Mesothelioma Types

Mesothelioma can form in four main areas in the body. The location where the cancer starts determines the type of mesothelioma.
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Where Mesothelioma Starts

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A layer of specialized cells coats the inside of your chest, abdomen, and the space around your heart, as well as the outer surface of most of your internal organs. These cells form a lining known as the mesothelium. The mesothelium helps protect your organs by creating a special lubricating fluid that reduces friction when organs move against each other.

The lining has different names depending on where it is in the body: it is called pleura when it lines the lungs; peritoneum when it lines the abdominal cavity and covers the abdominal organs; pericardium when it coats the heart; and tunica vaginalis when it covers the testicles.

If the cells start to grow out of control, they can form tumors. Tumors can start in any of these linings. Cancer that starts in these linings is called mesothelioma.

Each of the four main types of mesothelioma is named for where it starts in the body.

Pleural mesothelioma icon Pleural mesothelioma — cancer of the lining of the lungs.
Peritoneal mesothelioma icon Peritoneal mesothelioma — cancer of the lining of the abdominal cavity.
Percardial Mesothelioma Icon Pericardial mesothelioma — cancer of the covering around the heart.
Male Gender Sign Icon Testicular mesothelioma — cancer of the covering of the testicles.(1)

Main Cause of All Mesothelioma Types

Mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure, usually in the workplace. Many of our mesothelioma clients worked around asbestos dust and inhaled asbestos fibers.

However, many mesothelioma clients were exposed to asbestos at home from activities such as laundering asbestos-laden clothing or were exposed to asbestos from the use of talcum powder.

If you have been diagnosed with any form of mesothelioma, you should reflect on your work background to see if there is a connection to when you worked with or around asbestos-containing products and equipment. If you can fairly trace your mesothelioma to a company’s asbestos products, then you may be able to receive compensation through filing a mesothelioma claim.

Our dedicated attorneys at Weitz & Luxenberg have an extensive knowledge of worksites across the U.S. as they have handled more than 33,000 asbestos cases. We investigate each case, pinpointing where people inhaled asbestos, what products released the asbestos fibers, and what company needs to be held accountable.

About Types of Mesothelioma

All types of mesothelioma are aggressive, incurable cancers. Doctors diagnose 3,000 new cases in the U.S. each year, many of which can be traced to job-related asbestos exposure.(2) (3) The risk of developing mesothelioma remains long after exposure to asbestos stops. In fact, signs and symptoms of the disease typically do not appear until one to five decades or more after first asbestos exposure.(4)

When symptoms do emerge, people may mistake the signs of mesothelioma for common conditions.

When symptoms do emerge, people may mistake the signs of mesothelioma for common conditions.(5) As a result, by the time a pathologist can make a definitive diagnosis, the disease is often in an advanced stage. Treatment options today aim to help relieve symptoms of the disease, which vary based on mesothelioma type.

Pleural Mesothelioma (Lungs)

Pleural mesothelioma accounts for about three out of four — or 75% — of mesothelioma diagnoses, making it the most common type of the disease. This type of mesothelioma starts in the chest.(6)

When a person breathes in asbestos fibers, the fibers become lodged deep in the lungs and collect near the lining of the lungs, irritating the lining and causing inflammation.

The fibers can trigger cells to grow uncontrollably to form tumors. Pleural mesothelioma can cause fluid to build up around the lungs, among other serious complications.(7)

Symptoms of Pleural Mesothelioma

People with pleural mesothelioma may not experience or notice symptoms until this type of cancer has progressed.

Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include:

  • Pain in the side of the chest or lower back.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Cough.
  • Fever.
  • Excessive sweating.
  • Tiredness.
  • Unintended weight loss.
  • Trouble swallowing.
  • Hoarseness
  • Swelling of the face and arms.(8)

Peritoneal Mesothelioma (Abdomen)

Sometimes people who inhale asbestos will cough up and swallow asbestos fibers. Inhaled fibers are also capable of migrating to the abdominal cavity. In these cases, a person may develop peritoneal mesothelioma, which forms on the lining of the abdominal cavity.(9)

Peritoneal mesothelioma represents about 10% to 20% of all mesothelioma diagnoses and is the second most common type of the disease.(10)

Symptoms of Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma range from abdominal pain to small bowel obstruction, which usually indicates that the cancer is in an advanced stage.(11)

Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include:

  • Abdominal pain.
  • Swelling or fluid in the abdomen.
  • Unintended weight loss.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Constipation.(12)
Peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms.

Pericardial Mesothelioma (Heart)

Pericardial mesothelioma is the most difficult form of mesothelioma to diagnose. It develops in the covering around the heart, known as the pericardium, and is a very rare form of the disease. Pericardial mesothelioma accounts for less than 1% of all mesothelioma cases.(13) (14)

Symptoms of Pericardial Mesothelioma

Warning signs of pericardial mesothelioma can be similar to those of other heart conditions.

Pericardial mesothelioma symptoms.

Symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma include:

  • Heart palpitations or irregular heartbeat.
  • Chest pains.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Fever.
  • Night sweats.
  • Fatigue.(15)

Testicular Mesothelioma

Testicular mesothelioma is difficult to diagnose because it is especially rare.(16)

This cancer develops in the membrane that lines the testes. It accounts for less than 1% of all mesothelioma diagnoses and only about 100 cases have been reported.(17)

With so few cases of this type of cancer, researchers have not definitively linked it to specific symptoms. Some people with the disease have reported swelling and/or fluid in one or both testicles.(18)

Mesothelioma Cell Types

Another way doctors may describe mesothelioma is by cell type or how the cancer cells are arranged.

There are three main mesothelioma cell types:

  • Epithelial — accounts for about half of mesotheliomas.
  • Sarcomatoid (fibrous) — accounts for about 10% of mesotheliomas.
  • Biphasic (has both epithelioid and sarcomatoid areas) — accounts for about 30% to 40% of mesotheliomas.(19)
Pie Chart of the 3 Mesothelioma Cell Types

How Weitz & Luxenberg Can Help

Weitz & Luxenberg is a nationally recognized leader in asbestos litigation. For almost four decades, our attorneys have helped mesothelioma victims and their loved ones obtain the compensation they deserve.

We have the resources and experience necessary to hold asbestos companies accountable for neglecting to protect the health and safety of their employees and end-users of their products.

For a free legal consultation, please call (833) 544-0604 or fill out a form to speak with one of our dedicated mesothelioma lawyers.

  1. American Cancer Society. (2018, November 16). What Is Malignant Mesothelioma? Retrieved from
  2. American Cancer Society. (2019, January 9). Key Statistics About Malignant Mesothelioma. Retrieved from
  3. American Cancer Society. (2018, November 16). Risk Factors for Malignant Mesothelioma. Retrieved from
  4. Penn Medicine. Abramson Cancer Center. (n.d.). Symptoms. Retrieved from
  5. American Cancer Society. (2018, November 16). Signs and Symptoms of Mesothelioma. Retrieved from
  6. American Cancer Society. (2018, November 16). What Is Malignant Mesothelioma? Retrieved from
  7. American Lung Association. (n.d.). Learn About Mesothelioma. Retrieved from
  8. American Cancer Society. (2018, November 16). Signs and Symptoms of Mesothelioma. Retrieved from
  9. American Cancer Society. (2023, January 18). Asbestos and Cancer Risk. Retrieved from
  10. Cleveland Clinic. (2022, August 3). Peritoneal Mesothelioma. Retrieved from
  11. Trivedi, Aakash, et al. (2022, October 23). Peritoneal mesothelioma causing small bowel obstruction in COVID-19 positive patient. Retrieved from
  12. American Cancer Society. (2018, November 16). Signs and Symptoms of Mesothelioma. Retrieved from
  13. Seal, S., & Simon, H. (2021, November). Primary Pericardial Mesothelioma: A Rare but Serious Consideration. Retrieved from
  14. Tajjiou, M., et al. (2019, September 11). Primary Pericardial Mesothelioma, Which Was Veiled by a Pleural Empyema: A Case Report and Review. Retrieved from
  15. MDLinx. (n.d.). Resources in Oncology. What is Mesothelioma. Retrieved from
  16. Iczkowski, K. A. (2022, September 21). Malignant Mesothelioma of Tunica Vaginalis Testis: Update for 2022. Retrieved from
  17. Moffitt Cancer Center. (n.d.). Types of Mesothelioma. Retrieved from
  18. Moffitt Cancer Center. (n.d.). Signs and Symptoms of Mesothelioma. Retrieved from
  19. American Cancer Society. (2018, November 16). What Is Malignant Mesothelioma? Retrieved from

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