The pericardium is wrapped around the heart and the origin points of all the body’s major veins and arteries. The pericardium keeps the heart in place, stops it from expanding when it is under pressure, and provides lubrication for the heart’s beating motion. There are two layers to the pericardium, the visceral layer and the parietal layer. The visceral layer is inside, next to the heart, while the parietal layer is outside. Between the two layers is a fluid layer, called pericardial fluid. The parietal layer is tougher and stronger than the visceral layer; the two layers and the liquid insulating layer provide protection for the heart from damage to the chest.
Relatively little is known about pericardial mesothelioma because it is a fairly rare form of the disease; nearly all mesothelioma sufferers have pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma.
It is established that asbestos exposure is the primary cause for pericardial mesothelioma, however; what is not known is exactly how the asbestos reaches the heart. One possibility is that the smallest asbestos fibers might enter the bloodstream from the lungs, and be thus carried into the heart cavity.
Prognosis for those with pericardial mesothelioma is grim and palliative treatment is usually the only option for people diagnosed with pericardial mesothelioma. This type of treatment is performed to improve a patient's quality of life, and reduce the severity of symptoms caused by the build-up of fluid in the pericardium. Fine needle aspiration may be carried out to remove excess fluid as well. In some cases, radiation therapy may be an option. Unfortunately, the proximity of the heart and lungs make this a risky prospect.