Pericardial Mesothelioma

There are several types of mesothelioma, of which pericardial is the least common. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. The United States used asbestos in a variety of products and industries for years before its dangers were discovered. In the early 1900s, asbestos was found to be a carcinogen - a cancer-causing agent. It is one of the more difficult cancers to diagnose and early diagnosis is key to effective treatment.

Pericardial mesothelioma is so named because it starts in the protective lining of the heart, called the pericardium. Because asbestos fibers are generally inhaled and are more likely to get lodged in a person's lungs, it's unclear how they find their way to the heart. There is some speculation that, once in the lungs, the fibers get absorbed into the bloodstream where they are carried to the heart and work their way into the pericardium. Since asbestos fibers are so small, this hypothesis is feasible.

Once the fibers have become embedded in the pericardium, they can fester and cause plaque build-up. As a result, the first symptoms of mesothelioma begin appearing before the cancer cells have fully developed. Symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath and difficulty taking deep breaths. Unfortunately, these symptoms are attributed to a number of health issues, which means a doctor may not test for mesothelioma. Someone who has been exposed to asbestos and is exhibiting these symptoms needs to tell their doctor so that the appropriate tests can be conducted.

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Mesothelioma Prognosis

Though mesothelioma prognoses are typically not very good, this is attributed more to late diagnosis than any characteristic of the cancer itself. Since mesothelioma symptoms can present as so many other illnesses, diagnosis often comes late. In addition, the cancer itself can take years, even decades, to develop. As a result, those at risk may assume - after submitting to frequent physical examinations for several years - that they are no longer in danger of developing mesothelioma, and may stop getting regular check-ups.

A patient that has been diagnosed with pericardial mesothelioma has a few treatment options. The most common and successful is chemotherapy. In 2004, a drug called pemetrexed was approved for use in treating all forms of mesothelioma. It is a form of chemotherapy that was designed specifically to target the enzymes believed to cause rapid tumor growth. Radiation is also a treatment option for mesothelioma, though it is usually combined with chemotherapy to produce the best possible results. For other forms of mesothelioma, surgery is a viable option, especially if it is caught early enough. However, because pericardial tumors are located so close to the heart, surgery is considered extremely risky and few surgeons are willing to do it.

As with any form of cancer, early diagnosis is key to effective treatment, but this is especially true with mesothelioma, including pericardial mesothelioma. In order to be properly diagnosed, people who have been exposed to asbestos need to get regular physical examinations by a doctor who is aware of the asbestos exposure. A doctor who knows mesothelioma is a possibility will respond differently to potential symptoms, possibly catching plaque build-up or tumors more quickly. To receive a free mesothelioma packet that includes additional information, just fill out the form above.

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