Pericardial Mesothelioma Prognosis

Quick Summary

Like other forms of mesothelioma, pericardial mesothelioma is linked to asbestos exposure. It also has the poorest prognosis out of the three main types of mesothelioma and is often only diagnosed after an autopsy has been performed. Overall, malignant pericardial mesothelioma is very rare, comprising between 1% and 2% of mesothelioma occurrences.

 A 2004 report published by Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, United Kingdom stated that only 200 cases of the disease had been recorded.

Although the vast majority of mesothelioma cases result from known instances of asbestos exposure, researchers are still exploring the connection between asbestos exposure and pericardial mesothelioma, as only about a quarter of patients are known to have been exposed to asbestos.

Pericardial Mesothelioma and Asbestos

While the link between asbestos exposure and pleural mesothelioma is relatively well understood, there is less knowledge about how asbestos fibers lead to cancer developing in the heart. This limited knowledge contributes to pericardial mesothelioma’s poorer prognosis.

When a person inhales asbestos fibers, they can become lodged in the lungs. This is where pleural mesothelioma forms. Sometimes a person will cough up the fibers and swallow them. When this happens, the body tries to expel the fibers, but they can lodge in the abdominal lining and cause cell division. This is how peritoneal mesothelioma develops.

However, pericardial mesothelioma is still a mystery, as doctors don’t fully understand how the asbestos fibers can reach the heart. As doctors strive to understand pericardial mesothelioma better, we hope that new knowledge will lead to an improved prognosis.

Pericardial Mesothelioma Prognosis

Pericardial mesothelioma presents a poorer prognosis than other types of mesothelioma. This particularly poor prognosis is due in part to the rarity of the disease–its highly uncommon nature means there is less research done about this form of cancer. The prognosis is also poor because of the location that cancer occurs.

While approximately 50% of patients live six months after diagnoses, one patient is known to have survived longer than five years. A combination of surgery and chemotherapeutic treatment can contribute to better life expectancy.

Factors Affecting Pericardial Mesothelioma Prognosis

While there are some common themes in prognosis for pericardial mesothelioma, the prognosis is formed on a variety of individual factors. Only your doctor can provide a personalized prognosis, and it’s always ideal to have multiple expert opinions. Contributing factors include your age, health history/existing conditions, lifestyle and habits, cell type and stage.


With any type of mesothelioma, including pericardial, age plays a role in the prognosis. In general, older patients have lower survival than younger patients. This is due to various factors including patients’ general health but is primarily due to younger patients qualifying for more aggressive surgeries.

In older patients, the risk of complications may be too high with some intensive treatments. Because mesothelioma is most often diagnosed in older individuals (91% of those diagnosed are over 55, and those between 80 and 84 have the highest mesothelioma incidence), this contributes to the poor prognosis associated with the disease.

Health and Lifestyle

While the prognosis for pericardial mesothelioma is poor, you can improve your quality of life by maintaining a healthy lifestyle to the best of your ability. For pericardial mesothelioma patients, staying healthy includes general care such as eating a nutritious diet, exercising, and getting enough rest. Getting the correct nutrition and staying fit can keep heart muscles healthy. Quitting smoking is also extremely important, as smoking can damage arteries and increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. Patients with otherwise healthy hearts are more likely to qualify for aggressive pericardial mesothelioma treatment.

Health and Lifestyle Update

Leading a healthy lifestyle can also increase your access to a greater range of treatments, thereby potentially improving prognosis. This is because patients with existing health complications don’t qualify for certain operations or therapies. The healthier you are, the better a surgical candidate you become.

Mesothelioma Stage

Mesothelioma stage is one of the most heavily weighted factors in determining prognosis. The stage is determined by looking at the scope of the tumor and assessing just how far it has spread from the location where it originated. Doctors establish stage on a scale of 1 to 4. The first 2 stages are considered “early” while the last 2 are considered “advanced” or late.

Prognosis is usually more positive for early-stage patients, partly because they are qualified for more treatment options and because treatment will likely be more effective. In early-stage patients, the cancer is more localized and hasn’t spread as far in the body, making it easier to control.

Mesothelioma Cell Type

The type of mesothelioma cell (histology) present also has a significant influence on prognosis. Pathologists can determine the cell type by looking at your biopsy samples under a microscope. The 3 main types are epithelioid mesothelioma, sarcomatoid mesothelioma, and biphasic mesothelioma. Of these types, epithelioid mesothelioma presents the best prognosis, while the prognosis for biphasic mesothelioma is somewhat poorer. The prognosis for sarcomatoid mesothelioma is typically the poorest. Fortunately, epithelioid mesothelioma tumors are the most common of the three.

Other factors that your doctor will consider in developing your prognosis include the severity of symptoms and your pre-diagnosis health. Symptoms matter because severe ones are often indicative of late stage cancer. However, your options may be more abundant than you think. Your doctors can help give you a clearer picture of what treatment opportunities there are for you.

Life Expectancy for Pericardial Mesothelioma

Patients diagnosed with pericardial mesothelioma often already have advanced stage cancer. As a result, only approximately 10% of patients will live more than two years from diagnosis. However, life expectancy can only be estimated, and survival rates can change. Early detection, a healthy lifestyle, and leading-edge treatment can all improve your chances of living longer than expected and living comfortably as well.

Because the location of pericardial mesothelioma is much more delicate than the location of peritoneal or even pleural mesothelioma, surgical options are limited. There is a high chance of complications arising from operating around the heart. In addition, pericardial mesothelioma’s rarity contributes to its poor prognosis and low life expectancy.

The median life expectancy for pleural mesothelioma ranges between 1 and 2 years, depending on the stage. Most peritoneal mesothelioma patients are also expected to live at least a year after being diagnosed. However, for pericardial mesothelioma patients, the average life expectancy is less than a year—only about 50% live 6 or more months after diagnosis.

Treatments for Improving Pericardial Mesothelioma Prognosis

Researchers are still exploring treatment options for pericardial mesothelioma. Mesothelioma, particularly pericardial mesothelioma, is very rare, so research and understanding of the disease is still emerging. However, the sensitive location of this form of mesothelioma means that treatment options can be limited.

Chemotherapy for Pericardial Mesothelioma

Although pericardiectomy (whole or partial removal of the heart lining) and pericardiocentesis (removal of pericardial effusion) are options, chemotherapy is still the most common form of treatment for pericardial mesothelioma.

Chemotherapy can prevent the tumor from expanding and can, in some cases, improve life expectancy. A pemetrexed and cisplatin have shown some survival improvement in pericardial mesothelioma patients. However, the exact combination of chemotherapeutic drugs used will depend on the recommendations of your doctor.

Seeking Treatment From Mesothelioma Specialists

While pericardial mesothelioma is known to have a relatively poor prognosis, your path does not stop at diagnosis. In addition to caring for your physical and mental health, you should ensure you are working with the best specialists in the field. We strongly recommend getting a second expert opinion when forming your prognosis, to help form a clearer and more well-rounded picture. Go to a mesothelioma specialist to receive a second opinion from someone with specific expertise on this rare type of cancer. Remember, you deserve the best care available.

Contact us today for information on finding a reputable mesothelioma specialist. We’ll help you find a top doctor who can provide you with the latest and most effective pericardial mesothelioma treatments. Our Patient Advocates can also help you with any questions you may have about resources for pericardial mesothelioma patients. To get in touch, call us at (800) 584-4151.