Pericardial Mesothelioma

In some rare cases, the pericardium (the lining that surrounds the heart) will develop mesothelioma cancer cells. This condition is referred to as pericardial mesothelioma and makes up 1 percent of diagnoses.

The rarest type of mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelium surrounding the heart, known as pericardial mesothelioma. Researchers are still trying to figure out how this form develops, with most diagnoses taking place after the patient has passed away.

One of the really interesting things physicians have noticed about this type of mesothelioma cancer is that the odds of a man getting diagnosed with the condition is two times higher than that of a woman, this could be a result of different traditional work environments.

Some cases of pericardial mesothelioma have involved the cancer moving to the lung and abdomen and metastasizing.

Diagnosing Pericardial Mesothelioma

The extreme rarity of pericardial mesothelioma makes it difficult for physicians who don’t have much experience with the disease to diagnose it early. The greatest way to increase the odds of an early diagnosis is by providing detailed information about past home and work environment so your physician can evaluate your risk for pericardial mesothelioma and refer you to a specialist or a mesothelioma doctor.

Most patients complain about symptoms, particularly chest pain before pericardial mesothelioma is even suspected. Pericardial mesothelioma is frequently mistaken for:

  • Constrictive pericarditis
  • Cardiac failure
  • Cardiac tamponade

The most effective way of diagnosing this particular type of cancer is with fluid and tissue biopsies. The tissue has to be specifically tested for pericardial mesothelioma.

Additional tools used to help diagnose the disease include CT scans and echocardiograms. Without the use of an echocardiogram, it’s impossible for physicians to determine how badly the mesothelioma cancer has impacted the heart.

Symptoms of Pericardial Mesothelioma

Patients with pericardial mesothelioma can experience a wide assortment of symptoms. The severity of the symptoms depends on what stage the cancer is in, and what part of the pericardium is impacted.

Common symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Varying levels of chest pain
  • Some swelling of the face and arms
  • Fatigue
  • Heart murmurs or irregular heartbeat
  • Persistent cough
  • Pericardial effusion

About Meso

Types of Mesothelioma

Learn about the several types of mesothelioma that could affect you. Some are more common than others, but they are all deadly.

Pleural Mesothelioma

This type of mesothelioma is the most common and affects the lungs.

Learn more

Peritoneal Mesothelioma

This type of mesothelioma is more common than pericardial and affects the abdomen.

Learn more

Three Common Types of Pericardial Mesothelioma Treatment

The difficulty in getting an early diagnosis of the disease, combined with the fact that the heart is such a sensitive and important organ makes treating pericardial mesothelioma difficult. There are three treatment options currently in use that patients can consider.


A pericardiectomy involves the doctor removing both a portion of the heart’s pericardium as well as any tumors. Although pericardiectomy can be a very successful form of treatment, it only works if the patient is in the early stages of cancer. Since early diagnosis is rare, it’s not a good treatment option for the average patient.


The most common form of treatment patients with pericardial mesothelioma undergo is chemotherapy. There are multiple chemotherapy options and different ones do different things to extend the patient’s life. This type of treatment generates the most positive results when used in tandem with radiation.

The chemotherapy drug, Gemcitabine, has proven to be particularly effective for treating this rare type of mesothelioma cancer.

One of the only effective chemotherapy treatments for patients with pericardial mesothelioma is the drug gemcitabine. Gemcitabine can shrink tumors and slow the progression of mesothelioma. More research is being done to find more treatment options for this rare type of mesothelioma.


Doctors like to use radiation treatment because it’s the least invasive method for controlling and even treating pericardial mesothelioma. There have been many cases of palliative radiation being used as well as curative. The goal of radiation is to shrink the tumors size and prevent it from invading the sensitive heart muscles.

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