, shortness of breath, and fever. This type of pneumonia comes on more slowly and is usually not as severe as bacterial pneumonia.