If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with pericardial mesothelioma, you’re most likely frightened and confused about the best path forward. Your physician has likely already told you that survival rates are low, and you’re worried that you may not be able to do anything at all to extend your life, but that’s not true.
In this article, we’re going to discuss what exactly pericardial mesothelioma is, because having good knowledge of the disease is the best way for you to make the smartest decisions to lengthen your life. We will discuss symptoms, prognosis and diagnosis, treatment and statistics, so that you come away armed with the information you need to live the best remaining life you can.
What Is Pericardial Mesothelioma?
Pericardial mesothelioma accounts for only 5 percent of mesothelioma cases, and as such is the rarest type of mesothelioma cancer. The heart is encased in a thin, fluid-filled sac known as the pericardium. Pericardial mesothelioma is when cancerous growths appear on this sac, eventually growing through the lining to the other side and then moving to the heart, the lymph nodes and other organs.
Despite the rarity of this cancer, it is just as deadly as other forms of mesothelioma. In fact, because it is so difficult to diagnose, it may prove more deadly than other types, because it often isn’t discovered until autopsy, at which point it’s too late to do anything about it.
That makes it crucial to recognize the symptoms of this disease. Doing so gives you the best chance of identifying a problem early, and tracking your symptoms carefully increases the likelihood that a physician will make the right diagnosis, enabling a wider range of life-extending treatment options.
Pericardial Mesothelioma Symptoms
If you or a loved one suffers from pericardial mesothelioma, you most likely experience symptoms such as:
- An irregular heart beat
- Chest palpitations
- Mild or severe chest pain
- Persistent cough
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling of the face and arms
- Heart murmurs
- Pericardial effusion
The last symptom isn’t something you would find yourself, of course, but might be caught by a doctor doing tests. If so, that’s a good indicator that you’re suffering from pericardial mesothelioma. Especially since the symptoms involved with pericardial cancer often mimic symptoms of heart disease and other maladies – which can lead to a misdiagnosis that may prove deadly – it’s important that you track all symptoms carefully and report them to your doctor.
Pericardial Mesothelioma Prognosis
Unfortunately a lot of factors go into making a mesothelioma prediction, so it is really difficult for a physician to pinpoint exactly how long someone will live, or how their disease will progress after diagnosis.
Nevertheless, by taking multiple factors into account – age, health history, previous heart conditions, symptoms, location and type of mesothelioma – your physician can offer a fairly good diagnosis. Pericardial mesothelioma may be one of the most rare and most deadly, but if caught early there is a good chance that surgery can remove the cancer entirely, leaving you with a clean bill of health. More often, however, this is not the case. Either way, the most important thing involved in an accurate prognosis is getting an accurate diagnosis in the first place.
Pericardial Mesothelioma Diagnosis
While your prognosis details the likely progression of your medical condition, the diagnosis covers what is most likely happening in your body at the moment. Unfortunately, this is not always as cut and dry as you might hope.
Mesothelioma has a very long latency period, which is the time between exposure and the appearance of symptoms related to the disease. Typically this is anywhere between 20 and 50 years, meaning you may well be exposed to asbestos and live a long and healthy life before discovering it. However, as stated above, it is difficult to diagnose.
Two of the most important factors to get right in diagnosis are the location of the cancer (in this case, the heart, though mesothelioma can also be located on the lungs, stomach, abdominal wall and testicles, among other places), and the cell type. There are two basic types of cells that appear in mesothelioma:
- Epithelial cells line blood vessels and other tissue in the body. These cancerous cells are the easiest to treat.
- Sarcomatoid cells are cancerous cells in connective tissue, and are more difficult to treat.
Your prognosis depends on which type of mesothelioma you are diagnosed with. While 50 percent suffer from the former type, only 15 percent suffer from the latter, and 35 percent of patients suffer from a mixed form.
Pericardial Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
Typically patients diagnosed with mesothelioma will live no more than a year, two at most. Only around 10 percent of patients live longer than two years, though the rare patient does live as long as five years. Again, catching the disease early and treating it well are the two main ways you can minimize the damage mesothelioma does to your body.
Pericardial Mesothelioma Causes
The causes of pericardial mesothelioma are still unclear, not helped by the fact that the disease is often only discovered after death. However, researchers are clear on the fact that this type of cancer is linked almost solely to asbestos exposure.
This naturally occurring mineral is commonly used as insulation, and is also used in other applications such as the auto industry. Most people frequently come into contact with it in military settings or through jobs that involve constructing or remodeling homes and buildings. Although there is no safe exposure level, and theoretically any amount can result in cancer, mesothelioma is most common in people who were repeatedly exposed to high levels of it.
So how exactly does exposure to asbestos result in pericardial mesothelioma? Good question. Let’s take a closer look at that below.
Pericardial and Asbestos Exposure
Abestos fibers are microscopically small and extremely friable, which means they’re liable to break and become airborne. When that happens, people breathe them in, often without even knowing it. The fibers burrow into the lungs and other organs, lodging there, as well as in the protective linings of those organs, or mesothelium.
Unfortunately, researchers aren’t clear on how these fibers travel from the lungs to the pericardium, because there is no intuitive path that they might take. Nevertheless, it is clear that it does happen, possibly by pushing through the lining of the lungs and on toward the heart. Another possibility is that they travel through the blood stream. Either way, the exposure can result in cancer.
Fortunately, treatments do exist for pericardial mesothelioma.
Pericardial Mesothelioma Treatment
Although there is no cure for this cancer at this time, there are several treatments that can help extend the lifespan of people suffering from pericardial mesothelioma. The first and most successful option, where possible, is surgery. In the early stages of the disease, where the tumor is localized and only on one side of the mesothelium, it is easier to remove it. Later, when it crosses the lining and is on both sides, or metastasizes to other organs, it is difficult to impossible to treat this cancer through surgery.
At that point, radiation and chemotherapy both provide good options. If the patient responds well, these treatment options can provide significant life-extending benefits. Especially if the patient is in good health before treatment begins, there is a good chance that they may gain months or even years from these treatments.
Pericardial Mesothelioma Statistics
Statistics for this disease are rather grim. Of the people diagnosed with mesothelioma, only about 5 percent have the pericardial type. Of people diagnosed with mesothelioma as a whole, only about 10 percent live past two years, and almost no one makes it past the 5-year mark. Only 40 percent even make it past a year.
That doesn’t mean, however, that the case is hopeless. If you’ve been diagnosed with pericardial mesothelioma, you should absolutely learn more about mesothelioma treatment options by contacting us for further information.
Contact Us about Pericardial Mesothelioma
If you’ve been diagnosed with pericardial mesothelioma, you can learn more about mesothelioma treatment options by contacting us for further information.