Types of Mesothelioma

There are four main types of mesothelioma. Each type affects the lining of different parts of the body (lungs, abdomen, heart, and testicles). Learn more about the types of mesothelioma and how to get treatment and financial aid by working with Lung Cancer Group.

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Written and Fact-Checked by: Lung Cancer Group

What Are the Four Types of Mesothelioma?

Each type of mesothelioma is named after which part of the mesothelium (thin lining protecting sensitive parts of the body) that cancer first develops.

The four main types of mesothelioma are:
  • Pleural mesothelioma, which develops in the lining of the lungs (pleura)
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma, which develops in the lining of the abdomen (peritoneum)
  • Pericardial mesothelioma, which develops in the heart lining (pericardium)
  • Testicular mesothelioma, which develops in the testicle lining (tunica vaginalis)

Each type has unique symptoms, but they share the same cause — exposure to asbestos, a deadly carcinogen that was widely used between the 1930s and 1980s.

All mesothelioma types can be fatal without treatment. Fortunately, Lung Cancer Group can help patients with any type of mesothelioma get medical care and financial aid to pay for it.

Lung Cancer Group has partnered with Amy Fair, a registered nurse with over 20 years of experience helping mesothelioma patients find top doctors and treatments. Contact us today to see what mesothelioma treatment is available near you.

Diagnosing Different Mesothelioma Types

Doctor looks at xraysIf you believe you have mesothelioma, contact your cancer treatment (oncology) provider to get diagnosed.

Your health care team will use various tests to diagnose you, including:

  • Imaging tests such as positron emission tomography (PET), computed tomography or CT scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans can spot mesothelioma signs. Depending on the type of mesothelioma doctors suspect, imaging scans will be done in various parts of the body, like the chest or abdomen. Doctors can also use these tests to see whether your cancer has spread to lymph nodes and other areas of your body (metastasis).
  • Biopsies remove a small portion of tissue for lab examination. It is the only way to diagnose mesothelioma. Your doctor may perform a biopsy by using a needle through the skin or collecting a tissue sample during surgery. Where the biopsy is taken from will depend on where imaging scans showed signs of mesothelioma.

Pleural Mesothelioma

Pleural mesothelioma begins in the lining of the lungs and chest wall known as the pleura. It is the most common type of mesothelioma, accounting for about 80-85% of diagnoses every year.

Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include:

  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Fluid buildup in the lungs (pleural effusion)
  • Persistent cough
  • Shortness of breath

Unfortunately, these symptoms may be mistaken for other less serious conditions at first or not appear until the cancer is in its more advanced stages.

If you have any of these symptoms and were exposed to asbestos, talk with your doctor as soon as possible to begin diagnostic testing.

Treatment for Pleural Mesothelioma

Doctors may use multiple mesothelioma treatment options to care for malignant pleural mesothelioma patients.

Common treatments for pleural mesothelioma include:

  • Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP): This surgery removes the cancerous lung and parts of the diaphragm, lung lining, and heart lining.
  • Pleurectomy with decortication: This surgery is less intense than an EPP, as it keeps both lungs intact. Doctors still remove any cancer tumors and the lung lining. In some cases, infected lymph nodes, the diaphragm, or the lining of the heart may also be removed.
  • Chemotherapy: Cancer-killing drugs are given to shrink tumors. Chemotherapy may be used by itself or along with other treatments to help pleural mesothelioma patients live longer.
  • Immunotherapy: This treatment boosts the immune system either through medications or through modifying cells in the lab to help target and kill cancer cells.
  • Radiation therapy: With high-energy beams or X-rays, this treatment destroys the DNA of cancer cells and disrupts the tumors’ ability to grow or spread.
  • Tumor treating fields (TTFields): This treatment uses low-intensity electrical to stop the growth of mesothelioma tumors. It is non-invasive and allows patients to wear treatment devices throughout their days.

Some pleural mesothelioma patients can also get newer treatments through clinical trials (cancer research studies).

Which pleural mesothelioma treatments will be best for you will depend on the unique factors in your case. Be sure to work with an experienced mesothelioma doctor to develop the best treatment plan for your case.

Prognosis for Pleural Mesothelioma

The prognosis, or expected outcome, for pleural mesothelioma is measured using life expectancy and survival rate.

  • The overall life expectancy of pleural mesothelioma is about 18 months.
  • The 5-year survival rate for pleural mesothelioma is about 12%, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).

Despite these estimates, some pleural mesothelioma patients have lived for years or decades thanks to medical treatment.

John was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in 2019. Chemotherapy treatment has allowed him to fight mesothelioma for 4 years.

Our team can connect you with Amy Fair, a registered nurse who has helped mesothelioma patients find the best treatments for over 20 years. Contact us today to see how we can help you.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Peritoneal mesothelioma affects the lining of the abdominal cavity known as the peritoneum. It is the second-most common type of mesothelioma accounting for roughly 10-15% of diagnoses.

Signs and symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Changes in bowel movements
  • Fluid buildup in the abdomen (ascites)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss

Treatment for Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Doctors may use several cancer treatments to help peritoneal mesothelioma patients, including chemotherapy and surgery.

A common peritoneal mesothelioma treatment is cytoreductive surgery with hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC). In this two-part procedure, doctors first remove all visible tumors from the abdomen then bathe the surgical site with heated chemotherapy to kill any remaining cancer cells.

Prognosis for Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Peritoneal mesothelioma has a more positive prognosis than pleural mesothelioma.

  • Patients who receive cytoreductive surgery with HIPEC have an average life expectancy of 53 months.
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma patients have a 5-year survival rate of 65%, according to the Moffitt Cancer Center.

Getting the best peritoneal mesothelioma treatment is key to living longer — those who don’t get treated typically live for only 1 year or less. Some peritoneal mesothelioma patients have survived for 20 years or more thanks tomedical care.

“I look back, and all of a sudden I realize that I’ve accumulated a lot of days.”
– Julie Gundlach, 17+ Year Peritoneal Mesothelioma Survivor

Contact us to get connected with our on-staff registered nurses to find the best treatment for you.

Rare Types of Mesothelioma

Pericardial mesothelioma and testicular mesothelioma are two extremely rare types of mesothelioma, accounting for fewer than 1% of all mesothelioma cases. Learn about each below.

Pericardial Mesothelioma

Pericardial mesothelioma affects the pericardium, the lining of the heart.

Pericardial mesothelioma symptoms include:

  • Chest pain
  • Dry cough
  • Pericardial effusion (fluid buildup in the lining of the heart)
  • Shoulder pain
  • Swelling of the lower extremities and legs

Unfortunately, it is rare for this type of mesothelioma to be caught early enough for treatment. Only 10-20% of pericardial cases are diagnosed before the patient’s death.

If it is caught early, doctors may try to perform surgery to remove the lining of the heart or recommend palliative care, which focuses on easing symptoms.

Testicular Mesothelioma

Testicular mesothelioma affects the tunica vaginalis, the lining of the testicles (tunica vaginalis). It is very rare with fewer than 300 cases reported.

Symptoms include painful swelling and a buildup of fluid in the testicles.

Testicular mesothelioma may have a more positive prognosis with:

  • A 5-year survival rate of 59%, according to a 2019 study published in the medical journal Urology
  • An average life expectancy of 46.7 months, according to research published in Environmental Health.

Doctors can treat testicular mesothelioma through surgery to remove parts of the testicle lining or testicle that the cancer has grown into.

Mesothelioma Cell Types

Researchers also classify mesothelioma according to different cell types.

The different mesothelioma cell types include:
  • Epithelioid mesothelioma: Also known as epithelial cells, these rectangular cells stick together, making them spread slower. This type is easier to treat than other cell types as a result. Around 70% of all mesothelioma cases are epithelioid, according to the Hillman Cancer Center.
  • Sarcomatoid mesothelioma: These cells are spindle shaped and spread much faster than epithelial cells. This is the least common cell type.
  • Biphasic mesothelioma: These tumors have a combination of both epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells. Biphasic tumors with more sarcomatoid cells are much more aggressive than those with more epithelioid cells.

Treatment may vary depending on the type of cells present in a patient’s tumors. Be sure to talk with an experienced mesothelioma specialist for an appropriate treatment plan.

Do you need help finding the best mesothelioma treatment for you? Lung Cancer Group has partnered with Amy Fair, a registered nurse with 20 years of experience helping those affected by mesothelioma find top doctors and treatment centers. Contact us now to get connected.

What Causes Different Types of Mesothelioma to Develop?

Asbestos fibersResearchers are still trying to understand how and why different types of mesothelioma.

Every type of mesothelioma is caused by asbestos, but experts believe that asbestos is more likely to cause pleural mesothelioma if it’s breathed in since the fibers go directly into the lungs.

Peritoneal mesothelioma could be more likely to develop if asbestos fibers are swallowed, as they’ll end up in the abdomen.

For rarer types of mesothelioma such as pericardial and testicular mesothelioma, it’s possible that the fibers moved to different parts of the body after being swallowed or breathed in.

Risk Factors for Types of Mesothelioma

Certain factors may put someone who was exposed to asbestos at even greater risk of developing any type of mesothelioma.

Some of these risk factors include:

  • Age: Older people are at a higher risk of developing mesothelioma. According to the ACS, around 66% of people with mesothelioma are 65 or older.
  • A family history of mesothelioma: People with siblings, children, and parents with mesothelioma have a higher chance of developing the condition.
  • Living with someone who works with asbestos: People who work with asbestos may carry the fibers home on their clothing, hair, and skin, putting their loved ones at risk of asbestos exposure.
  • Sex: Men are more likely to have mesothelioma than women. This is probably because more men work in jobs with risk of heavy asbestos exposure.

Compensation Options for All Mesothelioma Types

Mesothelioma patients and their family members can hold asbestos product manufacturers accountable and receive compensation no matter which type of mesothelioma they have.

Compensation options for mesothelioma victims include:
  • Asbestos trust fund claims: If you developed mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos-containing products, you may be able to file claims against mesothelioma trust funds. These trust funds were created by bankrupt asbestos manufacturers to compensate victims of asbestos exposure and their families.
  • Mesothelioma lawsuits: You may qualify to file a lawsuit if you were exposed to asbestos and developed mesothelioma. Family members who lost their loved ones to mesothelioma may also be able to file wrongful death lawsuits. Mesothelioma lawsuits award $1 million or more on average.
  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) claims: If you or a loved one are a veteran and developed mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos during your service, you may be able to receive VA disability, compensation, health care, and other benefits.

Talk to an experienced mesothelioma lawyer to learn more about your options after being diagnosed with any mesothelioma type.

Find Help After a Mesothelioma Diagnosis

A mesothelioma diagnosis, regardless of the type, can be stressful and overwhelming. To make matters worse, mesothelioma treatments can cost over $500,000 in many cases.

You and your family do not have to do face a mesothelioma diagnosis alone.

Lung Cancer Group is here to help. Our team can connect you with financial support resources as well as registered nurses with years of experience helping mesothelioma patients find the best treatment options.

Schedule a free case review today to learn more about your options.

FAQs on Types of Mesothelioma

Are there different types of mesothelioma?

Yes, there are four different types of mesothelioma:

  • Pleural mesothelioma (forms in the lung lining)
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma (forms in the abdominal lining)
  • Pericardial mesothelioma (forms in the lining of the heart)
  • Testicular mesothelioma (forms in the testicle lining)

Each type has different symptoms and treatments so be sure to work with a mesothelioma specialist for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

The most common type of mesothelioma is pleural mesothelioma, which accounts for 80-85% of all diagnoses each year. Peritoneal mesothelioma is the second most common type, accounting for 10-15% of diagnoses.

Pericardial mesothelioma and testicular mesothelioma are the rarest types of mesothelioma. They account for less than 1% of diagnoses each year.

Yes, all types of mesothelioma are caused by asbestos, whether inhaled or ingested. Asbestos is also the cause of several other serious health conditions including lung cancer and asbestosis.

Those who are diagnosed with asbetos-related illnesses can seek financial assistance for their treatment. Contact Lung Cancer Group today at (877) 446-5767 to see how we can help.

Lung Cancer Group was established by a team of caring advocates so those with lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases can get the help they deserve. Our site provides the most accurate and up-to-date information about lung cancer, its link to asbestos, and financial compensation available to patients. Contact us to learn more and get assistance.

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