Pericardial mesothelioma accounts for about 1% of all reported cases of the disease. It is a very rare form of cancer that affects the pericardium. The pericardium is the lining of mesothelial tissue that surrounds the heart. It protects the heart, helps allow it to function properly and holds it in place. Pericardial mesothelioma causes the cells of the pericardium to mutate.
In the early stages of the disease, you may not feel any symptoms at all. If you do feel anything, however, it may be so vague that you may just think you’re feeling “under the weather”. That’s why it is not common for people with early stage mesothelioma to seek medical treatment. As time passes your condition will worsen, and symptoms become more troubling.
These are some general symptoms of mesothelioma.
- weight loss
- night sweats
- loss of appetite
Specific to pericardial mesothelioma
These are specific to pericardial mesothelioma. They are generally caused by fluid buildup and thickening of pericardial tissue, which both constrict the heart and make it more difficult to function. As the cancer begins to spread more, these symptoms will become more severe.
- tightness in the chest
- chest pain
- rapid heartbeat
- heart palpitations
- breathing difficulty
- shortness of breath
Why symptoms may lead to a misdiagnosis
The symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma are often confused with those associated with other diseases affecting the heart. For example, chest pain, fever and cough can also be associated with pericardial synovial sarcomas and tuberculosis pericarditis.
To make a proper diagnosis, pathologic examination of fluid, echocardiography and immunohistochemistry are considered effective tools. Symptoms alone should be relied upon to make a diagnosis.
There are limited treatment options for pericardial mesothelioma because of delayed diagnosis and how close cancerous tissue is to the heart. That’s why most treatments are designed to decrease and control symptoms to increase patient comfort.
One treatment to decrease the severity of symptoms is surgery, which involves removing a portion or all of a tumor. This can help improve breathing ability and decrease chest pain. Surgery is only an option if the tumor is localized.
Pressure may also be relieved with pericardiocentesis, a technique that removes excess fluid buildup in the pericardium. A needle is inserted into the tissue and fluid is removed with drainage.
Chemotherapy has been found to stop cancerous tissue from spreading. This can control symptoms related to breathing and pain.