Pericardial Mesothelioma

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Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that affects the mesothelium (the protective lining and sac around most organs in the body). It is diagnosed in approximately 2,000 to 3,000 patients annually in the United States. The primary risk factor associated with the development of mesothelioma is prolonged or heavy exposure to asbestos.

The mesothelium has three primary parts. The mesothelium of the heart is called the pericardium; of the lungs and chest cavity, the pleura; and of the abdomen, the peritoneum. In addition, the lining around the testes is called the tunica vaginalis. Mesothelioma can occur in each of these regions. Most cases of mesothelioma (3 out of 4) occur in the pleura; this is called pleural mesothelioma. Most of the remaining cases of mesothelioma occur in the abdomen, which is called peritoneal mesothelioma. Mesothelioma of the pericardium and the tunica vaginalis are very rare, but do occur. Respectively, these are pericardial mesothelioma and mesothelioma of the tunica vaginalis.

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that occurs in nature. It has heat resistant properties, is a fire retardant, and does not conduct electricity. Because of these properties, asbestos has been widely used in a products for the building industry, ship building, the automotive industry, and other industries. There are approximately 3,000 products today that use asbestos.

People who have worked in industries that utilize products containing asbestos are at high risk for asbestos exposure, and in turn, for developing mesothelioma. These industries may include construction, and construction related jobs, such as electricians, plumbers, iron workers, steel workers, and roofers. Automotive mechanics, teachers, hairdressers, ship yard workers, and U.S. Navy veterans may also be at risk for asbestos exposure. Individuals who live with people who work around asbestos may also be at risk for exposure and developing mesothelioma.

Because the majority of cases of mesothelioma are either pleural mesothelioma or peritoneal mesothelioma, and pericardial mesothelioma is rare, there is little information available regarding this type of cancer. In pleural mesothelioma and peritoneal mesothelioma, symptoms may present like symptoms of common ailments like a cold or flu. In patients with pericardial mesothelioma, symptoms may include difficulty breathing or chest pains. In some studies, patients have also presented cited fever and weight loss as symptoms.

Diagnosing pericardial mesothelioma can be challenging, particularly because symptoms of this cancer may not show until the cancer is in an advanced stage. Chest x-rays and echocardiography are typically used to examine health issues with the heart, detecting enlarged silhouettes of the heart. However, in cases of pericardial mesothelioma, these methods have been less effective in detecting the cancer. It is reasoned that this is because tumors have a tendency to envelope the heart instead of grow as a mass on the heart. In addition, the cancer may invade the myocardium as well as the mitral valve.

Reviewing initial symptoms of an individual with pericardial mesothelioma, doctors may initially diagnose them as having rheumatic heart disease (when the heart valves have been damaged by rheumatic fever) or atrial myxoma (a non-cancerous tumor in the upper left or right side of the heart). Unfortunately, the prognosis for patients with pericardial mesothelioma is not often positive. It is usually very difficult for doctors to remove all of the cancer from the heart. In cases where it is impossible to surgically remove all of the cancer from the heart, chemotherapy and radiation have been used. However, these methods are usually unsuccessful in treating the cancer. The course of the pericardial mesothelioma after it is diagnosed may average 3.5 months.

If you or a loved one has been affected by pericardial mesothelioma it is highly recommended that you speak with an attorney. A mesothelioma lawyer will help you seek compensation for pain and suffering and medical expenses.


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