Pericardial Mesothelioma Symptoms and Misdiagnosis

Pericardial mesothelioma is a mesothelioma cancer that starts perilously close to the heart. Misdiagnosis is common, and treatment options are slim. The tumor can be benign, allowing for easier removal, or malignant - fast spreading and deadly. There are many cancers and diseases that affect the pericardial space around the heart, and pericardial mesothelioma is one of the rarest. However, it is the most common primary malignant pericardial tumor. It can also be secondary to malignant pleural mesothelioma.

Five to ten percent of all mesothelioma cases are pericardial mesothelioma, and the failure to diagnose pericardial mesothelioma early enough contributes to its low life expectancy from a few months to less than two years. The failure to detect the disease can also contribute to its statistical status. Early detection of pericardial mesothelioma provides a faint hope for prolonged survival, but only in the rarest and perhaps most medically advanced of mesothelioma cases is this possible.

Exposure to asbestos is the primary cause of pericardial mesothelioma and other mesotheliomas, such as the abdominal peritoneal mesothelioma, and the more common pleural mesothelioma of the lungs. The lungs, the abdomen and the heart are surrounded by a membrane. The cancer tumors of mesothelioma attack these membranes that are made out of mesothelium cells. If you can visualize your heart hanging within a sac, you can visual the membrane that is the subject of pericardial mesothelioma.

Pericardial mesothelioma, pleural mesothelioma and peritoneal mesothelioma all involve the fluid that is retained with the membrane. This fluid is necessary for proper functioning of the heart, lungs and other vital bodily systems. Excess fluid interferes, and even halts normal organ functions. The excess fluid is what is responsible for many of the mesothelioma symptoms of pain.

Chest pain, shortness of breath, coughing, and severe sweating at night have all been recorded as symptoms of malignant pericardial mesothelioma. These are more likely to be symptomatic of a non-cancer pericardial disease such as an inflammation of the pericardium - which is called pericardiocentesis and has identical symptoms. There have been cases where a misdiagnosis of lupus and even tuberculosis turned up as being malignant pericardial mesothelioma. Secondary cancers from lung cancer, breast cancer, lymphoma and leukemia can also attack the pericardium. Malignant mesothelioma in the pericardial region is often not discovered until surgery.

To further complicate matters, a CT scan can be interpreted as fluid, rather than the malignant tumor it is. This happened in 1979 with a 17 year old boy. Computed tomography has fortunately made significant advances since 1979, but CTs, MRIs and PETs must be done quickly. Poor detection and recognition still exist, and a second and third opinion should always be pursued. A patient should persist to find the source of pain and mesothelioma symptoms whenever a physician suggests an unknown etymology.

Pericardial mesothelioma treatment is in its infancy. Research continues in the areas of combination chemotherapies to reduce mass, intracavitary chemotherapy and irradiation, vaccines, molecular therapy and other mesothelioma treatment and preventative measures. As mesothelioma cases increase, so will effective mesothelioma treatments. It may be a long time before a cure for pericardial mesothelioma and other mesotheliomas are discovered. For now, advocacy work to ban asbestos use world wide is one of the best preventative medicines for the future that even a non-scientist can pursue.

Pericardial mesothelioma is often underdiagnosed in traditional tests and not found until heart surgery. The pain of pericardial mesothelioma and other malignant mesothelioma cancers can be quite severe. If a patient has pericardial mesothelioma with severe pain, the chances of survival and mesothelioma life expectancy is under two years. In 2004 a pericardiectomy was performed on a 19 year old boy and he died soon after surgery. A case study on a 54 year old man reported in the 2008 publication of the Annals of Thoracic Cardiovacular Surgery concluded that pain been shown to be reduced with resectioning the tumor and a pericardiectomy, which removes the pericardium, or a section of the pericardium.

Pericardiectomies are used more frequently to reduce constriction. However this barely touches the surface of the disease. The surgery is risky, but as knowledge of the cancer increases, so does the effectiveness of surgery. The earlier the pericardial mesothelioma tumor is found, the less risky the surgery. Pericardial mesothelioma does not respond to radiotherapy. Chemotherapy is used to reduce the cancerous mass.

Reference: mesothelioma information, such as mesothelioma symptoms, mesothelioma treatments and mesothelioma stages.


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