Mesothelioma Attorneys

Pericardial Mesothelioma

Asbestos Cancer

Pericardial mesothelioma is cancer of the sac around the heart. It is a very rare type of cancer, and rare form of mesothelioma, accounting for about one to six percent of all mesothelioma cases. Pericardial mesothelioma is the most difficult type of mesothelioma to treat. It is usually inoperable, and even when surgery is an option it is very dangerous. Pericardial mesothelioma patients typically have an even shorter life expectancy than those with other types of mesothelioma.

The Pericardium

The pericardium supports, protects, and provides lubrication for the heart. The pericardium has three layers:

  • Fibrous pericardium. The tough outer layer of the pericardium which attaches to the diaphragm and the breastbone.
  • Parietal pericardium. The outer part of the serous layer, it lines the fibrous pericardium.
  • Visceral pericardium or epicardium. The inner part of the serous layer, lining the outside of the heart.

The space between the epicardium and the parietal pericardium contains fluid which lubricates and cushions the heart.

Effects of Pericardial Mesothelioma

It is believed that asbestos fibers reach the pericardium by escaping from the lungs into the bloodstream and travelling to the pericardium. There they cause irritation and inflammation. The immune system cannot get rid of them. Eventually this lead to:

  • Thickening of the pericardial layers
  • Build up of fluid
  • Tumors

All of these problems put pressure on the heart and constrict its movement. Symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty breathing when at rest (dyspnea)
  • Difficulty breathing when lying down (orthopnea)
  • Heart palpitations
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Heart murmurs
  • Coughing
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Low blood pressure
  • Fever
  • Night sweats

Detecting and Treating Pericardial Mesothelioma

Pericardial mesothelioma, like all types of mesothelioma, does not usually show symptoms until decades after asbestos exposure. When the symptoms become noticeable, the cancer is usually fairly progressed. Pericardial mesothelioma is very difficult to treat. In most cases, surgery to remove the cancer is not a realistic option. If it is caught very early, surgery may be effective, but it is very dangerous.

For the majority of pericardial mesothelioma patients, palliative care is the only medical option. Palliative care is used to minimize the symptoms of mesothelioma and improve quality of life. It does not address the cancer itself. Pain management is an important part of palliative care for all mesothelioma patients. Fluid removal may be included in pericardial mesothelioma palliative care.