Overview of Malignant Mesothelioma


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Malignant mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer that affects the lining (mesothelium) of many organs including lungs, abdomen, and heart. It can also involve the testes. Mesothelioma is usually caused by exposure to asbestos in many workplace.

Pleural Mesothelioma

Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type which accounts to 80% of all diagnosed cases. It is called the cancer of the pleura, the part of the mesothelium that lines the lungs. It is often mistaken as lung cancer because it occurs so close to the lungs.

Symptoms of Pleural Mesothelioma

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Pleural effusion

Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Peritoneal mesothelioma is the second most common type. It occurs in the abdominal region which accounts to 20% of all mesothelioma cases. Inhalation of asbestos more often leads to pleural mesothelioma, but the fibers can travel to the abdominal region after inhalation. Accidental ingestion of asbestos can also trigger peritoneal mesothelioma.

Symptoms of Peritoneal Mesothelioma

  • Buildup of fluids
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Indigestion

Pericardial Mesothelioma

Pericardial mesothelioma affects the lining of the heart but are very rare. This type usually occurs in older and male patients. Symptoms usually mimics a type of heart disease or heart failure which causes misdiagnosis.

Symptoms of Pericardial Mesothelioma

  • Trouble breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue and fever
  • Heart murmurs

Risk Factors

  • Exposure to asbestos
  • Occupation in mining, factories, construction, shipbuilding and repair, automotive repair, and Navy careers
  • Older age
  • Being male
  • Exposure to certain minerals such as zeolites
  • Exposure to a specific virus such as SV40 virus
  • Specific genetic factors


  • Imaging tests including X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and PET scans
  • Tissue biopsies including fine-needle aspiration, thoracoscopy, ADD laparoscopy, and endoscopy
  • Blood tests such as the SOMAmer test, MESOMARK, and Human MPF


Mesothelioma treatment includes surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy with emerging treatment option used when needed.