Papillary Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma cells, the structures responsible for malignant mesothelioma, are broken down into four major categories: epithelial, sarcomatoid, biphasic, and desoplastic. Epithelial mesothelioma is characterized by highly structured cancer cells in the epithelium, while sarcomatoid mesothelioma is characterized by disordered oblong cells with no visible nuclei. Desoplastic mesothelioma is a variant of sarcomatoid mesothelioma. Biphasic mesothelioma is a "mixed" category.

Of these four types, the most common by far is epithelial mesothelioma, which accounts for approximately 50 to 70 percent of all known cases of the disease. A rare variant of epithelial mesothelioma is known as papillary mesothelioma.

Characteristics of Papillary Mesothelioma

Papillary mesothelioma is sometimes known in the medical community as well-differentiated papillary mesothelioma, or WDPM. It is a fairly rare variant of the common epithelial mesothelioma. Standard epithelial mesothelioma is characterized by its location (in the epithelium of body structures) and the shape and layout of the cells (an organized collection of very similar cells with easily visible nuclei).

Papillary mesothelioma stands in contrast to the more common form of epithelial mesothelioma, which is fairly diffuse and very malignant. Well-differentiated papillary mesothelioma is much more likely to be benign and relatively inactive than epithelial mesothelioma. Physicians generally consider papillary mesothelioma to be of low malignant potential.

Papillary mesothelioma is usually found in the mesothelial lining of the abdominal cavity (the peritoneum), and occasionally in the tunica vaginalis (the lining of the testicles). Some cases have been reported where the cancer has been found in the lining of the heart (the pericardium) and the ovaries.

Most forms of mesothelioma are diagnosed disproportionately in males. Papillary mesothelioma, however, is most often discovered in women of childbearing age. While some of the known cases have involved verified asbestos exposure, the majority of papillary mesothelioma patients have no known asbestos exposure. The cause of the disease, then, is not well understood.

Papillary Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Most forms of malignant mesothelioma go through the same process of diagnosis. The first step is generally an imaging test, such as an x-ray, MRI scan, CT scan or PET scan. This test allows physicians to get a visual picture of what is happening inside the body. Physicians use these images to look for any abnormal areas and identify where cancer might be present.

After an imaging scan is complete, physicians then conduct a biopsy by removing some of the abnormal cells from the tumor or cancerous area. In the first stage of the biopsy, technicians will study the cells beneath a microscope to visually look for any abnormalities. As a general rule, cancerous cells look quite different than healthy cells. In the second stage, technicians will chemically test for the presence of any proteins associated with cancer on the exterior of the cells. This second stage of biopsy is generally when the diagnosis is confirmed.

A papillary mesothelioma diagnosis generally comes after doctors have pinpointed epithelial mesothelioma as the cellular structure involved.

Papillary Mesothelioma Treatment

All forms of mesothelioma are generally subject to three potential treatment options: surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. In most cases, the treatment options recommended by a patient's doctor will hinge upon the location and stage of your cancer - not on the specific type of cells in the tumors.

Papillary mesothelioma is exceedingly rare - to the point that no uniform treatment has been established. The standard treatments for mesothelioma such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are those most commonly used in the treatment of papillary mesothelioma.


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