Medically Reviewed By:
Written By:
Last Modified June 23, 2022
This page features 7 Cited Research Articles
Fact Checked
Our fact-checking process begins with a thorough review of all sources to ensure they are high quality. Then we cross-check the facts with original medical or scientific reports published by those sources, or we validate the facts with reputable news organizations, medical and scientific experts and other health experts. Each page includes all sources for full transparency.
Reviewed

Asbestos.com is the nation’s most trusted mesothelioma resource

The Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com has provided patients and their loved ones the most updated and reliable information on mesothelioma and asbestos exposure since 2006.

Our team of Patient Advocates includes a medical doctor, a registered nurse, health services administrators, veterans, VA-accredited Claims Agents, an oncology patient navigator and hospice care expert. Their combined expertise means we help any mesothelioma patient or loved one through every step of their cancer journey.

More than 30 contributors, including mesothelioma doctors, survivors, health care professionals and other experts, have peer-reviewed our website and written unique research-driven articles to ensure you get the highest-quality medical and health information.

About The Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com

  • Assisting mesothelioma patients and their loved ones since 2006.
  • Helps more than 50% of mesothelioma patients diagnosed annually in the U.S.
  • A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
  • 5-star reviewed mesothelioma and support organization.
Learn More About Us

Testimonials

"My family has only the highest compliment for the assistance and support that we received from The Mesothelioma Center. This is a staff of compassionate and knowledgeable individuals who respect what your family is experiencing and who go the extra mile to make an unfortunate diagnosis less stressful. Information and assistance were provided by The Mesothelioma Center at no cost to our family."
Lashawn
Mesothelioma patient’s daughter
  • Google Review Rating
  • BBB Review Rating
Read Our Testimonials

What Is Muscle Weakness?

Muscle weakness can make it hard for patients to lift things or walk. Cancer-related muscle weakness is a common mesothelioma symptom. It becomes worse as cancer spreads throughout the body.

Most mesothelioma patients already experience some muscle loss because of aging or conditions such as diabetes. This is why patients often do not notice cancer-related muscle weakness at first.

Muscle Weakness Facts

  • Affects patients most when cancer spreads
  • Cancer can cause chemical imbalances that impact muscles
  • Lack of dietary protein can worsen muscle weakness
  • Regular exercise is essential to minimizing muscle loss

Muscle weakness typically becomes severe when mesothelioma reaches stage 4. But patients are at risk of losing muscle mass and function in every stage of the disease.

Muscle weakness is associated with poorer quality of life and lower survival rates. The weaker a patient becomes, the faster they lose remaining strength. This is why patients with mesothelioma should ask their doctors about strategies to minimize muscle weakness as soon as possible.

Muscle Weakness Caused by Lack of Oxygen and Nutrients

Breathing difficulties can cause a lack of oxygen, and lack of nutrients from not getting enough to eat can cause fatigue. Both lack of oxygen and lack of nutrients can contribute to muscle weakness. Mesothelioma treatment may also lead to muscle weakness.

Chemotherapy often causes side effects such as mouth sores and nausea that make it difficult to eat. Muscle weakness can also be a side effect of immunotherapy. 

Learn How to Manage Cancer Pain
Get the latest tips for managing cancer pain in this free webinar hosted by top mesothelioma experts.

Tumors consume calories and protein as they grow, leaving fewer nutrients available for muscles. In addition, low red blood cell counts (anemia) caused by cancer treatment can make it harder for the blood to carry nutrients to muscles throughout the body. Getting plenty of protein is particularly important for minimizing muscle weakness. When the body does not get enough protein from food, it uses up the protein in muscles.

Nutritional support is essential to help patients fight cancer and recover from cancer therapies.

Reduced Muscle Function Caused by Inflammation and Cancer Spread

Cancer can cause chemical imbalances in the body that interfere with muscle function. Eating a balanced diet is important, but it’s not enough to prevent cancer-related muscle weakness.

As cancer spreads into different tissues, it can affect muscles in a variety of other ways as well.

Mesothelioma tumors can cause chronic inflammation, which is when the body’s immune system is constantly on high alert. Cancer treatments can also cause inflammation. This leads to a high level of pro-inflammatory cytokines in the body. These chemicals reduce muscle function and growth.

If mesothelioma spreads to organs such as the adrenal glands, it may cause a hormone imbalance in the body. If cancer spreads into bones, the bones will release calcium and other chemicals that are harmful to muscles at high levels.

When mesothelioma disrupts the body’s chemistry, muscles will weaken even if the patient has enough protein in their diet.

Researchers are investigating special dietary supplements and experimental drugs that promote muscle metabolism. Doctors are also studying whether medications that reduce inflammation can help. This class of medicines includes nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin.

However, late-stage mesothelioma may also impair muscles directly when it spreads into muscle tissues. If cancer spreads into the spine and presses against nerves, it may make it harder for signals from the brain to reach muscles lower in the body.

In addition, muscle weakness can be a side effect of certain supportive medications such as glucocorticoids.

Muscle Loss Caused by Inactivity

Regular exercise is just as important as medical care and nutritional support because inactivity can lead to muscle loss. 

With current medical science, it is impossible to completely prevent the muscle weakness that mesothelioma can cause. However, patients can take action to minimize how much muscle mass and function they lose.

Exercise for mesothelioma patients should suit their circumstances. Patients should consult their doctors before seeking out a trainer because many trainers don’t know how to work with patients with malignancies. For other patients, taking a short walk every day may be the most realistic exercise plan.

Staying active is the key to minimizing muscle weakness and fatigue. If someone does not use their muscles on a regular basis, their body will not make it a priority to produce energy or keep their muscles healthy.

Patients must try not to let muscle weakness lead to inactivity, because this will result in even weaker muscles.


Get the Compensation You Deserve
Laptop with screen video conference on kitchen counter
Watch Our Free Mesothelioma Webinars
Lab technician using a microscope in a lab
Immunotherapy & Mesothelioma Clinical Trials

  •  
  •  
  •  
Tell us what you think
Did this article help you?
How did this article help you?
What about this article isn’t helpful for you?
Did this article help you?

Thank you for your feedback. Would you like to speak with a Patient Advocate?