What is Pericardial Mesothelioma

Pericardial mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that affects the lining of the heart.

Like other forms of mesothelioma, researchers sometimes link the cancer to asbestos exposure, though the connection is contested. There are only around 150 cases of pericardial mesothelioma and 50% to 60% of patients die within six months of the initial diagnosis. 

Even though mesothelioma is linked to asbestos exposure, the link between asbestos and pericardial mesothelioma is unclear. Only around one fourth of people diagnosed with pericardial mesothelioma have been exposed to asbestos. More so, it is unclear how asbestos fibers would reach the heart after being inhaled. 

Of the 150 cases, most people diagnosed with this cancer are between the ages of 50 and 70. Around 60% of the cases occur in men as opposed to women. These statistics are relatively common among all forms of mesothelioma, not just pericardial. 

Unfortunately, the symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma can be hard to detect. As a result, many patients do not discover their cancer until it has already developed to a later stage. This, along with the difficulty to treat pericardial mesothelioma, makes the prognosis poor for most patients. The difficulty treating pericardial mesothelioma causes nearly 25% of patients to opt for no treatment at all. 


Prognosis for pericardial mesothelioma is often very poor. The average life expectancy for someone with a pericardial mesothelioma diagnosis is 6 to 10 months. With the help of surgery or chemotherapy, some patients have lived for years after diagnosis. 


Researchers are baffled as to what causes pericardial mesothelioma. In pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma, the connection between cancer and asbestos exposure is pretty definitive. The same cannot be said for pericardial mesothelioma. This is due to the fact that nearly 75% of patients with pericardial mesothelioma have no asbestos exposure. 


During the cancer’s initial development, patients will likely experience no symptoms. Symptoms do not normally develop until a later stage of the cancer. Often, the symptoms are similar to those of other heart conditions. This fact can make it even more difficult to diagnose the cancer. 

The difficulty in recognizing and diagnosing pericardial mesothelioma causes the disease to only be found during the autopsy after death. Only about 10% to 20% of pericardial mesothelioma cases are diagnosed before death. 

Below is a list of the most common symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma: 

  • Chest pain 
  • Coughing 
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Heart palpitations/irregular heartbeat 
  • Fatigue 
  • Fever 
  • Murmurs 
  • Night sweats 
  • Shortness of breath 

Schedule an appointment with your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.

You will likely receive an echocardiogram, physical examination, imaging tests, and biopsy during the diagnosis process. 

Treatment Options 

Treatment options for pericardial mesothelioma include surgery, chemotherapy, and palliative treatments. Radiation therapy is rarely used because it is difficult to administer around the heart. 

Of the potential treatment options, surgery is the most common choice. Around 50% of patients choose surgery. 37% of patients opt for chemotherapy, while 8% opt for radiation. The remaining patients select no treatment at all.