Pericardial Mesothelioma

What is Pericardial Mesothelioma?

Pericardial mesothelioma is a very rare form of mesothelioma that affects the thin lining that surrounds the heart. The thin lining around the heart is called pericardium. Pericardial mesothelioma is diagnosed only 1 percent of the time and men are twice as likely to suffer from it than women. The latency period for mesothelioma can be 20-50 years and diagnosing this type of mesothelioma is very difficult because the symptoms are not present until later stages.

What Are Pericardial Mesothelioma Symptoms?

The latency period of this disease can last many decades and there are basically no symptoms when the cancer develops. The symptoms typically are delayed until the mesothelioma reaches later stages of cancer. Since the symptoms are very similar to heart disease and cardiac problems, they generally go undiagnosed. Symptoms are caused by the build-up of fluid and thickening of pericardial layers. This can be seen in CT Scans and X-Rays. Below is a list of pericardial mesothelioma symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Heart palpitations
  • Heart arrhythmia
  • Heart murmurs
  • Chest pains
  • Dry cough
  • Lethargy/Fatigue
  • Fever

How Do You Diagnose Pericardial Mesothelioma?

Most people who are diagnosed with pericardial mesothelioma usually complain about chest pain. When you go into the doctor’s office complaining about chest pain, you most likely will be given an echocardiogram to help diagnose what is wrong with your heart. This type of mesothelioma often can be confused with a variety of heart ailments, which is why a biopsy is required if fluid is found around the heart. The only way to definitively diagnose this cancer is through a biopsy. Your physician will also take into account your medical history, personal history, work history, chances of being exposed to asbestos and your overall health.

How Do Your Treat Pericardial Mesothelioma?

Surgery is the most effective form of treatment for mesothelioma, but it normally is not an option for pericardial mesothelioma patents because it affects the lining of the heart. In the rare cases that it is diagnosed early, patients may be eligible for surgery, but these instances are few and far between. Surgery near the heart is very dangerous and removing the pericardium is extremely difficult.

Pericardiectomy
This is a procedure where the pericardium, the lining of the heart, is removed. A pericardiectomy is a very risky procedure that is rarely done because pericardial mesothelioma is only seen in 1 percent of all mesothelioma patients.

Chemotherapy
Since pericardial mesothelioma is a very rare cancer and found in only a small percentage of mesothelioma patients, pharmaceutical companies have not spent a lot of time or resources to develop a chemotherapy drug that focuses on pericardial mesothelioma. The one drug that has shown promise is gemcitabine, which has helped to shrink tumors and retard the spread of mesothelioma.

Palliative Treatment
These treatment options are designed to alleviate the pain and symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma. Treatments such as pain medication and pericardiocentesis help to improve the quality of life in a mesothelioma patient by reducing the pressure around the heart.

Fine Needle Aspiration
A fine needle aspiration is another palliative treatment that removes excess fluid from around the heart. This alleviates the pressure on the heart and can provide pain relief for many patients. It is also the way in which physicians can biopsy the fluid to help diagnose pericardial mesothelioma.

What is the Prognosis of those with Pericardial Mesothelioma?

Many individuals are diagnosed with pericardial mesothelioma post-mortem. It is such a rare cancer that it is commonly misdiagnosed or not found until the later stages. Since it is generally found in Stage III or IV, the prognosis is generally poor. Almost 50-60 percent of patients pass away in 6 months after receiving their diagnosis. However, new studies and research have shown that surgery and radiation combined have improved the prognosis of some pericardial mesothelioma patients. We are also seeing improved techniques with pericardiectomy procedures that are helping to improve the outlook for many patients. As time goes on, more and more is learned about pericardial mesothelioma, which is why we are seeing improvements in patient prognosis.