Sarcomatoid mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that can occur when a person has long term exposure to the mineral fiber asbestos. It typically develops in the lining of organs and spaces in the body.

These organs and spaces include the lungs, heart, abdomen, and testes. It can also spread to other parts of the body.

This article discusses sarcomatoid mesothelioma in more detail, including causes, symptoms, and diagnosis.

It also explores treatment and the potential outlook for people with the condition.

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Sarcomatoid mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that typically affects the cells that line major organs and spaces in the body. These include the lining of the heart, lungs, abdomen, and testes.

Mesothelioma defines cancer of the mesothelium, which is a thin membrane that creates a lining in and around some of the major organs. Sarcomatoid defines a type of cell within mesothelioma tumors. Sarcomatoid cells have a long, cylinder-like shape.

This form of cancer is aggressive, growing rapidly and irregularly.

Research from 2022 suggests that sarcomatoid mesothelioma is the least common type of mesothelioma. However, it is also the most aggressive.

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Long term exposure to asbestos fibers is the main cause of sarcomatoid mesothelioma. Asbestos is a natural mineral that resides in rocks and soil.

People in the following situations are more at risk of asbestos exposure:

  • Living with a person who handles or works with asbestos.
  • Living or working in a building where materials or objects contain asbestos.
  • Residing in an area where natural asbestos fibers are present.

Many building materials, automobile parts, and weaponry from the 20th century contained asbestos before the dangers of the material became apparent. This was due to asbestos having fireproofing qualities.

Although the United States no longer mines asbestos, it may still be present in some buildings and automobile parts.

When a person works with or handles asbestos, it can release tiny fibers that a person cannot see but can easily inhale. Over time, these inhaled asbestos fibers can make changes to the cells in the body, which can then develop into sarcomatoid mesothelioma.

If a person handles asbestos or has done so in the past, they may be more at risk of developing sarcomatoid mesothelioma. Following asbestos inhalation, it typically takes a long time for a person to develop sarcomatoid mesothelioma.

According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 8 in 10 people with mesothelioma have had asbestos exposure.

Early symptoms of sarcomatoid mesothelioma can include:

These early symptoms can be similar to several common conditions, and a doctor may first diagnose a person with another condition, such as pneumonia. Additionally, symptoms may vary depending on the location of the tumor.

Other symptoms of sarcomatoid mesothelioma can include:

Sarcomatoid mesothelioma can be difficult to diagnose, as tumor markers can be very different from person to person. A tumor marker defines anything that a cancer cell produces, which can help a doctor gain more information about the cancer.

If a person experiences symptoms of sarcomatoid mesothelioma, a doctor may take a full medical history, find out if a person has had exposure to asbestos, and carry out a physical examination.

Tests that a doctor may use to diagnose sarcomatoid mesothelioma include blood tests and imaging scans, such as:

A 2020 case study suggests that the following techniques may also aid diagnosis of sarcomatoid mesothelioma:

  • Laparoscopy: For this procedure, a doctor inserts a long, thin tube with a tiny camera through small incisions in the abdomen to look inside and take biopsies of any sarcomatoid mesothelioma tumors that are present.
  • CT-guided needle biopsy: A surgeon can use a needle to extract biopsy samples of tumors or nearby lymph nodes to see if sarcomatoid mesothelioma is present. A CT scan can help a surgeon guide the needle into the correct place.
  • Laparotomy: This is a type of open surgery in which a surgeon can examine the organs in the abdomen.

As sarcomatoid mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer, there is currently no cure for the disease.

However, several treatment options may help to improve quality and length of life. These include:

  • surgery to relieve symptoms
  • removal of fluid from affected areas such as the abdomen or lungs
  • radiation therapy
  • chemotherapy before or after surgery
  • trimodality therapy (TMT), which combines surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy

Future treatment options may include immunotherapy and targeted therapy.

Sarcomatoid mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer that can take time to respond to treatment.

Studies included in a 2020 study indicated that individuals with untreated sarcomatoid mesothelioma died within 5 to 6 months.

However, individual outlooks can vary depending on a person’s overall health, how far the cancer has spread at diagnosis, and other factors. Therefore, people with sarcomatoid mesothelioma should speak with a doctor about their individual outlook.

Sarcomatoid mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that typically affects the lining of major organs and spaces in the body including the heart, lungs, abdomen, and testes. It is the least common form of mesothelioma, but the most aggressive.

The most common cause is long term exposure to asbestos. Inhaling or swallowing asbestos fibers can lead to changes in the cells that can develop into sarcomatoid mesothelioma. Early symptoms may be mild and can be similar to those of more common conditions. This means the condition can be difficult to diagnose.

A doctor may take a full medical history, perform a physical examination, and carry out other tests to help diagnose sarcomatoid mesothelioma. There is currently no known cure, but treatments, such as surgery and radiation therapy, may help to prolong and improve quality of life.

People should speak with a doctor if they know they have been at risk of asbestos exposure or if they experience any symptoms of sarcomatoid mesothelioma.