Mesothelioma is classified by where it is located in the protective lining (mesothelium) of the body’s organs. Different treatment options are available depending on where the tumor originates in the mesothelium. A mesothelioma tumor can first grow in one of 3 main locations.
Locations of Mesothelioma in the Body
Lungs - The most common location is the pleura, the protective lining of the lungs. Pleural mesothelioma accounts for nearly 75 percent of all diagnoses and is the most common form of the disease.
Abdomen - The lining of the abdomen, which is also known as the peritoneum, is the second most common location where mesothelioma occurs. Peritoneal mesothelioma accounts for approximately 20 to 25 percent of all diagnoses.
Heart - The rarest location where mesothelioma can form is the protective lining of the heart, the pericardium. Pericardial mesothelioma makes up about 1 percent of all diagnosed mesothelioma cases.
Pleural mesothelioma starts in the protective lining of the lungs, the pleura.
Patients diagnosed with mesothelioma in the pleura may experience symptoms including:
- A buildup of excess fluid around the lung (pleural effusion)
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pains
- Dry cough
- Weight loss
The 3 main treatment options for pleural mesothelioma include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Specialists most often combine two or more of these treatments for the best results.
Peritoneal mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the abdomen, the peritoneum.
Those diagnosed with this type of mesothelioma often experience symptoms, such as:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Abdominal fluid buildup (ascites)
- Loss of appetite
Treatment for peritoneal mesothelioma has greatly improved over the years. With surgery, many patients are living years beyond their initial prognosis.
Pericardial mesothelioma starts in the pericardium, the protective lining of the heart. It is one of the rarest forms of mesothelioma and only accounts for 1 percent of all diagnoses.
Symptoms caused by pericardial mesothelioma include:
- Dyspnea, or difficulty breathing
- Pericardial effusion (the buildup of fluid in the pericardium)
- Persistent coughing
- Heart palpitations
- Chest pains
Few treatments exists for pericardial mesothelioma because it is so rare. As more cases of this rare form of mesothelioma emerge, more effective treatment options will be developed.
Treatment for Each Location
The location of a patient’s mesothelioma determines his or her treatment options. Specialists use different procedures to treat each mesothelioma location.
Pleural Mesothelioma Surgery
Extrapleural Pneumonectomy (EPP): A surgeon removes the entire diseased lung and parts of the lining of the chest and heart. Nearby lymph nodes and part of the diaphragm may also be removed if the mesothelioma has spread far enough.
Pleurectomy with Decortication (P/D): This procedure is less extensive than the EPP. It involves the removal of the protective lining of the lung (pleura) and any visible mesothelioma tumors. How much of the lining the surgeon removes depends on how advanced the mesothelioma is.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Surgery
- Cytoreduction: A surgeon removes all visible tumors in the abdomen. This procedure is often combined with heated chemotherapy in a procedure called cytoreduction with HIPEC.
Pericardial Mesothelioma Surgery
- Pericardiectomy: A pericardiectomy involves the removal in whole or in part of the protective lining of the heart (pericardium). Surgeons replace the removed lining with a flexible fabric, like Gore-Tex.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are used to treat mesothelioma regardless of the location.
Both treatment options are often combined with surgery for best results. For example, cytoreduction combined with heated chemotherapy (HIPEC) has improved the survival rates of patients with peritoneal mesothelioma from the average of 1 year to approximately 5 years.
According to a recent study, pleural mesothelioma patients who received intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) after surgery survived up to 3 years after the procedure was completed.
Getting Treatment and Improving Life Expectancy
If you’ve been diagnosed with pleural, peritoneal or pericardial mesothelioma, the first and most important step you can take to improve your life expectancy is seeking treatment from an experienced specialist. In addition to the location of the tumor, cancer stage and cell type also play important roles in determining the type of treatment a patient receives.
An experienced mesothelioma specialist has the knowledge necessary to take these factors into consideration when creating a course of treatment. Our Patient Help Team can review your diagnosis and help you connect to a specialist. Speak with a member of our team and get access to the treatment you deserve.