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Mesothelioma tends to spread (metastasize) fairly quickly. Because of this, many experts consider mesothelioma to be an aggressive form of cancer. Numerous factors can affect how quickly mesothelioma progresses and the areas of the body to which it spreads.

Cell type

Mesothelioma tumors can be made up of two types of cells: epithelial cells and sarcomatoid cells. Tumors containing epithelial cells tend to spread more slowly than tumors containing sarcomatoid cells, mainly because epithelial cells (which are shaped like rectangles) tend to adhere to each other more strongly than sarcomatoid cells (which are shaped like spindles). So, it’s less likely that epithelial cells will separate from the tumor and travel to other areas of the body. When a tumor contains a mix of both types of cells, the cancer is referred to as “biphasic mesothelioma.” With this type of tumor, the ratio of epithelial cells to sarcomatoid cells may influence how quickly the cancer spreads.

Initial location

Mesothelioma can develop in various areas of the body, including the lining of the lungs (pleural mesothelioma), the stomach cavity (peritoneal mesothelioma), the heart (pericardial mesothelioma) and the testicles (testicular mesothelioma). The site where the cancer originates can affect where it spreads. If mesothelioma develops in the lungs, for example, it’s more likely to spread to the lymph nodes, heart and diaphragm. If mesothelioma develops in the stomach, on the other hand, there’s a greater chance that it will spread to the intestines, liver and spleen.

The experts in Moffitt Cancer Center’s Thoracic Oncology Program can provide you with additional information about how quickly mesothelioma spreads. We have extensive experience in diagnosing and treating all types of mesothelioma. You can request an appointment by calling 1-888-663-3488 or filling out a new patient registration form online.