Mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelium. The mesothelium is a delicate membrane that surrounds, lubricates and protects various vital organs. Mesothelioma can take any one of these forms:
Pleural mesothelioma: Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of mesothelioma, affecting the pleura, or the membrane that lines the lungs. Approximately three-quarters of all mesothelioma cases are pleural mesothelioma.
Peritoneal mesothelioma: This form of mesothelioma forms in the peritoneum, which is the lining of the abdomen. Peritoneal mesothelioma accounts for between 10 and 20 percent of mesothelioma cases.
Pericardial mesothelioma: The pericardium is the membrane that surrounds the heart. Less than 10 percent of mesothelioma cases involve pericardial mesothelioma. Treatment options for this form of mesothelioma are particularly difficult, due to the fact the tumors are so close to the heart.
Testicular mesothelioma: There are fewer than 100 recorded diagnoses of testicular mesothelioma. This type of mesothelioma can originate in the tunica vaginalis, or lining of the testes. Testicular mesothelioma is sometimes a secondary cancer, or has spread from the pleura or peritoneum to the testes.
There are different types of malignant mesothelioma cancer cells as well. The type of cellular structure of your mesothelioma will impact the effectiveness of treatment options and overall life expectancy. Mesothelioma cells can take on the following forms:
- Epithelial mesothelioma: The most common type of mesothelioma, epithelial mesothelioma accounts for a majority of these cases. Epithelial cells are structured in an orderly fashion, which can make it somewhat easier to diagnose. While epithelial mesothelioma is always fatal, individuals with this form of the disease may have slightly higher life expectancies than other forms of the disease.
- Sarcomatoid mesothelioma: Approximately 10 to 15 percent of mesothelioma cases are of the sarcomatoid variety.
- Sarcomatoid cells appear to be formed randomly, and can often look like healthy cells. This creates many problems in diagnosing the disease. Further, these cells are especially resistant to treatment efforts. Individuals with this form of mesothelioma tend to have very limited life expectancies.
- Biphasic mesothelioma: This type of cellular structure has characteristics of both epithelial mesothelioma and sarcomatoid mesothelioma.