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Pericardial Cancer

Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center

UT Southwestern Medical Center has thoracic (chest) cancer experts who are uniquely prepared to care for and treat patients with pericardial cancer. 

As the only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center in North Texas, we deliver the best cancer care available today and push to discover new treatments. NCI designation means we offer patients the ability to participate in the broadest possible range of clinical trials, with access to potential therapies not available at other facilities.

Experienced, Multidisciplinary Teamwork

Pericardial cancer is cancer that develops in the pericardium, the membrane that surrounds the heart, or cancer that has spread from another location (most commonly the lungs) to the pericardial sac. 

The first signs of this cancer are often shortness of breath and fatigue. Malignant pleural mesothelioma can occur in the pericardium as well, either as a primary-origin cancer or a cancer that has spread from another part of the body. 

UT Southwestern’s skilled chest (thoracic) cancer experts are experienced in treating pericardial cancers. Our team at Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center offers an evidence-based, multidisciplinary approach to treatment. 

Diagnosis

If we suspect that a patient has pericardial cancer, we will conduct a physical examination and order tests to confirm the diagnosis. Further tests might be needed to help determine the cancer’s stage and precise location. 

Cardiac imaging techniques used to diagnose pericardial cancer might include:

  • Chest X-ray: This imaging test helps visualize abnormalities in the pericardium.
  • Contrast-enhanced or multidetector computed tomography (CT) scan: CT technology helps physicians visualize the location and extent of pericardial cancer.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): MRI helps physicians identify suspicious areas that could indicate pericardial cancer and learn if, and how far, it has spread.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET): Cancer cells absorb large amounts of radioactive sugar used in this technique, and a special camera creates images of that radioactivity, enabling physicians to identify cancerous cells in the pericardium.
  • Endoscopic ultrasonography: This technology maps sound waves to show physicians if pericardial cancer has invaded the heart muscle itself.

Additional testing might also include a tissue sample (biopsy) of the pericardium to determine the presence of cancer.

Treatment for Pericardial Cancer

The risk of harming the health and function of the heart makes pericardial cancer particularly challenging to treat. Treatment options depend on the cancer’s precise location and stage; the patient’s overall health, goals, and preferences; and other factors. 

UT Southwestern’s thoracic cancer specialists might consider one or more of these therapies for treating pericardial cancer:

  • Treatment with medication: Chemotherapy drugs, which are taken orally or intravenously, can target and kill cancer cells in the pericardium. Chemotherapy might also be used in conjunction with radiation therapy (chemoradiation) to treat pericardial cancer.
  • Radiation therapy: High-energy radiation, such as X-rays, can destroy cancer cells in the pericardium, and UT Southwestern is a recognized leader in the development and use of these therapies.
  • Surgery: Highly precise surgery to remove cancerous tissue can treat some early-stage cases of pericardial cancer.

Support Services

Simmons Cancer Center offers an array of support services to people undergoing treatment at UT Southwestern for pericardial cancer – and even for those who have been treated in the past. These services include survivorship seminarsnutrition counselingsupport groups, and much more. 

Clinical Trials

UT Southwestern’s Simmons Cancer Center conducts clinical trials aimed at improving the care and outcomes of patients with pericardial cancer. Patients can speak with their cancer physicians to determine if a clinical trial is available.

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