Malignant mesothelioma is a cancer caused by exposure to a substance called asbestos and has a few different variations. This cancer usually starts in the cell linings, otherwise called mesothelium, of various parts of the body, with the chest and abdomen being the most common areas affected. The mesothelium aids in protecting your organs by expelling a fluid that enables organs to move with less friction against each other. It also has a different name depending on its location in the body. The three main areas affected by mesothelioma are:
- The pleura – This is the most common area affected. This covers the linings surrounding and containing the lungs.
- The peritoneum – When the mesothelioma is inside the abdomen or organs in the abdomen.
- The pericardium – Rarest form of mesothelioma, this area encompasses the heart and space surrounding the heart.
What Causes Pericardial Mesothelioma?
Asbestos enters the body by way of inhalation or ingestion. When a person is exposed to asbestos fibers, those fibers will enter the body and get caught in the cell lining of the lungs or lung cavity. Less common though, those fibers will make their way to the cell lining surrounding the heart, and that’s when it becomes pericardial. This form of mesothelioma is very rare and only takes place in about one percent of mesothelioma cases.
Pericardial Mesothelioma Symptoms
Since pericardial mesothelioma is so rare, those who get it are usually completely unaware. This makes it that much more important to recognize the symptoms of the disease. Symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma include:
- Chest pain
- Arrhythmia (irregular heart rhythm)
- Heart murmur
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss
Additionally, some patients with the disease may also undergo a condition called pericardial effusion. This is when a buildup of fluid surrounds the heart, causing chest pain and breathing difficulties.
Diagnosing Pericardial Mesothelioma
Since pericardial mesothelioma symptoms are similar to other heart conditions such as heart disease and cardiac inflammation, it’s a very difficult disease to diagnose. Patients must undergo a series of biopsies, imaging and blood tests in order to get an accurate diagnosis.
Generally, the doctor will first perform imaging tests, such as X-rays and CT scans. This will aid them in detecting any tumors or excess fluids around the heart. Blood tests may come after in order to ensure that the disease is mesothelioma versus another heart condition with similar symptoms.
Stages of Pericardial Mesothelioma
As mentioned above, pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma are two other types of mesothelioma that are more common and therefore easier to diagnose. Patients of these types of mesothelioma can sometimes have the option to undergo certain treatments and therapies that can extend their prognosis. Unfortunately for pericardial mesothelioma, detection is a lot more complicated, as the disease does not have a formal staging system and is very rare.
One way that doctors can determine how far along the disease has come is by detecting the size of the tumors appearing on the pericardium, and analyzing whether they can be surgically removed. General cancer-staging guidelines are usually put in place when there is a formal diagnosis for the disease.
Can Pericardial Mesothelioma Be Treated?
Treatments available for the more common forms of cancer are often utilized for pericardial mesothelioma as well. Palliative treatments, such as surgery and chemotherapy are applied, but since pericardial mesothelioma is usually diagnosed at a very advanced state, treatment is administered primarily to reduce symptoms and extend prognosis.
Another treatment available for pericardial mesothelioma patients is a pericardiectomy. This is a procedure that involves removing a portion of the heart lining. Chemotherapy generally follows this surgery and can be accompanied by a drug called Cisplatin. Pericardiocentesis is a procedure that involves the doctor using a needle and catheter to remove excess fluid buildup around the heart lining. A similar operation called percutaneous balloon pericardiotomy involves a balloon being attached to the catheter. When the balloon is inflated, it creates minuscule holes in the pericardium that allow additional fluids to drain.
Pericardial Mesothelioma Prognosis
Pericardial mesothelioma is usually diagnosed very late in its progression, or not at all. In fact, most diagnosis of the disease happens on the operating table, or during the autopsy. Unfortunately, the prognosis for this disease is quite low, as the few patients who do get diagnosed live less than a year after diagnosis.
If you or a family member is a veteran who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illness, consider pursuing legal action against the asbestos company or companies responsible, as well as filing for VA benefits. Request a free case evaluation today to connect with an experienced attorney who specializes in asbestos law. You have a right to compensation!