Can Mesothelioma Develop in the Heart?

Mesothelioma can develop in the pericardium, which is known as pericardial mesothelioma. This particular form of mesothelioma is very rare, with research indicating that it comprises from one to six percent of total mesothelioma diagnosis. Pericardial mesothelioma accounts for approximately half of all pericardial tumors. Pericardial tumors tend to be diffuse, which means they are not localized and likely to cover most of the heart.

What is the Pericardium?

The pericardium is a double-walled sac that contains the heart and the roots of the great vessels. In plain terms the pericardium surrounds the heart and bases of the pulmonary artery and aorta. This membrane is comprised of two layers, an outer layer known as the parietal layer and an inner layer called the epicardium. The outer layer helps to line the whole of the chest cavity, while the inner layer lines the heart.

Symptoms of Pericardial Mesothelioma

Symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma are often similar to other forms of the cancer, as well as likely to mimic other heart conditions, inhibiting a speedy accurate diagnosis. Symptoms of mesothelioma in general tend to present only after the cancer has developed into the later stages. This is because while the asbestos fibers that cause mesothelioma can take a long time to create cancerous tumors, once the cells are such they reproduce at an extremely rapid rate. This is referred to as the cancer’s latency period, which is the time between the initial exposure to asbestos and the onset of symptoms. Latency periods for all forms of mesothelioma are anywhere between 20 to 50 years according to the American Cancer Society.

A list of the symptoms associated with pericardial mesothelioma include:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Murmurs
  • Heart palpitations
  • Fever or night sweats
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Dyspnea (difficulty breathing, even when resting)
  • Orthopnea (difficulty breathing when lying down)
  • Chronic cough

As is the case with other types of mesothelioma, the pericardial variety is more common in men. The Texas Heart Institute Journal published a study stating the diagnostic ration between men and women was 2:1.


Pericardial mesothelioma is extremely difficult to treat and almost all options are palliative in nature. The survival rate for mesothelioma, according to the American Cancer Society, is anywhere from 4 to 18 months following diagnosis, these numbers can vary in the instance of rarer forms of mesothelioma. Fortunately, medical science is constantly conducting clinical trials and other forms of research in an attempt to better understand this form of cancer and develop better curative options, offering more hope to those who have been diagnosed. Workers, veterans, or others who suspect they have been exposed to asbestos should speak with their health professional regarding their chances of developing a related illness or disease.

American Cancer Society
Texas Heart Institute Journal