There are three ways to categorize the type of mesothelioma a person has.
The first is by where the tumors are found in the body (lungs, abdomen, or heart), the second is whether or not the tumor is cancerous (malignant or benign), and the third is by the type of cell structure the cancer has (epithelioid, sarcomatoid, or biphasic).
Types of Mesothelioma by Site
Pleural mesothelioma is not always easily detectable. Frequently, in the early stages of the disease, such as stage 1 mesothelioma, symptoms may be mild. Patients usually report pain in one area of the chest that never seems to go away, weight loss and fever. Occasionally, other symptoms are more severe and include problems with breathing due to fluid build up in the chest. A CT Scan of the chest area has proven to be the best test for identifying how far along the disease has progressed.
Frequently serum markers are used to diagnose of various forms of cancer. Mesothelioma cannot be diagnosed using this method as no serum markers currently exist.
The mesothelioma survival rate for patients diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma typically is not high, as patients often do not live beyond seventeen months from the onset of symptoms. Only 8% of those with a mesothelioma diagnosis will live three to five years from the onset of mesothelioma symptoms.
Peritoneal mesothelioma originates in the abdomen and will frequently spread to other organs in area including the liver, spleen or bowel. Severe abdominal pain is the most common complaint that patients first experience. There may also be a discomfort level with fluid buildup in the abdomen as well. Other symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma may include difficult bowel movements, nausea and vomiting, fever and swollen feet.
The survival rate for those diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma is typically in the range of approximately ten months from the time that they first started experiencing the symptoms noted above. However, outcomes are quite variable from one patient to another, so population-based statistics should not be presumed to limit the outcome for an individual patient.
Pericardial mesothelioma is the least common form of mesothelioma. Pericardial mesothelioma, as the name suggests, involves the heart. This rare type of mesothelioma cancer invades the pericardium, the sac that surrounds the heart. As the cancer progresses, the heart is not able to deliver oxygen as efficiently to the body causing further decline in health at an increasingly rapid rate. The symptoms most commonly associated with pericardial mesothelioma mimic those of a heart attack: nausea, pain in the chest and shortness of breath.
Types of Mesothelioma Tumors
The symptoms associated with malignant mesothelioma make it difficult for doctors to diagnose. Often, by the time that a proper diagnosis is made, the disease has progressed to a point where patients do not respond well to treatment therapy. Malignant mesothelioma is caused almost exclusively by the inhalation of airborne asbestos particles. Another unique factor associated with the disease is that there can be a long latency period between the time of asbestos exposure and the actual manifestation of the disease in the form of malignant mesothelioma.
Benign mesothelioma, or non-malignant mesothelioma, is much easier to treat than the malignant form of the cancer and can be treated successfully in many cases.
Mesothelioma Cell Types
Epithelial Mesothelioma is the most common cell type and accounts for approximately 50-75% percent of all diagnosed cases each year. These cells are uniform in shape, with an elongated pattern that makes them easily distinguishable when viewed under high magnification. These types ofcancercells are adenocarcinomas, malignancies which are more commonly associated with pure lung cancers as opposed to cancers of the mesothelium.
Sarcomatoid mesothelioma is a less common cell type, accounting for between 7 and 20% of mesothelioma cases each year. These cells grow forth out of supportive structures, such as muscles and bones.
Biphasic mesotheliomas are those with a mix of epithelial and sarcomatoid cell types. Mesothelioma treatment options do not vary greatly for different cell types, but often sarcomatoid mesotheliomas are more difficult to treat as a result of the surrounding affected tissues that they spread from.
Mesothelioma Research Foundation of America - Types of Mesothelioma
Cancer Research UK - Types of Mesothelioma