Pericardial mesothelioma is an extremely rare type of malignant mesothelioma that occurs in the membrane around the heart. This membrane is called the pericardium.
There are less than 200 documented cases on record. As with other types of such as peritoneal mesothelioma, it is believed that pericardial mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos.
What is not known is exactly how the asbestos fibers make it to the lining of the heart. This type of cancer has been seen most often in people aged 50 – 70 and it has affected twice as many males as it has females.
Also as with other types of mesothelioma, pericardial mesothelioma takes a very long time to develop and show symptoms, sometimes up to 50 years after exposure.
Signs & Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma can include chest pain, trouble breathing and fatigue. More serious symptoms like irregular heartbeat and heart murmurs might also be seen.
The symptoms are non-specific so they can be mistaken for symptoms of other ailments of the heart. Symptoms are usually caused by the formation of tumors, thickening of the membrane or the build up of fluid in the membrane. By the time symptoms start to show chances are the cancer is in later stages.
Since there are so few documented cases of pericardial mesothelioma it can be an extremely difficult disease to diagnose. Doctors use the usual methods such as physical exams, the patient’s history, scanning techniques, and biopsies.
If the patient is healthy enough then pericardial mesothelioma can be treated with surgery that removes the pericardium. Chemotherapy and radiation treatments are also used either separately or together.
Unfortunately the prognosis for those with pericardial mesothelioma is not very good. Patients may have about a year from the time they are diagnosed. As with other cancers prognosis depends on many factors. A person’s age and general health are always a factor, as well as the stage their cancer is in and whether or not it has spread to other parts of their body.
With continued research and the development of new treatment options there is hope that this prognosis can be greatly improved.