Pericardial mesothelioma is an extremely rare type of cancer caused by asbestos exposure that develops in the membrane lining of the heart (pericardium). Out of all mesothelioma cases, pericardial mesothelioma affects less than 1% of patients, and because of the rarity, has a low survival rate. However, there are treatments to extend the lives of those who contract the disease, including surgery and chemotherapy.
What Is Pericardial Mesothelioma Life Expectancy?
Life expectancy for pericardial mesothelioma patients is a median survival rate of 6 months from diagnosis.
The outcome for pericardial mesothelioma patients depends on the disease stage at diagnosis and the general health of the patient. Not all patients respond to treatment, and only those in good overall health may be eligible for surgery due to the strain it puts on the other organs.
Pericardial Mesothelioma Update
Pericardial mesothelioma accounts for 0.8% of all mesothelioma cases, and 2-3% of pericardial tumors.
Pericardial Life Expectancy vs. Survival Rates
Life expectancy is the expected value of future life that a person is estimated to live. In general terms, the average U.S. citizen is expected to live to 78 years of age. According to the American Cancer Society, the average age of a mesothelioma patient at the time they are diagnosed is 69. As mesothelioma can take 10-50 years to develop, some patients are well into their 70s by the time they receive a diagnosis.
Once a patient is diagnosed with mesothelioma, their life expectancy is, sadly, counted in months, rather than years. Pericardial mesothelioma, in particular, is the rarest of all, so there are fewer statistics on life expectancy.
According to Mesothelioma Experts
Experts say that life expectancy can also be altered by the general health of a patient. Patients who are in good overall health may have better life expectancy than those who aren’t. If the patient has other ailments, this could also shorten their life expectancy in a completely unrelated way to the mesothelioma. This is why it’s so difficult to predict life expectancy outcomes as each case is based on the individual.
Survival rates look at the probability of surviving by a certain timefram—most often the 1-, 3- or 5-year mark. Survival rates are often based on previous outcomes of a large number of patients, but there are always limitations with the data. The stage of the mesothelioma, a person’s age and the location of the tumors can change the rate of survival. The outcome for each patient will depend on their personal circumstance, making it difficult for doctors to provide reliable survival rate data on a broader scale.
Pericardial Mesothelioma Life Expectancy After Treatment
There are three standard treatments for pericardial mesothelioma:
- Pericardiectomy — Removing the pericardium
- Pericardiocentesis — Draining fluid from the pericardial sac
- Chemotherapy — Slowing tumor growth with anti-tumor medications
Treatments for pericardial mesothelioma are not as developed as pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma because the cases are so rare. Clinical trials are always in motion to understand more about the disease, but at this moment in time, pericardial remains a bit of a mystery in the mesothelioma circle.
Because the pericardial tumors are so close to the heart, surgeons are less inclined to offer radiation for fear of damaging the organ. The most common treatment is chemotherapy. It’s often used in conjunction with one of the more invasive surgical procedures.
Mesothelioma Treatment Update
One case in Japan reports of a 47-year old woman who was diagnosed with stage 1 malignant pericardial mesothelioma. She was treated with pericardiocentesis (when doctors drain fluid from the pericardial area) followed by 4 cycles of chemotherapy. After this, the patient returned to her usual activities, and there was no progression of the disease for 24 months. This is a success story for patients dealing with pericardial mesothelioma and shows that an early diagnosis followed by focused treatment can extend life expectancy beyond the standard 6 months.
Given the inability to perform conclusive studies due to the lack of cases, it’s difficult to make assumptions about treatment and life expectancy.
In a recent study, 103 patients with pericardial mesothelioma underwent different forms of surgery. A mortality benefit was seen in those patients who had pericardiocentesis treatment, followed by chemotherapy (46% alive at follow up) versus the pericardiectomy (25% alive at follow up).
Factors That Affect Pericardial Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
Life expectancy of a pericardial mesothelioma patient is difficult to predict for many reasons. Primarily, the disease is so rare that large studies cannot be conducted.
Several individual circumstances can affect the overall health of a patient, including:
- Stage of cancer
- Tumor location
- Cell types
- Blood biomarkers
- Other health ailments
There was a documented case where a 27-year old woman was found to have a 1.5-inch mass in the pericardium. The mass was removed, and she received radiation therapy as a follow-up. At last contact, she has no evidence of recurrence 28 years later, which is an extremely rare case. This could be due to the patient’s young age and good overall health, but it is a vast improvement on the average life expectancy of 6 months for pericardial mesothelioma patients.
It is always important to speak to a doctor and receive a life expectancy estimate based on your exact circumstances. As we have seen, every mesothelioma case is different.
Ways to Improve Your Pericardial Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
It has been said that patients who seek out medical trials can often live longer than the predicted 6 months. As pericardial mesothelioma is so rare, there is a vast amount that surgeons do not yet understand. Only through extensive research and clinical trials will they be able to uncover new information and save more lives in the future. By being part of clinical trials, patients are not only able to possibly extend their life expectancy, but they also provide valuable stats to save others who contract this deadly cancer through asbestos exposure.
Some other ways to increase life expectancy are:
- Choose a treatment based on information from a mesothelioma specialist
- See a palliative care doctor to improve the quality of life
- Eat well and gently exercise to maintain overall health
- Adjust lifestyle habits (no smoking or alcohol)
- Improve your immune system with complementary therapies, including nutritional supplements
Working With a Pericardial Mesothelioma Specialist
It is essential that you see a pericardial mesothelioma specialist if you suspect you may have pericardial mesothelioma. As it’s a rare condition, many doctors will never come across a case in their careers. It’s critical you seek help from a medical professional who is knowledgeable in the subject area.
The doctor will outline your choices, based on the factors mentioned above. Not everyone is eligible for surgery, but if you are, your life expectancy may be increased as a result.
For more information on working with a mesothelioma specialist, contact our Patient Advocates today.