Benign mesothelioma is a noncancerous, non-deadly case of mesothelioma. Benign tumors can be surgically removed and do not usually require additional treatment.
Written by Jenna Campagna, RN
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What Is Benign Mesothelioma?
Benign mesothelioma is a noncancerous tumor growth derived from mesothelial cells. It is the opposite of malignant mesothelioma, which is cancerous and deadly. Benign tumors are not “active,” which means they are not spreading in the body.
Benign mesothelioma forms primarily in either the pleura (protective lining near the lungs) or peritoneum (protective lining around the abdominal cavity).
Benign Mesothelioma vs. Malignant Mesothelioma
Benign mesothelioma and malignant mesothelioma are different in many ways. Some of the most important contrasts between the two are:
- Rates of Occurrence
- Relationship to asbestos
- Discovery and diagnostic process
- Treatment options and length of time
- Prognosis and survival time
Rarity and Relationship to Asbestos
There are around 3,000 new mesothelioma cases each year in the United States. Almost all of them are malignant mesothelioma.
Benign mesothelioma mostly affects women, whereas malignant mesothelioma primarily affects men.
Malignant mesothelioma is linked to asbestos, but the cause of benign mesothelioma is unknown. There is not an established relationship between the benign form of this cancer and exposure to asbestos.
Discovering and Diagnosing Each Mesothelioma
Benign cases of mesothelioma are often discovered by accident. Since the tumors aren’t growing and spreading, there are usually few noticeable signs. Many benign patients don’t seek medical care due to belief they have this growth. By comparison, malignant mesothelioma can lead to severe symptoms that cause people to seek the help of doctors.
Benign mesothelioma often is discovered through imaging tests after patients experience pain in the abdomen or chest. However, a tissue biopsy is the best way to officially diagnose a benign disease.
How to Treat Each Mesothelioma
A benign disease usually needs just one treatment: surgery. Resecting the stagnant tumor growth is the most effective way to ensure it doesn’t regain its active state. Malignant mesothelioma is tougher to remove entirely and often requires multiple lines of treatment (surgery, chemotherapy and radiation) to avoid a recurrence.
The surgeries used for benign mesothelioma are the same as those used for malignant mesothelioma:
- Extrapleural pneumonectomy (for pleural mesothelioma)
- Pneumonectomy with decortication (for pleural mesothelioma)
- Cytoreduction with HIPEC (for peritoneal mesothelioma)
Benign patients may also undergo fluid-draining procedures to relieve symptoms.
Symptoms and Survival
Benign mesothelioma symptoms usually aren’t as severe as malignant mesothelioma symptoms. Since tumors exist in the thorax or abdomen, they can press against organs or cause excessive fluid pockets. Chest or abdominal pains are possible. So are pleural effusions and ascites (fluid buildup).
Survival is much better for benign cases than it is for malignant ones. The prognosis is better because benign tumors do not spread throughout the body.
The disease is isolated, which leaves the majority of the tissue unaffected and healthy. Surgery is also more effective for an isolated, smaller disease.
Types of Benign Mesothelioma
There are several types of benign mesothelioma, all of which are rare. Benign mesothelioma varies based on location and cellular structure.
Most develop in the lining of the abdomen (the peritoneum). This differs from the malignant version, which most often develops in the lining of the lungs. Therefore, benign peritoneal mesothelioma is more common than benign pleural mesothelioma.
You can learn more about these benign variations in our free Mesothelioma Guide.
Benign Multicystic Mesothelioma
Benign multicystic mesothelioma originates in the peritoneum and mostly affects women. This type of tumor usually affects women between ages 20 and 40.
There have been fewer than 200 documented cases of benign multicystic peritoneal mesothelioma. The most common symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
- Ascites (fluid buildup in the peritoneum)
Well-Differentiated Papillary Mesothelioma
Well-differentiated papillary mesothelioma is a slow-growing or stagnant type of epithelioid mesothelioma. Its growth and spread is so slow that it’s considered a benign disease.
Of the 75 cases, only one turned into a malignant mesothelioma.
The symptoms of well-differentiated papillary mesothelioma in the peritoneum are similar to multicystic mesothelioma: fluid buildup and abdominal pain.
Adenomatoid mesothelioma is a rare, benign disease forming from mesothelial cells. This benign cancer usually forms in the genitals.
They can form in the pleura, near the lungs, but it’s extremely rare. Adenomatoid mesothelioma is most common in males, with a mean age of 36.
Localized Fibrous Mesothelioma
Localized fibrous mesothelioma is the last benign form of mesothelioma. It is also known as “benign fibrous mesothelioma.”
This benign cancer is most common as pleural mesothelioma. Men and women have an equal chance of getting this disease.
There are malignant forms of fibrous mesothelioma. However, they are very rare. Long-term survival is likely with swift and effective diagnosis and treatment.
The most common symptoms of localized fibrous mesothelioma are:
- Chest pain
- Pleural effusions
- Shortness of breath
Sources & Author
- Cancer, Mesothelioma, Benign. StatPearls. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK531485/. Accessed: 07/01/2020.
- Benign Multicystic Peritoneal Mesothelioma: A Rare Condition in an Uncommon Gender. Case Reports in Pathology. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5451755/. Accessed: 07/01/2020.
- Well-differentiated papillary mesothelioma: A 17-year single institution experience with a series of 75 cases. ScienceDirect. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1092913418303204?via%3Dihub. Accessed: 07/01/2020.
- Adenomatoid Tumor of Testis. Clinical Medicine Insights: Pathology. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2990235/. Accessed: 07/01/2020.
- Benign Fibrous Mesothelioma of the Pleura: MR Imaging Findings. American Journal of Roentgenology. Retrieved from: https://www.ajronline.org/doi/pdf/10.2214/ajr.165.5.7572492. Accessed: 07/01/2020.
- Solitary fibrous tumor. MedlinePlus. Retrieved from: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000116.htm. Accessed: 07/01/2020.
- Key Statistics About Malignant Mesothelioma. American Cancer Society. Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/malignant-mesothelioma/about/key-statistics.html. Accessed: 07/01/2020.