Pericardial mesothelioma affects the protective mesothelial tissue surrounding the heart (the pericardium). The pericardium consists of two layers, an outer layer (the heart sac or theca cordis), and an inner layer (the epicardium). The rarest of the three types of mesothelioma, pericardial mesothelioma accounts for only an estimated 1-6 percent of all mesothelioma cases. And as with all mesotheliomas, the only known cause of the pericardial variety is exposure to asbestos.
While the precise route by which microscopic asbestos fibers reach the pericardium is not known, studies indicate that inhaled asbestos fibers are absorbed into the bloodstream and pumped to the heart, where they become lodged in the pericardium and eventually cause the inflammation thought to trigger the development of cancer. Pleural or pericardial mesothelioma can also metastasize to the pericardium.
Because the symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma are similar to those associated with common heart or pulmonary ailments such as heart attacks or asthma, they are often overlooked.
Symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma include the following:
- Moderate to severe chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Irregular heartbeat
- Fever or night sweats
- Persistent coughing
- Extreme fatigue after minimal exertion
Because these symptoms are similar to those associated with common heart or pulmonary ailments such as heart attacks or asthma, they are often overlooked. Symptoms will also vary from patient to patient depending on a variety of factors. In addition, mesothelioma has a lengthy latency period and often does not appear for 20 years or more, reducing the likelihood that an individual who is experiencing symptoms will link them to asbestos exposure in the past. If you have any history of asbestos exposure and are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is very important that you consult a doctor immediately for an evaluation.