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What are the types of mesothelioma?

The two main types of mesothelioma are pleural mesothelioma and peritoneal mesothelioma.  Rarely, mesothelioma can arise in other areas such as the pericardium (the lining around the heart) and the testicles.

Pleural mesothelioma

Pleural mesothelioma is the more common type of the disease.  The pleura is a lining of the chest wall that consists of two layers called the visceral (inner) layer and the parietal (outer) layer. The space between the two layers is called the pleural space and contains a small amount of fluid that lubricates the two layers and allows them to slide comfortably over each other when we breathe in and out.  A tumour can grow on the pleura which will form a solid coating around the lung and may cause breathing to become restricted and painful.

Peritoneal mesothelioma

Peritoneal mesothelioma is less common than pleural mesothelioma.  The peritoneum is the lining of the abdomen which again consists of two layers and helps to protect organs.  It produces fluid which helps the abdominal organs to move smoothly against each other as we move around.

Peritoneal mesothelioma causes the peritoneum to thicken and stop working properly.  Because pleural mesothelioma is more common than peritoneal mesothelioma and can spread to the abdomen, it may be necessary to clarify whether or not pleural mesothelioma is the primary cancer.

Different cell types of mesothelioma

As well as mesothelioma being found in different parts of the body, there are different cell types of mesothelioma.  These can be identified by looking at the cancerous cells under a microscope.

There are three different cell types of mesothelioma; epithelioid mesothelioma, sarcomatoid mesothelioma and biphasic mesothelioma.

Epithelioid mesothelioma is the most common type and tends to grow more slowly than the others, so may respond better to treatments.  When viewed under a microscope the cells appear relatively uniform and are cube-shaped.

Sacrcomatoid is less common than epithelioid mesothelioma and can be more aggressive.  The cells are less uniform and oval in appearance.

Biphasic mesothelioma is a mixture of the two other types and contains both types of cells.

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