Pericardial mesothelioma is a type of cancer that makes the lining of the heart (also known as the Pericardium), cancerous or malignant. It is also referred to as mesothelioma in the pericardium or pericardial sac. Found in less than 10% of all cases, pericardial mesothelioma is a rare type of secondary lung cancer.
How pericardial mesothelioma is formed is not well known; the research is not out there. Unlike pleural mesothelioma where asbestos fibers enter into the lungs and inject into the lining of the lungs (pleura), such is not the case for pericardial mesothelioma.
Check out the image below that shows the placement of the pericardium in the heart. The pericardium is the thin sac enclosing the heart. As asbestos fibers enter the lungs, they may be broken down into very small pieces that enter into the bloodstream of the body after the heart oxygenizes blood flow.
As asbestos fibers pump through the heart, they invade the pericardium. Upon invasion of the pericardium, they cause scarring and inflammation of the heart, thus beating the body’s natural defenses. This leads to chest pain, chronic cough and problems with breathing. Also, if symptoms are left to persist, the pericardium can unnaturally expand thus constricting the normal functioning of the heart and causing heart failure.
Symptoms of Pericardial Mesothelioma
- The fast growth of mesothelioma tumors in the heart and lungs can cause expansion of tissues and accumulation of fluid in the lungs (ascites). This fluid can disturb the normal functioning of the heart and leads to chest pain, chronic cough and abnormal heartbeats.
- Shortness of breath and mild cough are lesser known symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma.
- Dyspnea, cough, and heart palpitations are other symptoms.
These symptoms help doctors diagnose pericardial mesothelioma. Once a diagnosis is done, doctors will determine the stage of the disease so that an appropriate treatment can be given. Diagnosis is performed via a Computed Tomography (CT) or an Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan. Pericardial mesothelioma can be charged into 5 stages; stage I to stage VI.
Stage 1 is usually when the doctor tries to cure the disease via aggressive treatments. Stages II to VI usually require palliative treatments (treatments to relieve the symptoms of the disease and lessen pain).