Pericardial mesothelioma is the least common form of a mesothelioma. Only around 5% of mesothelioma cases are pericardial. This type of mesothelioma affects the pericardium, which is a membranous lining that surrounds the heart, providing both support and protection to the organ.
Asbestos and Pericardial Mesothelioma
It is well known that asbestos fibers inhaled into the lung are the cause of pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the lungs. However, the means by which asbestos causes pericardial mesothelioma is not well understood, although it is believed that asbestos fibers may travel from the lungs to the heart via the bloodstream.
Once asbestos fibers are lodged in the membranes surrounding the heart, they cannot be eliminated by the body. These fibers then begin to cause changes in the pericardial membrane. While the exact nature of these changes is not completely understood, it is known that these changes eventually lead to uncontrolled growth of cells in the pericardial layers, causing malignant mesothelioma tumors to form. As malignant cells grow in the pericardium, the membranes thicken and become filled with fluid, putting pressure on the heart and causing a variety of symptoms.
symptoms of Pericardial Mesothelioma
The rarity of pericardial mesothelioma has made it difficult for specialists to determine a specific set of common symptoms. The following symptoms often indicate a cardiac condition, but further tests are required to confirm a diagnosis of pericardial mesothelioma.
- Chest pain
- Irregular heartbeat
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
Pericardial Mesothelioma Diagnosis
Diagnosis of pericardial mesothelioma is problematic, as the nature of these symptoms is relatively non-specific, in that they can appear as a result of several other cardiac conditions. Diagnosis will involve reviewing an individual’s medical history as well as assessing their current medical condition.
Chest x-rays, a CT scan or an MRI scan may all be used to diagnose pericardial mesothelioma. However, to confirm the diagnosis and to determine whether the point of original of the cancer is the pericardium or another area, a biopsy must be performed. This involves removal of fluid or tissue from the pericardial area, and testing of this tissue or fluid for the presence of malignant mesothelioma cells.
treatment of Pericardial Mesothelioma
Unfortunately for most people who are diagnosed with pericardial mesothelioma, by the time symptoms of the disease appear, the cancer has progressed to a stage where conventional treatments are largely ineffective for anything other than providing temporary relief of symptoms. The difficulty of diagnosing pericardial mesothelioma at an early stage means that the long-term prognosis for most people with the disease is very poor. The average patient survives just six months post-diagnosis.
In rare cases, the disease may be diagnosed early enough that surgical procedures may provide some benefit. If pericardial tumors are small and have not spread to the lungs, chest wall or lymph nodes, radical surgery may successfully remove most cancerous tissue; however, such surgery is very risky due to the proximity of the heart.
For most people with pericardial mesothelioma, palliative treatment is the only option. This may include a procedure called fine needle aspiration, which removes excess fluid from the pericardium to relive pressure on the heart. Radiation therapy may be used to kill cancer cells and reduce the size of tumors, but this procedure is dangerous, as the heart and lungs themselves may be damaged. Currently there are no chemotherapeutic options for this type of mesothelioma.