Types of Mesothelioma Cells

A patient’s treatment plan depends not only on the type of mesothelioma but also on the type of cancer cells found within the tumors. Certain cell types are more aggressive than others and may respond differently to therapy.

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Mesothelioma Tumor Cell Types

A doctor will classify a malignant mesothelioma cell into three types: epithelioid, sarcomatoid, and biphasic (a combination of the two). A biphasic diagnosis requires at least 10 percent of each cell pattern to be present in the tumors. Biphasic tumors make up about only 15 percent of cases.

Epithelioid is the most common cell type and is found in 60 percent of malignant mesothelioma diagnoses, while sarcomatoid accounts for 25 percent. This cell type can affect a patient’s prognosis as patients with epithelioid cell types often have a better outlook than those diagnosed with sarcomatoid or biphasic tumors.

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Epithelioid tumors develop in the organ lining, while sarcomatoid cells start growing within the bone or soft tissues of the body. Epithelioid tumors spread more quickly than sarcomatoid cells, making them easier to treat. In the majority of cases, doctors will recommend multiple therapies (including chemotherapy and radiation) for patients fighting epithelioid mesothelioma.

Patients who receive a positive diagnosis for the disease would benefit from finding a hospital or doctor who specializes in their particular type of mesothelioma. A good prognosis depends on a team of experts who can develop a customized treatment plan based on the individual patient.

This type of cancer is uncommon and as patients learn more about their disease, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. Keep in mind that statistics are just statistics and are based on past survival rates and individual circumstances. The point? Remain positive. Accepting a mesothelioma diagnosis doesn’t mean accepting a doctor’s prognosis. Some information on the disease may often be old, or simply incorrect. Doctors and researchers are working to improve treatment options, and many patients far outlive their original prognosis.

How Are Mesothelioma Cell Types Diagnosed?

The only way to definitively diagnose this illness is through a biopsy, a fluid or tissue sample extracted from the tumors. Once this procedure is complete, your doctor will consult with a histopathologist or a specialist who studies diseased cells. Together, they’ll examine the sample and determine which cell type is predominant. This information can help a medical team design the most effective treatment.

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Doctors may also use an additional set of diagnostic tests, called immunohistochemistry (IHC) to diagnose a patient’s cell type. IHC uses antibodies or matching molecules that attach to different cell markers, which are proteins that classify and identify cells. A histologist then adds specific enzymes to the section of diseased tissue to produce different colors. These color changes help doctors further visualize and identify various tissue abnormalities, and can lead to a more precise diagnosis.

Benign Tumors

This condition is rare, but benign tumors can develop in the mesothelium, or lining of the lungs, heart, or abdomen. While these masses don’t spread as quickly as malignant tumors, they are still a cause for concern. Patients who receive a benign mesothelioma diagnosis should still seek treatment as soon as possible.

Veterans with mesothelioma should ask a doctor about their specific cell type in order to receive the most effective course of treatment.