Pericardial Mesothelioma

Pericardial Mesothelioma-Rarest Form of Asbestos-Related Cancers

As discussed, malignant mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive type of cancer which afflicts approximately 2500 to 3000 persons annually in the United States. Pericardial mesothelioma is the rarest form of the asbestos-related cancers. Like pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma, pericardial mesothelioma is caused by breathing asbestos fibers. Only 5% of mesothelioma victims suffer from pericardial mesothelioma. As the name implies, pericardial mesothelioma affects the heart and develops in the area surrounding the heart. The pericardium is the fluid filled sac that surrounds or encloses the heart. The fluid serves to limit the motion of the heart, and to lubricate the rubbing surfaces of the heart.

Pericardial Mesothelioma Arises from Asbestos Exposure

Due to the extremely rare nature of this form of mesothelioma, researchers do not yet fully understand the precise causation of pericardial mesothelioma. Medical researchers are still unclear how the deadly asbestos fibers get to the pericardium. However, it is believed that pericardial mesothelioma develops when inhaled asbestos fibers enter the bloodstream and eventually lodge in the pericardium. Additionally, pericardial mesothelium may occur when asbestos fibers make their way through the linings of the lung to reach the pericardium. Like the other forms of mesothelioma, pericardial mesothelioma arises in nearly all cases from asbestos exposure.

Diagnosis and Treatment Are Difficult

Because of the scarcity of patients suffering from pericardial mesothelioma, there is a smaller array of data available for medical researchers than there is for the more common pleural mesothelioma. Information relating to treatment and prognosis is also limited, because pericardial mesothelioma is often not diagnosed until an autopsy is performed. Indeed, more than half of all pericardial mesothelioma cases are diagnosed after death. This is due largely to the fact that the symptoms associated with pericardial mesothelioma parallel the symptoms of cardiovascular disease.

The rarity and sensitive location of this tumor mean that physicians have a difficult task in diagnosing pericardial mesothelioma. Very few doctors have seen cases of pericardial mesothelioma, so this asbestos-related cancer may often be initially misdiagnosed. Even when it is diagnosed, it is normally caught in the cancer’s latest stages. Because the tumor invades the heart area, it is difficult to treat. Consequently, palliative treatment is usually the only treatment option. This treatment is mainly designed to relieve the cancer’s painful symptoms and improve quality of life. Sadly, the median life expectancy for patients with pericardial mesothelioma is less than 6 months.