What are the Different Types of Mesothelioma?
Do you or someone you know suffering from Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer affecting about 3,000 people each year in the United States. It’s quite an aggressive form of cancer. In general, the prognosis of this disease is grim, although patients may enjoy many more years beyond their life expectancy if they have a good response to their treatment plan.
However, it will still depend on which type of mesothelioma they have. The mesothelioma signs, symptoms, and treatment will also vary by type.
Doctors categorize mesothelioma by location and by the cell type. To know more about the types of mesothelioma, read on and let’s learn their causes, symptoms, and prognosis.
What Is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelial tissue. The mesothelium is a membrane composed of cells, forming a lining that protects several body cavities. As such, it can have different types depending on which internal organ it first develops in.
It’s common to attribute mesothelioma to asbestos exposure, its primary risk factor. Aside from that, a family history of mesothelioma may also be a risk factor.
The Different Types of Mesothelioma by Location
This categorization of mesothelioma depends on the location where it develops. The doctor will give a diagnosis according to this type, as well as the treatment and prognosis.
Pleural mesothelioma develops in the lung cavity. It’s the most common type of this disease, accounting for about 75% of all cases.
As it spreads through the chest, it can cause complications due to the pressure. It may cause difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, and chest pain. It may also lead to pleural effusion, the accumulation of liquid in the chest.
A pleural plaque is the most telling sign that the patient has had exposure to asbestos dust in the past. It refers to the fibrous thickening in the lining on the lung cavity caused by asbestos exposure. Although it’s non-cancerous, it may elevate the risk for cancer.
Some symptoms that a patient with this condition may also include:
- Persistent dry cough
- Weight loss
- Fever or night sweats
Pleural mesothelioma is quite difficult to diagnose until its later stages. This is why the life expectancy of a patient upon diagnosis is often less than 18 months.
Treatments can extend the prognosis by months or even years. The options for patients include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and some experimental therapies.
Peritoneal mesothelioma forms in the lining of the abdomen called peritoneum. It develops due to the ingestion of asbestos fibers, but it can also be due to the inhalation of such. It accounts for about 20% of all cases.
Patients with this disease may develop ascites. These are fluid pockets that build up in the space around the abdomen, causing the stomach to bulge. This can help the doctors diagnose the patient, but it can also result in a misdiagnosis of a hernia.
Aside from that, patients may develop symptoms including:
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal swelling
- Weight loss
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Bowel changes
- Nausea or vomiting
- Fever or sweating
For this type, surgery and heated chemotherapy are the most effective methods of treatment. When combined, this treatment plan has high success rates.
The life expectancy of patients with stage 1 or 2 peritoneal mesothelioma is around 19 to 21 months. Those with stage 3 or 4 have a life expectancy of 16 months on average. However, with the right treatment plan, patients can live upwards of 5 years.
This type is a cancer of the pericardium, the lining that surrounds the heart. It’s a rare form of mesothelioma, accounting for about 1% of all cases. It’s the most common cause of pericardial tumor, though.
About 25% of the patients diagnosed with this disease have had exposure to asbestos. In spite of that, researchers are yet to draw a connection between the two. It’s how asbestos fibers may reach the heart, causing pericardial mesothelioma.
This disease also causes a build-up of fluid around the heart, called pericardial effusions. This can cause pain and put pressure on the heart.
It may also cause other symptoms, such as:
- Dyspnea (shortness of breath)
- Swelling of face or arms
- Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
- A cough
- Fever or night sweats
These symptoms mimic the symptoms of other heart diseases. As a result, an accurate diagnosis may be difficult to do.
The prognosis for this type of this disease is also poor. Plus, there’s no consensus on the treatment yet.
Patients, however, may have the option to opt for pericardiectomy or tumor removal if they’re good candidates. Chemotherapy and palliative treatment options are also available to them.
Around 40% of patients live less than 6 months after the onset of symptoms. Still, some patients have lived upwards of 1 year or 5 years after surgery and chemotherapy.
Testicular mesothelioma affects the lining around the testicles called the tunica vaginalis testis. It’s the rarest among all types of mesothelioma, accounting for about 1% of all cases.
Although doctors attribute mesothelioma to asbestos, this particular type isn’t due to exposure to the substance most of the time. Most patients have had no exposure to asbestos, making it difficult to trace the cause of the disease. Furthermore, the pathway of asbestos fibers to the testicles isn’t clear.
Diagnosis is also difficult as there’s no specific set of symptoms unique to this disease. In most cases, a doctor may only be able to provide an accurate diagnosis through surgery.
Some common symptoms, though, are hydrocele (a build-up of fluid in the scrotum) and lumps. Some other symptoms that this may cause include:
- Epididymitis (inflammation of the epididymis)
- Spermatocele (cyst in the epididymis)
- Pain in the testes or groin
The prognosis of this disease is about 2 years on average, but surgery and chemotherapy can help extend the life of a patient to more than that. The recurrence of the disease also affects the prognosis.
The Different Types of Mesothelioma by Types of Cells
Aside from the location, the treatment options and prognosis will also depend on the type of mesothelioma cells found during lab tests. These cells have different reactions to treatments, and the cell types can account for a difference of a few months of survival. This is why an accurate diagnosis is important, which can be difficult at times.
Epithelioid mesothelioma cells are the most common type of cell. It’s also the most responsive to treatment.
This type makes up 50% of pleural mesothelioma cases, while it’s 75% for peritoneal mesothelioma. For pericardial mesothelioma cases, it’s about 1/3 and then 2/3 for testicular mesothelioma. Overall, epithelioid mesothelioma cells make up about 75% of all cases of this cancer.
This type of mesothelioma cell has the best prognosis out of all 3 cell types. This is because it’s less aggressive and it spreads much slower than the other 2.
The main challenge of epithelioid mesothelioma is diagnosing it. Epithelial cancer may be due to different causes. This is why doctors may confuse epithelioid mesothelioma with adenocarcinoma, for example.
Patients may undergo multimodal therapy if they qualify for it. This treatment plan includes surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
Sarcomatoid cells are the least common type of mesothelioma cells. Contrary to the epithelial cells, these are also the most resistant to treatment.
Sarcomatoid mesothelioma makes up 20% of all pleural mesothelioma cases. It also makes up 1% of peritoneal mesothelioma and 1/3 of pericardial mesothelioma cases. For testicular mesothelioma, there has only been one case with pure sarcomatoid cells.
Overall, it accounts for 7 to 20% of all mesothelioma cases.
Diagnosing this particular mesothelioma type is also difficult. The appearance of tumors with sarcomatoid cells often other types of tumor.
For this reason, a doctor may misdiagnose and confuse it with other diseases, such as:
- Pleural liposarcoma
- Localized fibrous tumors
The prognosis for this type is poor, and treatments are not as many as in other types. Surgery may be an option, but it’s quite hard to remove these tumors.
This type of mesothelioma consists of a mixture of epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells. Each one should make up at least 10% of the tumor for the doctor to consider it as biphasic.
This type of mesothelioma makes up 30% of pleural mesothelioma cases. For peritoneal mesothelioma, it’s 24%. It also makes up about a third of pericardial mesothelioma and also a third of testicular cases.
Overall, it makes up about 5 to 20% of all mesothelioma cases.
Because of its nature, doctors will have to take tissue samples from different parts of the tumor. In some cases, doctors may have to perform surgery to arrive at a diagnosis.
It has a poorer prognosis than epithelioid, and so its treatment isn’t as aggressive. Treatment will depend more on the location of the mesothelioma.
Find Help with Mesothelioma and Asbestos Poisoning Now
As the symptoms of all types of mesothelioma may be severe, you’ll have to miss work. Hopefully, this guide helped showcase the different types, narrowing which ones you or your loved one has to deal with.
If you need the law on your side, contact us today. Let’s discuss your mesothelioma case and see where you stand.
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