Pericardial mesothelioma is the rarest type of the three forms of mesothelioma. It makes up less than 10% of all mesothelioma patients. Approximately 2,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year, but fewer than 200 of them are pericardial. As with the other mesotheliomas, it is caused by exposure to asbestos. This type affects the pericardium, the protective sac that covers the heart and provides lubrication so that it can beat properly. Because it is so rare, there is little specific research on this disease, and it is still not clearly understood how the asbestos fibers become lodged in the pericardium.
Symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma are similar to other forms of mesothelioma, although its rarity has made it difficult for specialists to determine a specific set of common symptoms. Heart palpitations are more common with this form of mesothelioma than with the others. Additionally, patients may experience difficulty breathing, fever, and cough.
Diagnosis of pericardial mesothelioma is problematic, as the nature of its symptoms is relatively non-specific, in that they can appear as a result of several other cardiac conditions. Unfortunately for most patients, by the time symptoms of the disease appear, the cancer has progressed to a stage where conventional treatments are largely ineffective for anything other than providing temporary relief of symptoms.
As a direct consequence of the difficulties in definitively diagnosing pericardial mesothelioma, and the fact that it is usually only minimally symptomatic until its advanced stages, the prognosis for patients is very poor, with a mean survival time of only six months following diagnosis.
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