Pericardial mesothelioma is a cancer of the pericardium, which is the lining surrounding the heart. Pericardial cases only represent about 1 percent of all mesothelioma cases. Only about 200 pericardial mesothelioma cases have ever been recorded.
Pericardial mesothelioma is caused by asbestos fibers that get stuck into the lining of the heart. Asbestos was used in the past to make a wide variety of products including many building materials and household products. Many people have been exposed to asbestos by using these items. Researchers are unsure as to how asbestos fibers are able to travel to the lining of the heart, but that is how mesothelioma begins to develop.
- Asbestos fibers become stuck in the lining of the heart.
- The asbestos fibers irritate the area and cause genetic damage to cells.
- Genetic damage causes the cells to reproduce without end, developing into tumors and eventually mesothelioma.
There is very little data about pericardial mesothelioma because it is such a rare condition. Unfortunately, it is also not usually diagnosed in time to treat. One patient was able to to live 5 years after receiving a pericardiectomy surgery.
Treating pericardial mesothelioma is difficult because the tumors are on the lining of such a vital organ. The heart is an important and delicate organ so most treatments are risky. The main surgical option for pericardial mesothelioma is a pericardiectomy. Like most mesothelioma surgeries, a pericardiectomy involves removing part or all of the pericardium. Pericardial mesothelioma patients can also undergo chemotherapy treatments with a drug called gemcitabine. Because this condition is so rare, there is very little experience treating it. More research is being conducted to develop new treatments.