Malignant Pericardial Mesothelioma

Pericardial mesothelioma begins in the lining of the heart and is an extremely rare form of cancer. The most common type of mesothelioma is pleural mesothelioma, which begins in the lining of the lungs, followed by peritoneal mesothelioma, which begins in the abdominal cavity. Pericardial mesothelioma only makes up about .7 percent of all mesothelioma cases. The incidence rate of this form of cancer is one in 40 million, making it very rare. In 2017, there were about 200 cases of the disease throughout the world.

Most cases of pericardial mesothelioma are diagnosed through histology after an autopsy or surgery is done. If the patient can undergo it, surgery is the most frequently used treatment option. It is important that this type of mesothelioma is detected early, so the best treatment can be administered. The link between asbestos exposure and pericardial mesothelioma has been studied less than the more common forms of mesothelioma. That being the case, a study found that there was occupational asbestos exposure in 71.4% of malignant pericardial mesothelioma cases. Other risks of pericardial mesothelioma include tuberculosis, erionite, thorotrast, irradiation and infection.

Although it is very rare, it is the most common malignancy of the pericardium. The incidence rate is about .0022 percent. Although that is a relatively low number, mesothelioma in general makes up about 1% of all cancers. However, it is important to take it seriously due to its aggressiveness, severity and poor prognosis.


Most people who are diagnosed with pericardial mesothelioma are men. Because the onset of pericardial mesothelioma can involve an asymptomatic period it is difficult to detect it early on. Symptoms usually occur in the form of dyspnea (severe trouble breathing), cough, fever, night sweats, chest pain, pericardial effusion, tumor and edema. If the cancer has spread, lymph nodes may be swollen.

Metastases to other areas of the body are seen in 25-45 percent of patients, moving to the liver, kidneys, regional lymph nodes and lungs.

There are three different types of malignant pericardial mesothelioma: diffuse nodular tumor, localized disease in the superior pericardium and extra-pericardial disease.


In only 30 percent of the cases diagnosis has been made before the patient has passed away, highlighting the urgency of early detection. CT scans and MRIs are used to help with diagnosis, but the final diagnosis is made based on a pathology report.

Echocardiograms and chest radiology are used to assess the mesothelioma. CT scans and MRIs can detect tumors, the extension of adjacent structures, mediastinal lymph nodes and a thickened pericardium. PET scans are used to determine the staging of the disease and can detect metastasis and lymph node involvement. A biopsy is also usually necessary. Ultrasound-guided biopsies as well as CT-guided biopsies are important to use in clinics as they are safe, and they do not tend to result in complications. There should be enough quality samples taken to make a proper diagnosis.

There is a chance that pericardial mesothelioma may be misdiagnosed as coronary heart disease, tuberculosis pericarditis, cardiomyopathy, adenocarcinoma and pericardial metastatic tumors. This is due to a few different reasons which include the masking of the real conditions of the disease due to a lack of symptoms, noncontributory radiological findings and nonspecific manifestations, the rarity of the disease and the biopsy being hard to achieve.

Treatment can involve surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, with surgery being the most favorable. Early detection is vital for the most favorable prognosis.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, please call the Halpern Law Firm at (800) 505-6000 for legal help. We are here to help you get the financial compensation you deserve. For more information fill out our form.


Written By Sadie Gold

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