Patients diagnosed with pericardial mesothelioma have an extremely rare cancer that affects the pericardium. Studies have yet to determine how toxic asbestos fibers enter the pericardium, and this form of mesothelioma cancer is very difficult to detect. Many patients who are misdiagnosed later discover that mesothelioma has metastasized to their abdomen or lungs. Patients suffering from pericardial mesothelioma most often complain about chest pain when talking with their doctors. Based on a patient’s history, if mesothelioma is suspected, then tissue biopsies and fluid samples will be taken and tested in order to confirm a diagnosis.
The Pericardiectomy Surgery
One treatment option for pericardial mesothelioma is a procedure called a pericardiectomy, which is the removal of some or all of the pericardium, the outer covering of the heart sac. This procedure may be used to extend a patient’s life span of or to relieve their symptoms. This procedure will not cure the cancer. If a mesothelioma doctor decides that a patient is eligible for procedure paricardiectomy, then they may be able to have tumors surgically removed from their heart lining.
This surgery has been determined by medical experts to be risky because of the close proximity of the heart. However, the purpose of the surgery is to alleviate constriction on a patient’s heart caused by nearby tumors. This procedure is very rare because most mesothelioma patients will be deemed ineligible because their cancer typically has spread.
A pericardiectomy can aid with breathing problems, chest pain, heart palpitations and chronic fatigue. The surgery also can ease pericarditis, which is inflammation of the pericardium, and pericardial effusion, which is a buildup of fluid in the pericardium. It’s imperative to attempt to remedy these conditions in the early stages of the cancer, before they cause fatal complications. If pleural effusion goes untreated, for example, it can cause the heart to compress, which is called cardiac tamponade.
A total pericardiectomy removes as much of the heart lining as possible. Yet, a partial pericardiectomy removes only the affected portion of the heart lining. In some cases of pericardial mesothelioma, the procedure may extend a patient’s life span. This surgical procedure commonly requires a hospital stay of one or two weeks. During the hospital stay, patients will receive pain medication as needed while their recovery is supervised by a doctor. Post-surgery complications may include swelling or drainage from the incision site, severe pain, redness, and fever. If this occurs, patients may be required to extend their hospital stay and continue to be monitored by medical professionals.
Unfortunately, there have not been a lot of clinical studies on the most effective treatment options for patients with pericardial mesothelioma. The rarity of this form of mesothelioma cancer means there isn’t a lot of information on patients’ prognosis or treatment plans. However, the outlook for patients suffering with this particular form of the cancer is on the rise. One patient who underwent a pericardiectomy survived five years after surgery. There has been new, innovative research conducted through Johns Hopkins Hospital that demonstrates pericardiectomies are achieved with lower death rates as time goes on. Treatment that includes chemotherapy, radiation, and a pericardiectomy will be the most effective option for a patient’s long-term quality of life.
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