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What Is Pericardial Mesothelioma?

Pericardial mesothelioma is an asbestos-related cancer that develops in the lining of the heart, also known as the pericardium. Of the three main types of mesothelioma, pericardial is the rarest and only accounts for one percent of all mesothelioma diagnoses. The prognosis for pericardial mesothelioma is typically shorter than that of pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma, with most patients passing away within six months of a diagnosis.

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Pericardial mesothelioma is a cancer that develops in the thin membrane surrounding the heart.

Asbestos fibers cannot be destroyed by the body and tumors may form on the lining of the lungs.

What Causes Pericardial Mesothelioma?

Like all types of mesothelioma, pericardial mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure; however, doctors are uncertain as to how asbestos fibers specifically reach the lining of the heart. Some believe pericardial mesothelioma may develop when asbestos fibers are absorbed into the bloodstream, travel to the heart and become trapped. Still, because pericardial mesothelioma diagnoses are rare, doctors have had trouble determining exactly how this type of mesothelioma forms.

What Are the Symptoms of Pericardial Mesothelioma?

Symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma include:
  • Chest pain
  • Arrhythmia (an irregular heartbeat)
  • Fatigue
  • Night sweats
  • Heart palpitations or murmurs
  • Coughing or difficulty breathing
  • Fevers

Because mesothelioma has a long latency period, these symptoms may not manifest until 20 to 50 years after the asbestos exposure.

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Pericardiocentesis is a procedure in which a needle removes fluid from the sac around the heart.

Treatment for Pericardial Mesothelioma Victims

If pericardial mesothelioma is detected in its early stages, the patient may be able to undergo surgery known as pericardiectomy, where all or part of the heart's lining is removed; however, surgery and other traditional cancer treatments may not be suitable for patients with advanced-stage mesothelioma. Chemotherapy and radiation typically prove to be ineffective for these patients, and surgery may pose a greater risk of injuries.

Most often, these patients undergo palliative treatments, which aim to relieve the symptoms of an illness rather than cure it. These treatments include pericardiocentesis and fine needle aspirations to remove excess fluid from the pericardium and to relieve pressure surrounding the heart.