What is Papillary Mesothelioma?

Amanda Barnhart

Papillary mesothelioma, also known as well-differentiated papillary mesothelioma or WDPM, is a rare form of mesothelioma. This is a cancer that forms in the protective lining of the body’s organs, such as the abdomen, lungs, and heart. Unlike other forms of mesothelioma, this condition usually responds very well to treatment, and it is not likely to spread to other parts of the body.

Women who are diagnosed with papillary mesothelioma often get ovarian tumors as well.
Women who are diagnosed with papillary mesothelioma often get ovarian tumors as well.

Although anyone can be diagnosed with the condition, women between the ages of 30 and 40 are most likely to be diagnosed with papillary mesothelioma. The condition is also seen in men when they are around 50 years old, and is unlikely to affect younger members of either sex. It is very rare in women who are past child-bearing age.

Women diagnosed with papillary mesothelioma often develop tumors in the peritoneum, or the lining of the abdomen. Women's ovaries are also a common area affected by such tumors. Men often experience growths in the tunica vaginalis, or the protective covering of the testes. Other masses may be found in the linings of the heart and lungs. Not all growths associated with this condition are cancerous.

Many patients diagnosed with this disease experience no pain or other symptoms. Most cases are found through x-rays, MRI, PET, or CT scans. Physicians usually remove some cells from tumors identified on imaging tests to perform a biopsy. This allows doctors to study the cells microscopically, to check for abnormalities and test for proteins that indicate cancer.

While many forms of mesothelioma are linked with asbestos exposure, papillary mesothelioma appears to have to no link to it. In other words, some patients do have a history of asbestos exposure, but many others do not. The primary cause of this type of cancer is unknown, but it is believed that it may respond to prevention efforts, once research uncovers the main causes that contribute to the condition.

Since papillary mesothelioma is so rare, there is no standardized treatment for the condition. Most doctors treat it with the same methods used on patients with other forms of mesothelioma. Surgical removal of tumors and chemotherapy are usually effective methods.

The recurrence rate of papillary mesothelioma is high, though recurrent cases typically respond to treatment just as well as first-time cases. Recurrence usually involves tumors at the same site as the original tumor, and these are still unlikely to spread to other organs or body parts. Doctors monitor papillary mesothelioma patients closely after treatment, to check for signs of recurring tumors.

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