How Many Types of Mesothelioma Are There?

Mesothelioma is one of the rarest forms of cancer, with around 3,000 new diagnoses every year. A mesothelioma diagnosis can have varying effects for every patient. This is because there are several types of mesothelioma and multiple cell classifications. In fact, there are four forms of mesothelioma and three primary mesothelioma cell types. These mesothelioma cells and classifications affect how cancer forms and spreads within a patient’s body. Discover the signs and symptoms associated with the variations of mesothelioma.

What are the Four Types of Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma cancer develops in the tissues lining different organs in the body. There are four types of mesothelioma: pleural, peritoneal, pericardial, and testicular. These four kinds are classified by the locations where mesothelioma develops in a patient’s body.

Pleural Mesothelioma – Lungs

Pleural mesothelioma typeMany people confused pleural mesothelioma and lung cancer as they are both cancers of the lungs. However, pleural mesothelioma develops in the lining of the lungs, whereas lung cancer develops within the lungs themselves. This form of mesothelioma is the most common, accounting for around 75% of all mesothelioma diagnoses. Asbestos is often the cause of pleural mesothelioma as the fibers are inhaled and get trapped in the lungs. These asbestos fibers can cause lung inflammation and, therefore, cancer. Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma often include pain in the chest, shortness of breath, and lumps under the chest. The 5-year survival rate for pleural mesothelioma is 12%.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma – Abdomen

Peritoneal mesothelioma type

Although pericardial mesothelioma is the second most common form of this cancer, it only accounts for 15 to 20% of all mesothelioma cases. This form of mesothelioma affects the lining of the abdomen and abdominal cavity. Asbestos is also the primary cause of this classification of mesothelioma. People with peritoneal mesothelioma cancer often inadvertently swallow asbestos fibers. When swallowed, asbestos fibers can irritate and damage the lining of the abdominal organs and cavity. Common signs and symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma are weight loss, swelling in the abdomen, and stomach lumps. The 5-year survival rate for peritoneal mesothelioma is 65%.

Pericardial Mesothelioma – Heart

Pericardial mesothelioma type

Mesothelioma forms in the tissues lining the heart and is classified as pericardial mesothelioma. Medical professionals are not clear on the origins of pericardial mesothelioma. They suspect asbestos fibers might be the cause but are unsure of how the fibers land in the lining of the heart. Pericardial mesothelioma symptoms often include heart palpitations, chest pain, and shortness of breath. Pericardial mesothelioma has an average 5-year survival rate of 9%.

Testicular Mesothelioma – Testicles

Testicular mesothelioma type

Mesothelioma of the testicles is extremely rare, with only a few hundred cases ever reported. Doctors are unsure of the cause of this mesothelioma type but have found that this cancer most often occurs in men between the ages of 55 and 75. There is also no known set of symptoms for testicular mesothelioma. Additionally, testicular mesothelioma is so rare that there has not been a mesothelioma survival rate established by the American Cancer Society.

Mesothelioma Cell Types

Mesothelioma can also be classified by the type of cancer cell. There are three primary types of mesothelioma cells: epithelioid, sarcomatoid, and biphasic. Additionally, there are several rare subtypes of mesothelioma cells that are not considered primary classifications. Medical professionals classify cell types by the way they appear under a microscope.

Epitheloid Mesothelioma

The most common mesothelioma cell type is epitheloid, accounting for 60% of cases. An epithelioid cancer cell would have small cancerous squares if you looked at it under a microscope. The average survival rate for a patient that has epithelioid cells is 18-24 months.

Epithelioid mesothelioma cell type

Sarcomatoid Mesothelioma

Sarcomatoid mesothelioma cells account for 25% of cases. The cell characteristics are longer and skinnier than that of epithelioid cells. Sarcomatoid cells affect the survival rate of patients, resulting in a 4 to 6-month median survival rate.

Sarcomatoid mesothelioma cell type

Biphasic Mesothelioma

Biphasic mesothelioma is a combination of epithelioid and sarcomatoid cancer cells. The cancer cell has both square and thin characteristics under a microscope. Biphasic cells result in a 10 to 15-month survival rate.

Biphasic mesothelioma cell type

Other Rare Cell Types

Mesothelioma has several cell subtypes that are not classified as a primary cell type because there are so few cases. These rare cells are either subtypes of epithelioid or sarcomatoid cells.  There are several rare subtypes of mesothelioma cells including:

  • Well-differentiated papillary mesothelioma (WDPM)
  • Cystic mesothelioma
  • Desmoplastic mesothelioma
  • Lymphohistiocytoid mesothelioma

Treatments According to Type

If you are experiencing any mesothelioma or lung cancer symptoms, you should seek medical attention as mesothelioma symptoms, curative measures, and prognosis is improved when the cancer is caught early on. Although different, all forms of mesothelioma can be treated with common cancer therapies such as radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery. Additionally, patients may undergo palliative care if other they have a poor prognosis. However, treatment is typically dependent on the stage of cancer.


Chemotherapy is a form of cancer treatment that enters a patient’s body, fighting to rid the body of cancer cells. This form of cancer therapy is administered through a medication that kills and shrinks tumors. Common side effects of chemotherapy include nausea, anemia, fatigue, and hair loss. Pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma, and pericardial mesothelioma utilize chemotherapy as a form of treatment.


Radiation therapy utilizes internal and external high-energy X-rays to kill and shrink cancer cells. X-ray therapy can also decrease the risk of metastasis, or the spread, of cancer tumors. Side effects of radiation treatment include shortness of breath, hair loss, memory loss, nausea, and sore throat. Only peritoneal and pleural mesothelioma utilize radiation therapy typically.


Mesothelioma surgery involves a small incision made in the affected area, where the tumor is removed. Surgery can be used alone but is typically used in conjunction with other forms of cancer therapy. Side effects of surgery can involve infections from the wound, excess bleeding, and general pain. Pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma, and pericardial mesothelioma use surgery as a form of treatment.

Palliative Treatment

If primary therapies have not proven effective, a doctor might recommend palliative care. Palliative care typically works to decrease both physical and mental side effects from cancer or previous treatment. Palliative treatment might involve massage therapy, pain medication, or nutritional supplements. Any patient, no matter the type of mesothelioma, can undergo palliative care to create a more comfortable lifestyle for themselves.

Paying for Treatment and Seeking Compensation

Paying for treatment can seem like an overwhelming task. If you received a mesothelioma diagnosis, you may be eligible for legal action. Asbestos is a primary cause of mesothelioma and many people were negligently exposed to asbestos fibers. Whether exposed during work, through your drinking water or where you live, there are steps you can take to seek financial compensation. Understand your options by connecting with an expert today.