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For many years the asbestos industry attempted to suppress research which linked asbestos to serious medical conditions, including mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer. Physicians in the United Kingdom were the first to connect long-term exposure to asbestos with respiratory illnesses as early as the late 1890s. However, because the manufacture and sale of asbestos products generated huge profits, several makers and distributors alike made efforts to hide from the public any evidence of their products’ harmful effects on people.
In other instances, business owners and employers were made aware of the dangers of asbestos, yet continued to allow their employees to work in a dangerous environment. The heat-resistant properties and the insulation that asbestos provided made it a convenient mineral to use in several different buildings, plants, facilities, factories, steel mills, and more. Unfortunately, most of these victims didn’t find out they had cancer until decades later. Many victims are still unaware since it can take over 20 years for symptoms of mesothelioma to surface. That’s why it’s imperative to get regular medical check-ups if you’ve worked or been around asbestos.
Because this suppression of facts was intentional and motivated by the huge profits to be made from the manufacturer and distribution of a harmful product, victims who suffer from mesothelioma may be able to seek financial compensation. An experienced mesothelioma attorney will be able to provide additional information and let you know your chances of a successful lawsuit.
Due to the increase in the number of asbestos-related cases, many lawyers now specialize in representing those that have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and other diseases caused by asbestos. Known as asbestos or mesothelioma lawyers, these specialized attorneys concentrate exclusively on helping victims that have been diagnosed with asbestos cancer and other asbestos-related diseases. The attorneys at a mesothelioma law firm differ from general practice lawyers as they have specialized training and expertise regarding the various asbestos-related diseases, as well as the relevant laws and regulations which govern the manufacture and distribution of asbestos products.
If you or a loved one were exposed to asbestos for long periods of time as a result of employment or military service and developed mesothelioma or any other asbestos-related disease, you may be able to seek legal recourse for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. We offer a free and comprehensive Mesothelioma and Asbestos Guide to asbestos disease patients and their loved ones containing vital information on your legal options for obtaining all the money owed to you and your family.
Our free Mesothelioma & Asbestos Guide also includes:
Mesothelioma cancer, also known as asbestos cancer or malignant mesothelioma, is a cancer that attacks the thin lining surrounding the lungs and/or abdominal cavity. It is currently the most common form of asbestos-related diseases.
Not only can the disease affect the lungs and abdomen, but mesothelioma can also affects the sac which surrounds the heart. Additionally, it can affect the testes if it develops in the tunica vaginalis. It takes decades, sometimes up to 50 years to diagnose the disease, and the first symptoms of mesothelioma are often minor and resemble those of the common cold. These initial signs of mesothelioma include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and body aches. Because of this, many victims go undiagnosed because they believe they are only experiencing commons ailments.
Compared to other types of cancer, mesothelioma is rare, yet because asbestos was heavily used during and after World War II, more cases are reported annually worldwide. As of 2012, 3,000 new cases a year are diagnosed in the United States alone. The disease is diagnosed more in men than women. A study in the United Kingdom conducted by Cancer Research UK suggests that the ratio of mesothelioma cases between males and females diagnosed with the cancer is 5:1. This, however, doesn’t mean that mesothelioma cannot affect women. Scientists suggest that men more often are victims simply because they were more likely to work in construction sites, asbestos mines, factories, electricity generating plants, and other places in which they were heavily exposed to asbestos.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), there are several strains of mesothelioma, each of which affects specific areas of the body. The most common is the type known as pleural mesothelioma and affects the pleura: the lining of the lungs and internal chest wall. The other major strain is called peritoneal mesothelioma; it affects the lining of the abdominal cavity (peritoneum) and can damage major organs there. Other areas which are susceptible to mesothelioma are the pericardium, which is the sac which surrounds the heart, and the tunica vaginalis, which surrounds the testes. However, pericardial mesotheliomas and mesotheliomas of the tunica vaginalis are extremely rare.
In addition, per ACS, there are three cell types associated with malignant mesothelioma. The most common is the epithelioid mesothelioma; it occurs in between 50 and 60% of all diagnoses and it is the most responsive to medical treatment. These cells, when viewed through a microscope, appear elongated.
Sarcomatoid mesothelioma cells are the least common of the three types. Fibrous in appearance, they are found in between 10 and 20% of mesothelioma cases.
Biphasic or mixed mesothelioma combine traits of both epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells. Biphasic mesothelioma is the second most common type of cell group, accounting for 30 to 40% of all cases. Because the ratio of epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells is extremely variable, biphasic mesothelioma is the hardest strain of the disease to treat.
Despite advances in oncology and general medicine, mesothelioma treatments can be difficult. Typically, there is no single treatment that can be used to fight asbestos cancer. Surgery on its own cannot excise the cancer from the lungs or abdominal cavity completely if the disease was not caught in its early stages of development. Treatment with radiation has some effects on mesothelioma, but only when it is administered along with radical surgery of the affected tissue. Radiation treatment works best when it is focused on small, hard-to-reach cancerous growths. The most effective treatment is chemotherapy, especially a variant known as Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC). HIPEC is a heated, sterilized chemotherapy solution which is delivered directly to the abdomen during surgery.
Other treatments for asbestos cancer include immunotherapy and multimodality therapy, the latter being a three-way combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.
Though mesothelioma is not curable, prompt treatment can extend a patient’s life expectancy by a margin of 3 to 14 years, depending on how quickly the disease is diagnosed.
For much of the 20th Century, the various branches of the United States armed forces were among the largest users of asbestos materials. The U.S. Navy was an especially large user of asbestos-laden materials, particularly during World War II and the Korean Conflict. Large amounts of asbestos were added to the building materials used to build Navy vessels of all types to help protect them from fires. Asbestos can be found in naval ships and shore facilities built between World War II and the early stages of the Vietnam War, especially in fire-prone areas such as ships’ engineering spaces and boiler rooms. Asbestos fibers were also utilized heavily in naval shipyards.
The heavy use of asbestos in the military has led to many military veterans being unfortunately diagnosed with mesothelioma, usually decades after their exposure to asbestos.
Mankind has an extensive history of mining and using the mineral fiber asbestos. Asbestos is found in six minerals: chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite, and actinolite. These minerals have different structures but share specific properties; they are fibrous, small in size, have tensile strength, and resist heat and fire. Although asbestos mining can be traced as far back as 4,000 years, heavy industrial use began during the 19th Century and peaked in the 20th. Heavily regulated in many countries, especially the U.S. and the European Union, asbestos is still mined and widely-used in developing nations such as Brazil, South Africa, and Russia.
Due to its various positive properties, asbestos has been used in many areas of human activity. Its ability to add strength to building materials and to withstand high temperatures makes asbestos attractive to the construction industry. Asbestos can be found in materials such as cement, electrical wiring, fire-resistant drywall material, door gaskets, soundproofing, roofing, patching compounds, fireproof gloves, ironing board covers, brake pads, concrete, pipes, fire-resistant coatings, bricks, fireplace cement, insulation, and even lawn furniture. It was also used in firefighting gear, military equipment, and fire-resistant clothing.
As useful as asbestos is, however, large scale use has proved to be a serious health hazard to people, especially to those living in large industrialized nations. All six of the minerals which form the asbestos group are known carcinogens. Exposure to asbestos, especially if prolonged, can cause various respiratory illnesses, including lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma cancer. The fibrous nature of asbestos makes it easy for humans to ingest them via the respiratory system. Eventually, these fibers can damage the lungs, the heart and other organs.
Just as the tobacco industry did between the 1940s and the early 1960s, the asbestos industry did its best to suppress evidence of asbestos-related health risks for many years. As early as the 1920s, doctors in Great Britain discovered a link between asbestos fibers and respiratory illnesses affecting workers who inhaled them at their workplaces. Most of these early warnings were dismissed by the asbestos industry.
For various reasons, including the efforts of the asbestos mining industry to suppress information about these health risks, it wasn’t until the late 1970s that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began to regulate the use of asbestos. By then, however, millions of people around the world, especially military personnel and construction workers, had been exposed to large amounts of asbestos over a prolonged period of time.
Although asbestos fibers are found in nature and can be introduced into the human body by the simple act of breathing, the most dangerous amounts of exposure occur during regular interaction with the mineral, usually at a job site. Mining for asbestos, working on construction sites, repairing buildings built before the 1970s, demolition work, automotive clutch and brake work, and serving aboard Navy ships are just a few of the activities which expose people to large amounts of asbestos.