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Pericardial Mesothelioma

Impacting the dual-layered membrane that surrounds your heart, pericardial mesothelioma often remains undiagnosed until it is in advanced stages. This makes it particularly important that men and women who have been exposed to asbestos—even decades ago—know the symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma and take immediate action at their first appearance.

If you have been diagnosed with pericardial mesothelioma, please contact The Williams Law Firm, P.C. to learn about your legal options. You need an experienced New York mesothelioma lawyer to assist with your case.

It is possible to take legal action with a proven advocate by your side. Contact our office at (855) 575-6376 today.

Pericardial Mesothelioma Resources

What Is Pericardial Mesothelioma?

Pericardial mesothelioma is one of the rarest forms of mesothelioma – a cancer that occurs as a result of exposure to asbestos. This form of mesothelioma develops in the thin membrane that lines the heart: the pericardium. It only accounts for about 1% to 2% of all mesothelioma diagnoses, with about 50 new cases each year. The most common form of mesothelioma, pleural mesothelioma, has about 3,000 new diagnoses each year by contrast.

Pericardial mesothelioma is a malignant type of cancer that is typically terminal. It can develop after years of asbestos fibers reaching the lining of the heart. It develops between two layers of delicate tissues around the heart. Initially, the tumors that develop thicken these membranes, which can inhibit heart function and lead to symptoms such as cardiac failure. Patients can exhibit severe symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma even in its early stages.

What Causes Pericardial Mesothelioma?

The main cause of pericardial mesothelioma is the patient’s exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a dangerous carcinogenic mineral found in some buildings and consumer products, such as brake pads and insulation materials. It is especially common in older buildings that were constructed before scientists recognized the dangers of asbestos. Breathing in or ingesting any amount of asbestos can lead to different types of cancers. The type of mesothelioma will depend on where the particles of asbestos lodged and created malignant tumors.

Primary pericardial mesothelioma means the asbestos particles lodged directly in the lining of the heart. This is extremely rare. Most cases of pericardial mesothelioma started elsewhere in the body, such as the lining of the lungs (the pleura), and spread or extended to the lining of the heart. The relationship between asbestos and pericardial mesothelioma remains somewhat of a mystery due to the small number of cases and little information available on this type of cancer. It is not fully understood how fibers of ingested or inhaled asbestos cause cancer of the pericardium.

Pericardial Mesothelioma Prognosis

Sadly, the prognosis for someone with pericardial mesothelioma is poor. It is extremely difficult to diagnose this form of mesothelioma in its earliest stages. In many cases, it is not diagnosed until after the patient’s death during an autopsy. If it is diagnosed during the patient’s life, most patients (about 50% to 60%) survive only about six months after diagnosis, on average. Some patients can live longer with standard treatments.

The prognosis for patients with mesothelioma is generally poor. Mesothelioma is typically terminal, with no known cure. However, primary pericardial mesothelioma has the worst prognosis and life expectancy out of all forms of mesothelioma. The exact prognosis will depend on the patient’s age, gender, other characteristics, the type of mesothelioma cancer cells and the stage of the disease. There are only a few reported cases of patients with pericardial mesothelioma surviving one year or longer past the date of diagnosis.

Pericardial Mesothelioma Symptoms

Pericardial mesothelioma symptoms are brought about by a build-up of fluids and a thickening of the membrane surrounding your heart. Because they closely resemble symptoms of other diseases of the heart, diagnosing the condition can be difficult.

Symptoms that may indicate pericardial mesothelioma include:

  • Irregular heart beat or heart palpitations
  • Heart murmurers
  • Frequent chest pain
  • Difficulties breathing
  • Shortness of breath when lying flat
  • Chronic cough
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Sudden and inexplicable fever
  • Night sweats

It is vital that you tell your doctor about previous asbestos exposure during your examination to ensure proper tests, such as x-rays, CT Scans, and echocardiograms are ordered. If these tests reveal fluid build-up in the pericardium, fluid and tissue samples may need to be taken in order to ensure the correct diagnosis.

How Is Pericardial Mesothelioma Diagnosed?

All forms of mesothelioma are difficult to diagnose due to the wide range of symptoms and their similarity with other health conditions and diseases. Since mesothelioma can take decades to form after exposure to asbestos, this can complicate a diagnosis further. Many patients do not realize they were exposed to asbestos and cannot remember the date of exposure. With pericardial mesothelioma, the disease and symptoms can progress quickly since it impacts the heart.

First, a patient may go to a doctor with symptoms such as chest pain, trouble breathing or heart arrhythmia. The doctor will use tests such as x-rays and CT scans to take a look at the heart, as well as an echocardiogram (ultrasound for the heart) to search for tumors. Imaging scans can identify a buildup of fluid around the heart or any visible tumors in the pericardium to help diagnose this disease. A doctor may also order blood tests to pinpoint mesothelioma compared to other types of cancers. To complete a pericardial mesothelioma diagnosis, a doctor may use a biopsy, or tissue or fluid sample.

Pericardial Mesothelioma Stages

Determining the stage of pericardial mesothelioma is an important part of the diagnostic process. The stage will determine the patient’s prognosis, as well as the best course of treatment. Due to the low number of reported cases, there is no formal staging system for pericardial mesothelioma. Instead, most physicians use general cancer characteristics to determine how far the mesothelioma has progressed.

Lower stages mean the disease has not progressed much, while higher stages mean the disease has spread through other parts of the body (metastasized) or lymph nodes. Stage 1 or 2 pericardial mesothelioma indicates a localized disease that is still near the heart. Stage 3 or 4 means the disease has spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. Later stages of pericardial mesothelioma generally mean limited treatment options, such as palliative treatments only, for the patient.

Pericardial Mesothelioma Treatment

Mesothelioma treatments, including those for pericardial mesothelioma, are meant to prolong life and increase the quality of living, not to cure the disease. No known cure exists for any of the various types of mesothelioma. If diagnosed at a later stage, especially, the most common treatment plans are to mitigate symptoms and prolong life, not to treat the disease itself. Similar to other types of cancer, treatments generally include surgery and chemotherapy.

First, a surgeon will try to remove the portion of the pericardium impacted by the tumor (pericardiectomy). The surgeon may remove all or part of the lining surrounding the heart. Ideally, surgery for pericardial mesothelioma will remove all visible tumors. Follow-up treatment is usually a combination of chemotherapy drugs. Chemotherapy aims to kill any remaining cancer cells in the affected area.

Patients with pericardial mesothelioma have responded positively to a combination of surgery and chemotherapy in the past. One review of 103 pericardial mesothelioma cases found that both types of treatments increased survival rates from the average of six months. Palliative treatments may also be an option for patients with more advanced stages of pericardial mesothelioma. A pericardial effusion, for example, relieves pressure by removing some of the fluid built up around the heart. This is a minimally invasive surgery that can reduce a patient’s symptoms. The exact treatments available for a patient will depend on the circumstances and goals for treatment.

Schedule a Free Consultation With a Pericardial Mesothelioma Lawyer

The heart is a delicate organ and removal of mesothelioma tumors from the pericardium is not always possible. Regardless of your prognosis, you may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses and a host of other damages. During your free initial consultation, our team will assess your case and discuss all of your options to help you choose the best way to get the compensation you and your family deserve.