Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, heart, and abdomen. It is most commonly caused by exposure to asbestos, a mineral that was widely used in construction and other industries until the 1970s. In the case of pleural mesothelioma, which accounts for 80% of cases, the cancerous cells produce fluid that can compress the lung, leading to severe pain, shortness of breath, and overwhelming fatigue. This fluid can also enter the pericardial space and cause symptoms suggestive of congestive heart failure (CHF).Pericardial mesothelioma (PPM) is an even rarer form of mesothelioma that affects the lining of the heart.
It is estimated that only 150 cases have been diagnosed worldwide. Symptoms of PPM include difficulty breathing, chest pain, and irregular heartbeats. Unfortunately, this type of mesothelioma has a uniformly poor prognosis and treatment options are severely limited. Patients typically survive an average of 6 to 10 months from diagnosis.Asbestos is the only known cause of pericardial mesothelioma and other types of mesothelioma.
Although it is not yet completely banned in the United States, it has been linked to a number of serious health conditions, including CHF. In some cases, asbestos-related lung conditions can closely resemble CHF in terms of symptoms, making diagnosis difficult. To confirm a diagnosis of PPM, a surgeon will remove tissue or fluid from the pericardium and examine its cells under a microscope.A 1992 report described a 12-year-old boy with pericardial mesothelioma who underwent surgery and chemotherapy and remained symptom-free and showed no signs of disease a year later. However, this approach is not always successful as some patients initially diagnosed with atypical mesothelial hyperplasia have gone on to develop malignant mesotheliomas.The American Cancer Society estimates that the average survival time for mesothelioma can generally range from 12 to 21 months, depending on how early it is diagnosed.
New forms of immunotherapy with checkpoint inhibitors have shown some benefit in cases of pleural mesothelioma. If you or someone you know has been exposed to asbestos and is experiencing symptoms suggestive of CHF or any other type of mesothelioma, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.