What Exactly Is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma Definition

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that normally comes about due to excessive asbestos exposure. Typically, with mesothelioma there are abnormalities within the cells that make up the mesothelium (the cell lining that protects organs inside the body).

Mesothelioma can occur within a wide range of areas on the body, with the most common being the lungs and chest wall (the pleura). Other fairly common occurrences of the cancer include inside the abdominal cavity, the testis and the heart.

While this is a fairly rare form of cancer, there has been a strong link established between the illness and people who have had occupations with constant exposure to asbestos that could be inhaled. This has resulted in many people with mesothelioma creating lawsuits against previous employers.

mesothelioma cancer causes symptoms

How Long Can Mesothelioma Cancer Take To Form?

It can take several years for mesothelioma to develop in the body, in fact it may be as much as twenty to fifty years from being exposed to asbestos.

Some Of The Mesothelioma Symptoms

Depending upon the area of the body that is infected, some symptoms can include coughing, shortness of breath and chest pain. There can also be noticeable weight loss, fatigue and anaemia.

It can also spread to other parts of the body. In the case of mesothelioma within the abdomen, aside from abdominal pain there can be masses noticed in the abdomen, ascites and bowel irritations and difficulties.

As the disease evolves the patient may also notice blood clots in various parts of the body including the lungs, jaundice, as well as lowered blood sugar.

How Mesothelioma Is Diagnosed

Mesothelioma can be a little tricky to diagnose, simply because it does produce symptoms common to many illnesses. Understanding the patients medical and working history is a very important part in the diagnosis process.

The process for diagnosis usually follows these steps:

  • Chest X ray & lung tests will be carried out
  • If pleural thickening can be observed, a CAT scan/MRI will be done.
  • If excess fluid is seen, then cytopathology can be done to analyze abnormal cells.
  • Pleural fluid can be detected and analyzed either by thoracentesis (for the chest) or with paracentesis for ascites.

If there are no malignant cells discovered, it normally (but not always) rules out the possibility of mesothelioma.

The progress in science has significantly improved the detection of mesothelioma, particularly with the application of immunocytochemistry.

If mesothelioma is suspected, a biopsy will normally be needed to confirm this. Typically, the biopsy will be performed by way of a thoracoscopy (if the mesothelioma is thought to reside within the chest), or a laparoscopy if the mesothelioma is thought to be within the abdomen.

While regular screening for mesothelioma could help uncover the illness earlier and so help prolong more people’s lives, it is not as yet standard procedure to screen for it. However, for those people who are ever working or living near asbestos sources (either now or at any time in the past) – it is widely suggested that a screening for the cancer is done, if for no other reason than to rule it out completely.

Common Questions Asked About Mesothelioma

Many people who have been exposed to asbestos, either through work or other circumstances could understandably be worried that they may develop the rare form of cancer known as mesothelioma.

Here are some of the most important questions that those who worring may want to ask themselves.

What Is The Very First Thing I Should Do If I Think I May Have Mesothelioma?

If you have been exposed to asbestos in the past, the first key step is to tell your doctor, even if you feel fine and healthy and are showing no signs of asbestos poisoning. The main reason for this is that it can take a long time for the symptoms to appear – as much as ten, twenty or more years.

What Is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a fibrous material which occurs naturally and which has been used in many industries due to its durability, strength and heat resistance. Just some of the materials that asbestos has been used in include roofing, cement, break linings and in many other building materials.

While asbestos use seemed to have been at its highest in the 1970’s it continues to be used in some developing countries, and of course only over the past decade or so has science uncovered the full scale of damage that asbestos exposure has been causing.

Why Is Asbestos Harmful And In What Way?

Scientists and government bodies have determined that asbestos is a human carcinogen – it can induce cancer if inhaled, and the types of cancer can be varied from lung cancer to cancer of the pancreas, stomach and kidneys.

Because asbestos fibres can float into the air, the risk of asbestos inhalation is very high for those with exposure to it. There is still significant debate as to what a safe level of asbestos exposure is, but what is commonly agreed is that the more the exposure, the greater the risk of developing mesothelioma. Read more on types of mesothelioma.

Who Is Most At Risk Of Developing Mesothelioma?

As you can imagine, those people with the greatest exposure to asbestos will be those most at risk . This means that just a few of the people who might develop this at some point could include:

  • People who worked in asbestos mines or mills
  • Plumbers and janitors
  • Shipyard labourers
  • Firefighters
  • Electricians
  • Workers whose job it was to put in insulation
  • Anyone who was producing industrial asbestos products of any type
  • Labourers in the construction or heating niche
  • Those who reside near asbestos producing factories, and even the family members of people who had asbestos exposure.

What Other Type Of Disease Can Asbestos Cause?

This is not the only disease that asbestos can potentially induce. Other forms of illness that asbestos can spur in the body include pulmonary fibrosis, and other cancers of the lung, colon and pancreas. Extensive studies have consistently proven the link between asbestos and various cancers, of which mesothelioma is among the most prolific. As such, the use of asbestos today in many countries is highly restricted.

An Overview Of The Modes Of Mesothelioma Treatments

Despite quite a bit of exposure in recent times, it is still fairly misunderstood. While an increasing number of people now understand the link between mesothelioma and asbestos exposure, there is still a lot about it that remains unknown.

While its diagnosis is becoming disturbingly more common, it is thought that the fullest brunt of mesothelioma sufferers will only emerge at around 2020 worldwide. One of the reasons for this include the very high latency period of mesothelioma coupled with the rather sobering statistic that according to the National Institute of Health (NIH) about 11 million people were substantially exposed to asbestos between the 1940’s to the late 1980’s. While its link to asbestos became widely publicised from the 1970’s the first actual proven scientific link between mesothelioma and asbestos was made as early as 1964. As yet, there seems to be no medical cure for mesothelioma, and the number of clinical trials relating to it has proliferated to almost 200.

Astonishingly, in one unfortunate Turkish village of Tuzkoy over half of the residents deaths are being attributed to asbestos based respiratory disorders and illness including mesothelioma.

The first known legal case for asbestos poisoning dates back to 1929, with the notion that the company that manufactured asbestos not offering sufficient safeguards to employees. Since then, in the United States alone the legal settlements due to asbestos induced mesothelioma can be measured in the billions of dollars. Despite such a long period of time since the first mesothelioma lawsuit, there appears to be no firm and systematic way of determining the compensation to sufferers, and in some instances mesothelioma lawsuits have been challenged all the way to the Supreme Court.

Unlike many diseases, the latency period for mesothelioma is very high, with under one percent of patients displaying latency periods below 15 years. It means that around 2,000 new cases are diagnosed on a yearly basis, although many people probably have the illness without being successfully diagnosed. Statistics show that 30% of patients will live for five years or longer post treatment, but around half will have a life span of 8 to 18 months after being treated.

Some of the social trends of mesothelioma are that 75% of diagnose cases are males, and the most common age group is within 50 to 70 years.

Unfortunately, the treatment for mesothelioma remains at best a way of prolonging the patient’s life rather than curing the disease. Some of the treatments can include:

Surgery – statistics have shown that the median results for surgery has resulted in patients only living 11 months post the procedure. The most common type of surgery is pleurectomy/decortication which involves removal of the chest lining.

Chemotherapy – this seems to be the most statistically successful way of prolonging the lifespan of mesothelioma patients. In fact, in 2009 the FDA approved chemotherapy in conjunction with other treatments including surgery as a way of treating this.

Immunotherapy – While the treatment from immunotherapy remains somewhat variable, even moderately successful cases which prolonged lifespan ended up causing sever side effects.

If You Have Developed Mesothelioma, What Legal Action Can You Take?

Being diagnosed with mesothelioma is a highly traumatic and unsettling event. Clearly, the very first thing that you should do is attend to medical treatments to prolong lifespan. However, those people who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma may wish to consult an attorney. Often, this is caused due to asbestos exposure in the workplace, and it is possible in many cases to start legal action against an employer (or former employer) when this is the case. In some instances, legal action can even be taken when an employer has ceased to exist.

One thing that you should keep in mind is that legal action normally should be started within 3 years of the diagnosis of mesothelioma – this is the legal limitation period, so while you will understandably want to deal with your health issues first, immediately after being diagnosed – if you intend to take legal action, it is best to do so within this time period.

Because other forms of asbestos poisoning are terminal diseases many people do start legal proceedings against negligent employers.

Here are some of the main questions to ask a potential mesothelioma attorney:

What Are Your Results When Representing Mesothelioma Clients?

As in any industry, different lawyers will have different levels of experience. It is best to select a mesothelioma specialist attorney, as they will have the required knowledge and experience to represent you best. You will want to determine how many cases went to trial, and how many of these were won.

Will You Directly Be Representing Me?

This is an important question because some attorneys will hand your case on to someone else, or even a different legal company altogether. This may not be a bad thing, but you must be sure that whoever handles your case has the required skillset and track record.

How Will Finances Be Handles?

Legal cases are often played out over many years, and involve crippling sums of money for individuals. Understanding how the financing will be arranged is very important – if you do not have savings you will want to choose an attorney where any expenses will be deducted from the damages rewarded at the end of the case.

Understand Exactly What Will Be Required From Your Side

Only the lawyer will be able to tell you how long the process is likely to take and what you will need to do and provide as the case evolves. By posing these questions, you should be able to get a decent feel about how good the attorney is, and how he handles questions.

How Long Have You Practiced?

An experienced attorney is always preferable to someone who has no track record at all, or not a very long one.

How Will You Keep Me Informed About The Progress Of My Case?

A good lawyer will be a good communicator and keep you posted about what they are working on, and exactly where your case stands at this point in time.

Do You Take On Any Charitable Cases Or Help The Community In Any Way?

This question really aims to find out if the company has a tender side – a company that gives back to the community even in a small way is likely to deal with you with a little more compassion.

Important Facts About Mesothelioma Lawsuit Compensation

Mesothelioma sufferers often require intensive medical treatments and care that can be extremely invasive and expensive. All this against a backdrop of lost income. Mesothelioma settlements can go some way towards making mesothelioma sufferers a little more comfortable during the lives they have left.

It is quite difficult to predict what mesothelioma compensation might be, and the sums could be negligible all the way up to millions. Courts seem to have struggled with coming up with a systematic way of determining mesothelioma compensation settlements.

Mesothelioma compensation will often be tied to a number of factors, including pain and suffering, loss of income due to contracting the illness, any medical costs that are not covered within insurance, support for dependants and even travel and funeral costs.

There are two broad ways you may be able to gain compensation for mesothelioma. The first route is by filing a personal injury lawsuit, or if you want to start a lawsuit because a loved one has died from mesothelioma you can start a “wrongful death” lawsuit.

If it is a personal injury lawsuit, an attorney will probably only consider starting a lawsuit against a manufacturer of asbestos (products). Even if the manufacturer is no longer in business, you may still be able to get compensated by way of a bankruptcy trust fund.

In some instances, the company you intend to start legal action against may decide to settle a claim as they do not want the negative publicity associated with any legal action, and pay tons of money in legal fees.  Consequently, some defendants will decide to offer a settlement to the mesothelioma sufferer.

For those seeking to initiate any mesothelioma legal action, the very first step involves planning meticulously. When searching for a mesothelioma attorney, remember that good mesothelioma lawyers will be registered with the American bar Association, and the Law Society. These bodies will only register reputable professionals who are bound to provide you with a service that is fair and ethical. Remember that while you’re certainly looking out for a mesothelioma attorney who has impeccable qualifications and knowledge, practical legal experience trumps the former every single time. Someone who has successfully won settlements and fought actual mesothelioma cases with some degree of success will be your best chance of a successful outcome.

The speed of any compensation you receive from a case will depend on several factors, including whether the case is settled or goes to court.

There are also some things that you will need to furnish your mesothelioma attorney with. These will include the bare facts of your mesothelioma diagnosis. Have your medical diagnosis documentation at hand when you visit any potential attorneys. Further, you would need to have proof of where and when you were exposed to asbestos during the course of your professional career. You may also be asked if the employer had at any time warned you about the potential dangers and risk of working with or near asbestos.

The more you can officially substantiate, the better your chances of getting a settlement or court case victory.