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Pericardial Mesothelioma Cancer

Pericardial mesothelioma is the rarest form of mesothelioma. It affects the membrane lining the heart called the pericardium or pericardial sac. Your doctor may initially identify solid masses and effusion around the pericardium. Pericardial effusion is an accumulation of fluid in the sac that surrounds the heart. These effusions can be a sign of the cancer but in many cases may not be related to mesothelioma.

Pericardial mesothelioma is usually related to long term asbestos exposure. It generally appears fifteen to forty years after the exposure occurred and its early symptoms are subtle. Usually chest discomfort, shortness of breath, coughing, and other generic symptoms are the early signs, than typically symptoms grow more serve as the condition worsens. By the time pericardial mesothelioma is diagnosed the cancer is usually at an advanced stage. Unfortunately, though new treatments are constantly being developed, the out look for this type of cancer is not good.

Once pericardial cancer is diagnosed, the first task that concerns doctors is determining the stage of the disease so that an appropriate treatment can be determined. This is typically done by CT Scan or an MRI and is usually referred to by doctors as "staging". Doctors chart mesothelioma into five stages; stage I to stage VI. Stage I mesothelioma may be treatable by aggressive surgery aimed at a cure. Stage II mesothelioma through stage VI mesothelioma usually can not be operated on except when the surgery is palliative (intended to relieve symptoms).

In its advanced stages pericardial mesothelioma usually must be treated with systemic treatments such a radiotherapy and chemotherapy. If caught early enough a surgical procedure aimed at a cure may be an option, but complete removal of the cancer is in most cases unlikely and usually systemic treatments follow surgical procedures. Palliative surgery is always an option through out the course of the disease and will often take the from of a "fine needle aspiration".

A "fine needle aspiration" is a procedure performed to eliminate the build up of fluid in the pericardium or pleura (the membrane that lines the chest and lungs). By draining this fluid many of the mesothelioma symptoms may be alleviated. It is a quick and easy procedure that usually takes less than an hour and involves inserting a needle into the chest cavity in order to gather fluid that has gathered in the pericardium. It is also a very low risk procedure.

The primary systemic treatments for pericardial mesothelioma are radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Both treatments pose the challenge of determining a dosage level that is both effective and safe for the patient, because both treatments adversely affect healthy as well as cancer cells. So far radiotherapy seems to have more success prolonging the life of the patient than chemotherapy. Patients should consult their treating physician to find out which treatment is more appropriate for them.

On a positive note, new medicines and treatments are being researched every day and doctors and drug manufactures are constantly improving on treatment techniques and medicine. Participating in a clinical trial is an option that a patient might consider. Clinical trials are constantly conducted to determine the effectiveness of new treatments and some studies have shown that patients fair better when participating in clinical trial.

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