Bitter Valentine: How A Rare Form of Mesothelioma Affects the Heart

February 13, 2018  |  Mesothelioma
Broken Heart Image

Although most people have never heard of mesothelioma, a deadly cancer caused by exposure to asbestos fibers, those who are familiar with this aggressive malignancy know that it most commonly develops in the pleura, or lining of the lungs, and in the peritoneal lining surrounding the organs inside the abdominal cavity. But there is an even rarer form of mesothelioma, one that develops in the lining of the heart, or pericardium.

Though pericardial mesothelioma strikes only one percent of all mesothelioma victims, it is a highly lethal form of the disease. In a report, published in 1994 by the Texas Heart Institute Journal in which 28 pericardial mesothelioma cases diagnosed between 1972 and 1992 were studied, researchers found that pericardial mesothelioma is particularly difficult to detect because the tumor tends to completely encase the heart, making it difficult to see in chest X-rays and echocardiograms. A typical cancer tumor often appears as an unusual protuberance attached to the wall of an affected organ.  But when a pericardial mesothelioma tumor fully envelopes the heart, it looks more like an enlarged heart in an X-ray than a distinct lump. Only 12 percent of the patients who underwent echocardiograms during the study period received a correct diagnosis of a pericardial mass, revealing how very difficult an accurate analysis can be with this rare disease.

46 percent of the pericardial mesothelioma patients reviewed in the Texas Heart Institute study reported dyspnea as the symptom that caused them to see a doctor, making shortness of breath the most common warning sign. Another 32 percent were split evenly between reports of fever or chest pain as the motivating factor which led them to seek medical care.  Sudden, unexplained weight loss was next, at 21 percent.

A diagnosis of any kind of mesothelioma is tragic. Patients who were exposed to asbestos, either by working with or around it, or by shaking and washing the dusty clothes of someone who did, generally lose their lives to this unforgiving cancer within six months of diagnosis. The typical survival rate for someone with pericardial mesothelioma is just three and a half months.

As we exchange heart-filled remembrances with loved ones this Valentine’s Day, let us pause to reflect on the gravity of a disease so unforgiving that its victims barely have a chance to get their affairs in order before succumbing. Our hearts go out to everyone who has been touched by this devastating cancer. If you or someone you love has been affected by mesothelioma cancer caused by asbestos, you might be able to take legal action against the asbestos manufacturers responsible for your suffering. Please contact Baron & Budd online or call 855-280-7664 to learn more.

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