What Are the Different Types of Mesothelioma?
There are four main types of mesothelioma cancer: pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma, pericardial mesothelioma, and testicular mesothelioma. Each type forms in different parts of the mesothelium, the thin tissue surrounding sensitive organs.
Malignant pleural mesothelioma is the most common type of mesothelioma. It accounts for over 75% of all cases, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). It begins in the pleura, the lining of the lungs.
Peritoneal mesothelioma is the second most common type. Fewer than 20% of all cases fall under this mesothelioma type, according to a 2022 report from the medical journal Cureus. It affects the peritoneum, the lining of the abdomen.
Pericardial mesothelioma is a very rare type of this cancer. This mesothelioma type forms in the pericardium, the lining of the heart.
Testicular mesothelioma is the rarest form of mesothelioma. Only a few hundred cases have ever been reported. It affects the tunica vaginalis, the pouch that surrounds the testicles.
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Mesothelioma Cell Types
In addition to where the cancer tumors form, doctors can classify cases of mesothelioma by cell type. Mesothelioma tumors can be made up of epithelioid and/or sarcomatoid cells.
The type of cells a mesothelioma patient has is very important because some cells are easier to treat than others. Learn about each mesothelioma cell type below.
Epithelial or epithelioid mesothelioma is the most common cell type. Approximately 70% of people with this cancer have epithelioid mesothelioma, according to the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.
Epithelioid mesothelioma cells stick together easily. As a result, they are less likely to spread and patients with this type usually have a better prognosis when compared to the other mesothelioma cell types.
Sarcomatoid mesothelioma is the least common type of mesothelioma cell, making up just 10-20% of all cases, according to the ACS.
These cells are spindle-shaped and don’t collect together as well as epithelial cells do. This makes them more likely to spread through the body, leading to a poorer overall prognosis for those with this cell type.
Also known as mixed mesothelioma, biphasic mesothelioma tumors are made up of both epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells. Specifically, a tumor is considered biphasic if it contains at least 10% of either cell types.
This is the second-most common mesothelioma cell type. According to the ACS, 20-30% of cases fall under this type. If the biphasic tumor contains more epithelial cells than sarcomatoid cells, the patient will likely have a better prognosis.
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What Causes Different Types of Mesothelioma to Form?
All mesothelioma types share a common cause: exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that was used throughout many industries before the risks were well-known.
Today, asbestos is the only known cause of every mesothelioma type. Learn how asbestos causes mesothelioma below.
1. Asbestos Exposure
When people disturb asbestos-containing materials, such as by removing materials during construction or remodeling, they can inhale or swallow asbestos fibers.
Most asbestos exposure happened at worksites prior to the early 1980s (when the risks became public knowledge). However, people are still at risk today since asbestos-containing materials are still used and present in older buildings.
2. Formation of Mesothelioma
Asbestos fibers are so durable that, once they enter the body, they might never break down. Stray asbestos fibers can make their way into different parts of the mesothelium and get trapped there.
Over time, the fibers will irritate mesothelial cells, leading to the formation of scar tissue plaques. Malignant mesothelioma tumors may begin to grow within this scar tissue.
Symptoms of Different Types of Mesothelioma
Each mesothelioma type causes different symptoms. Most patients will only experience symptoms after the cancer has become more advanced. See the symptoms of each type below.
Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms
- Chest pain
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- Fluid around the lungs (pleural effusion)
- Lumps in the chest area
- Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal fluid collection (ascites)
- Appetite loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Unintended weight loss
Pericardial Mesothelioma Symptoms
- Abnormal heart rhythm patterns
- Chest pain
- Low blood pressure
- Trouble breathing
Testicular Mesothelioma Symptoms
- Cyst in the epididymis (spermatocele)
- Lump in the scrotum
- Swelling in the scrotum (hydrocele)
Do you have possible symptoms of mesothelioma? Access medical care with our team’s help: Contact us now.
Treatment for Different Mesothelioma Types
Doctors use different mesothelioma treatment methods depending on which mesothelioma type they’re dealing with. Learn about some of the treatment options for mesothelioma types below.
Pleural Mesothelioma Treatments
Doctors treating pleural mesothelioma will typically want to remove as much of the cancer as possible.
Pleural mesothelioma treatments include:
- Chemotherapy drugs: These are cancer-killing medications. Cisplatin and pemetrexed are often combined to treat pleural mesothelioma.
- Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP): This surgery allows doctors to remove the lung nearest the cancer tumors, along with the pleura and all of the cancer they can see.
- Immunotherapy: This treatment boosts the body’s immune system response to better fight cancer.
- Pleurectomy with decortication (P/D): A P/D is a less-intense alternative to an EPP. Neither lung is removed, but the pleura and the cancer tumors are still taken out. This allows patients to recover faster and lowers the risks of complications when compared to an EPP.
- Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy allows doctors to shrink the cancer tumors with X-rays or beams of energy.
- Tumor treating fields (TTFields): Doctors attach electric pads to the chest. The pads don’t hurt but the electrical fields they give off shrinks the tumors.
If the pleural mesothelioma cells have spread too far for surgery to remove them completely, doctors can only offer palliative care like debulking surgery and pleurodesis.
Palliative treatments do not treat the cancer itself, but they can ease symptoms to improve the patient’s quality of life.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Treatments
The most effective treatment for peritoneal mesothelioma is called cytoreductive surgery with heated chemotherapy (HIPEC).
Cytoreduction with HIPEC allows doctors to remove all of the tumors from the abdominal lining, and then bathe it in warmed chemotherapy to destroy microscopic cancer cells. Patients can live for many years — and sometimes decades — following this treatment.
Palliative surgeries for peritoneal mesothelioma patients may include paracentesis, which drains fluid from the abdomen to relieve uncomfortable pressure from fluid build-up.
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Pericardial Mesothelioma Treatments
To treat pericardial mesothelioma, doctors may use surgery to remove the diseased pericardium. They may also prescribe a combination of the chemotherapy drugs cisplatin and pemetrexed.
Testicular Mesothelioma Treatments
Treatment of testicular mesothelioma may involve surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy. If the cancer is localized, doctors may perform an orchiectomy to remove the cancerous tissue and the testicle nearest to the cancer.
The care team may also perform lymph node dissection if there are signs of metastasis (spread) to nearby lymph nodes.
Survival Rates for Different Mesothelioma Types
Mesothelioma survival rates vary depending on the stage and the type. Early-stage cancers have higher survival rates, while late or advanced-stage cancers have lower survival rates.
Here’s a breakdown of mesothelioma survival rates by type:
- Pleural mesothelioma: According to the ACS, people with pleural mesothelioma have a 5-year relative survival rate of 12%.
- Peritoneal mesothelioma: The 5-year survival rate for this type was 60% provided patients were treated using cytoreduction with HIPEC, according to the medical journal Cureus.
- Pericardial mesothelioma: Just 9% of patients were still alive 5 years after diagnosis, as noted by the medical journal Circulation.
- Testicular mesothelioma: The medical journal Urology found that the 5-year overall survival rate for this mesothelioma type was 49%.
Access Resources for Your Type of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma Resource Group can help those with all mesothelioma types following a diagnosis.
Not only do we provide information about each type of mesothelioma, but we can also match you with key resources to make living with this cancer easier.
These resources include:
- Cancer treatments and clinical trials
- Financial aid
- Oncology care professionals
Don’t wait: Get a free case review right now to start the process. The help you need for any mesothelioma type is just around the corner.
FAQs About Mesothelioma Types
What type of cancer is mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive type of cancer that affects the lining of either the lungs, abdomen, heart, or testicles.
It’s not to be confused with lung cancer. Lung cancer occurs when tumors form in the lungs.
What is the rarest form of mesothelioma?
The rarest mesothelioma type is testicular mesothelioma. Between 1943 and 2018, only 289 cases of this type were reported, according to the medical journal Environmental Health.
In contrast, over 2,200 people each year are diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma.
Are all types of mesothelioma malignant?
Almost all mesothelioma types are malignant (cancerous). However, in very rare cases, mesothelioma can be benign or non-cancerous.
Treatment is different for benign mesothelioma because it does not spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Usually, your cancer doctor will remove benign mesothelioma growths in a surgical procedure.
Are all mesothelioma types curable?
No. There is currently no known cure for any type of mesothelioma. However, treatment can extend patients’ life expectancies and make them more comfortable.
We can help you locate cancer specialists to treat whichever mesothelioma type you have. Call (888) 360-2406 now.