What is Pericardial Mesothelioma?

Pericardial mesothelioma affects the lining which surrounds the human heart (pericardium). It is considered as rare type of mesothelioma disease that can affect 1 percent of the patients who are diagnosed with mesothelioma.

What is Pericardial Mesothelioma?

To start with, pericardial mesothelioma infects the area called pericardium which surrounds the human heart. Scientists are still unsure about the cause of pericardial mesothelioma. They do not know the reason for the proliferation of asbestos fibers getting into the pericardium region. According to the researchers, mesothelioma occurs in four different forms. About 200 instances of pericardial mesothelioma are documented which forms 1 percent of the total number of people suffering from mesothelioma.

Generally, pericardial mesothelioma can be found in individuals between the age of 50 and 70. The disease of pericardial mesothelioma takes time to manifest itself and might require decades before it is completely obvious. Chest pain and fatigue are some of the most common symptoms. The treatment option for the patient includes chemotherapy along with radiation therapy. People contracting pericardial mesothelioma live for more than 6 months.

Causes of Pericardial Mesothelioma

The major cause of pericardial mesothelioma is prolonged exposure to asbestos. Pericardial mesothelioma infects the body when the asbestos finds its way to the heart muscles. Still, the researchers are not able to understand the cause and the trigger relationship. Pleural along with peritoneal cancer is caused due to asbestos however the real reason for pericardial category is still unknown. Few patients have shown sustained exposure towards asbestos but some of them did not have the same level of vulnerability towards the cancerous substances. Researches in the past have arrived at the conclusion that 4 patients out of 15 had exposure to the asbestos in pericardial mesothelioma.

Once the fiber enters the heart, it is deposited along the linings in the lungs along with abdomen. The body faces lots of problems in removing the fibers. Materials can get stuck up in the lining for more than 40 years. Due to the deposition of the asbestos, the cells might undergo modifications resulting in pericardial mesothelioma.

After mutation, the cancerous cells multiply at a rapid pace and spread to different parts of the body. In the process they also tend to kill the healthy cells and cause problems from long term perspective. Once the cells start to grow, they form tumors and hamper the blood flow in the body. Fluid might develop among the pericardial layers and result in its thickening. Over a period of time, it may also cause heart attack.

Signs and Symptoms of Pericardial Mesothelioma

The signs and symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma will not be seen in the initial stages. Pericardial mesothelioma is majorly diagnosed in the later stages. Majority of the symptoms are diagnosed when pericardial mesothelioma is at a late stage and it is not always possible to save the individual. Generally the fluid builds up in the cardiovascular systems and results in the thickening of the layers associated with pericardial region.

If you are experiencing the below symptoms, contact the doctor immediately to get the required relief. The doctor may use the CT scan and X-ray to find the root cause of pericardial mesothelioma. Some of the signs and symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma are as follows:

  • Irregular heart beats which is also known as arrhythmia or heart palpitations are a symptom of pericardial mesothelioma.
  • Problem in breathing even during rest is a sign of pericardial mesothelioma.
  • Heart murmurs along with cough are symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma.
  • Breath shortness when lying on the stomach, severe pain in chest, fatigue are some of the symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma.
  • High fever is also seen
  • Sweating at night is also noticed.

Symptoms related to the heart need to be taken seriously. Timely intervention by the doctors with the help of X-ray and CT scan would find the root cause of pericardial mesothelioma.

Tests to Diagnose Pericardial Mesothelioma

There are many tests which are conducted to confidently conclude the disease of pericardial mesothelioma. Doctors take a 360 degree approach to the diagnosis of pericardial mesothelioma. Medical history along with symptoms is taken into account before arriving at the final decision. Physical examination and other exams such as biopsy is undertaken to find the exact position of tumor and assess whether they are malignant or benign.

The doctor will check the problems of the heath with the help of an echocardiogram. It is considered as an ultrasound of the cardiovascular system. Sound waves are released into the heart to understand the functioning in detail. The test can provide information about the accumulation of the fluid inside the body. Imaging scans are also essential to gauge at the formation of the tumors inside the body. If abnormal creation of cells is noticed, the doctors might advise to conduct a biopsy on sample tissues.

Physical Examination for Diagnosing Pericardial Mesothelioma

It is hard to confirm the diagnosis of pericardial mesothelioma using physical examination, but still it is the first line of test. Diagnosis of pericardial mesothelioma can be performed on a very small population of the patients as it is an extreme challenge to diagnose pericardial mesothelioma at an early stage. Majority of people die from the disease is the inability of the physicians to detect the disease.

Imaging Tests to Diagnose Pericardial Mesothelioma

Imaging tests can be used to diagnose pericardial mesothelioma. A substance called radio gallium is injected into the body to detect the growth of the cancerous tissues. The radioactive liquid plays a very important role in finding the cancer of different categories. The images are quite clear and they display the local of the tumor in the body.

Biopsy for Diagnosing Pericardial Mesothelioma

Biopsy is also conducted for pericardial mesothelioma to find the location of the tumor and its growth pattern. An experienced surgeon would drain out the liquid from the pericardium and analyze the cells under the microscope to check the symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma.

Computed Tomography (CT) Scans to Diagnose Pericardial Mesothelioma

Computed Tomography or CT Scans are also helpful in diagnosing pericardial mesothelioma. These are preferred options for the physicians to determine the extent of the infection inside the body. MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is another option that can be used to find the occurrence of the cancer. Tumors can quickly spread to other parts of the body from the heart. Malignant tumors form important parts of the disease and may cause sudden death of the patients.

Seek a Second Opinion to Avoid Misdiagnosis of Pericardial Mesothelioma

Do not hesitate to take a second opinion if you have the slightest doubt that you are having pericardial mesothelioma. Numerous symptoms including chest pain along with cough can cause long term problems to the patients. Moreover, the doctors might wrongly diagnose the disease concerned to the heart. It is important to visit the specialists to get the full picture and correct diagnosis.

Pericardial mesothelioma is easy to be confused with other heart conditions such as:

  • Failure of the heart can resemble pericardial mesothelioma.
  • Cardiac tamponade
  • Coronary heart condition
  • Tuberculosis pericarditis
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Pericarditis which is constrictive
  • Intra atrial myxoma.

If you have been diagnosed with any of the above mentioned illnesses and you have doubts, you need to contact the specialists who can conduct more tests to arrive at a definite result whether it is one of the above mentioned disease or pericardial mesothelioma. It will enhance the probability of survival of the patients.

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Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: May 3, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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