Illinois residents may be familiar with mesothelioma, a rare but aggressive cancer usually caused by exposure to the mineral asbestos. This cancer affects the mesothelium, or lining around the lungs, heart and other internal organs. While pleural mesothelioma, the kind affecting the lining of the lungs, is the most common, pericardial mesothelioma, affecting the heart, deserves some attention. There are some 200 reported cases of it.

With pericardial mesothelioma, there are no set symptoms that doctors can go by to diagnose it, which is why only 25% of the 200 cases were diagnosed before the patient’s death. Whenever it is diagnosed, it’s already at an advanced stage by then. Possible symptoms, though, include nausea and dizziness, shortness of breath, continual fatigue and weight loss.

Because this cancer affects the pericardium, which is so close to the heart, it’s difficult to treat it. Chemotherapy can shrink the tumor but is otherwise ineffective. In many cases, it’s impossible for patients to have their tumor removed through surgical resection.

On average, patients live between six weeks and 15 months after the diagnosis. Besides its rarity and inconsistent symptoms, what makes pericardial mesothelioma dangerous is how quickly it metastasizes – that is, spreads to other parts of the body. In 25-50% of cases, doctors who diagnose it find that it has already spread to the lymph node system.

Those who develop mesothelioma may have been exposed to asbestos through no fault of their own. For example, the mineral may have been in an old building that they were working in, and they had not received the proper safety equipment from their employer. Or it could be that victims were exposed to it through certain talcum powder products. Whatever their situation, victims may be able to seek compensation for their losses with the assistance of an attorney.