What Is Pericardial Mesothelioma?

Pericardial Mesothelioma is the rarest form of the disease and occurs in approximately 1 percent of mesothelioma patients. Learn more about the disease, symptoms, and treatment.

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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 lining of the chest or abdominal cavities. Though less common, when those fibers make their way to the lining surrounding the heart, it becomes pericardial. This form of mesothelioma is very rare and only takes place in about one percent of 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
  • Fatigue

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.

Veterans who were diagnosed with mesothelioma may be eligible for VA compensation. To find out if you qualify, speak with a patient advocate today.

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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 scans, 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.


Malignant mesothelioma is a cancer caused by exposure to a substance called asbestos and has a few different types. This cancer usually starts in the lining surrounding organs in the chest and abdomen (otherwise called the mesothelium). The chest and abdomen are 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:

  1. The pleura: The most common area affected; the linings surrounding the lungs.
  2. The peritoneum: When the mesothelioma is inside the lining of the abdominal cavity.
  3. The pericardium: Rarest form of mesothelioma, this area encompasses the heart and space surrounding the heart.


Pericardial mesothelioma is usually diagnosed very late in its progression, or not at all. In fact, most diagnoses of the disease happen on the operating table or during an autopsy. Unfortunately, the prognosis for this disease is quite poor, as the few patients who do get diagnosed live less than a year after diagnosis.

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 with these types of mesotheliomas sometimes have the option to undergo certain treatments and therapies that can extend their years of quality life. 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 Meso 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. However, because this form is usually diagnosed at a very advanced state, treatment is administered primarily to reduce symptoms.

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.

Veterans with mesothelioma can take action without affecting their benefits.

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Pericardiocentesis is a procedure that involves the doctor using a needle and catheter to remove excess fluid buildup around the heart. 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.

Take Action

If you or a family member is a veteran who has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness, consider pursuing legal action against the asbestos company or companies responsible, as well as filing for veteran benefits. Request a free case evaluation today to connect with an experienced attorney who specializes in asbestos law.