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Pericardial mesothelioma is the rarest form of asbestos-caused cancer. Tumors form n the lining of the heart. It is often not diagnosed until an autopsy is performed.

Pericardial mesothelioma develops in the pericardium, which is a thin membrane that surrounds the heart. Surgery and chemotherapy may help life expectancy if it is caught in time. Less than 1% of all mesothelioma diagnoses are pericardial.

The average survivor among people with pericardial mesothelioma is six to ten months. There are several people that have lived for many years with pericardial mesothelioma after undergoing surgery and chemotherapy. It is uncommon to have initial symptoms, and which contributes to often late-stage diagnosis. The symptoms resemble those of other heart conditions, making it difficult to accurately diagnose.

Male doctor examining coughing senior patient in clinic in Peterborough Canada

Diagnosing Pericardial Mesothelioma

To diagnose pericardial mesothelioma, doctors will first assess your symptoms, medical history, and current condition. After a physical examination, imaging tests, and biopsy to determine the location of the tumors and confirmation of whether they are cancerous. When contacting your doctor about heart-related symptoms, one of the most common tests is an echocardiogram, which is similar to ultrasound for your heart. If the doctors see abnormal growths, they will take a fluid or tissue sample and perform a biopsy.

CT scans are also effective for detecting pericardial tumors. MRI can also have successful results for identifying cancer.

Surgical tools lying on table Whitby Canada


Treatment for pericardial mesothelioma is limited because the heart lining is very close to the heart itself, and invasive therapies can damage the heart. Most patients are not ideal candidates for surgery, which is the most effective treatment for pericardial mesothelioma. Patients that are good candidates for surgery can possibly have tumor removal. During surgery the doctors can remove part or all of the pericardium, which can relieve pressure and minimize fluid buildup, allowing the heart to function properly. Alternatively, tumor removal can remove cancer without removing the pericardium.


Chemotherapy is unfortunately not beneficial for patients with pericardial mesothelioma. There are limited cases that have responded well to chemotherapy.

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