Types of Mesothelioma
There are 3 main types of mesothelioma, all of which are caused by regular and prolonged asbestos exposure. In all cases, the cancer develops in the mesothelial cells, which are the membrane linings that protect organs and help them to maintain their proper position in the body. The 3 types of mesothelioma are distinguished by the area of the body in which they originate.
Pleural mesothelioma affects the pleura, which is the lining around the lungs. This is the most common form of mesothelioma, which affects roughly 70 percent to 80 percent of mesothelioma cancer patients.
The symptoms of pleural mesothelioma are often similar to those associated with less severe illnesses such as the flu or the common cold. These mesothelioma symptoms may include chest pain, shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing and a dry, raspy cough.
The diagnosis of pleural mesothelioma often involves the use of imaging technology such as the CT scan, X-ray, or MRI, and may also include biopsies of tumors or fluids found in the pleural mesothelium. In many cases, patients who are in the earlier stages of pleural mesothelioma are good candidates for surgery.
Peritoneal mesothelioma develops in the peritoneum, which is the lining that protects organs in the abdomen. Though this is the second most common type of mesothelioma cancer, it only occurs in roughly 20 to 30 percent of mesothelioma patients.
Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include pain in the abdominal area, abnormal weight loss, changes in bowel habits, lumps in the abdomen and nausea or vomiting. The cause of these symptoms is the buildup of excess cells and fluid in the peritoneum, which leads to pressure on internal organs.
Similar to pleural mesothelioma, the diagnosis of peritoneal mesothelioma often involves the use of imaging technology such as CT scans and MRIs, and may also include biopsies of fluid and tissue.
Peritoneal mesothelioma can rapidly spread to other parts of the body, and this makes treatment difficult. In some cases, surgery and other treatments can be offered to enhance the patient’s comfort and to ease mesothelioma symptoms.
Pericardial mesothelioma affects the pericardium, which is comprised of the membranes that surround the heart. Only roughly 5 percent of mesothelioma cancer patients have this form of the disease.
Symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma, like pleural mesothelioma, include chest pain and difficulty breathing. Unlike pleural mesothelioma, pericardial mesothelioma may also present in the form of heart palpitations or an irregular heartbeat. Pericardial mesothelioma symptoms are caused by excess pressure on the heart that results from a buildup of cells and fluids in the pericardium.
The proximity of pericardial mesothelioma to the heart and the long latency of this type of cancer make pericardial mesothelioma particularly difficult to treat. In some early cases, surgery has been effective, but pericardial mesothelioma is rarely detected early enough to make this a viable mesothelioma treatment option.
Testicular mesothelioma is a form of peritoneal mesothelioma. This is by far the rarest form of mesothelioma cancer, with only 100 documented cases in the US over the last 20 years. Testicular mesothelioma usually presents in the form of lumps or tumors in the testicular area which may or may not be painful.