Mesothelioma, also known as asbestos cancer, is a rare but deadly disease which affects the pleura (a thin lining surrounding the lungs) and other parts of the body. It is caused by exposure to asbestos, naturally occurring minerals which were widely used in various industries for their fire-resistant properties. The most common form of this cancer is lung mesothelioma, which is also known as pleural mesothelioma. Asbestos fibers can also attack the lining of the abdominal cavity, resulting in peritoneal mesothelioma. Additionally, mesothelioma cancer sometimes affects the pericardium, a sac which surrounds the heart, as well as other organs in the body.
If you or a loved one were diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis, or asbestos-related cancer, you may be entitled to substantial compensation. We invite you to fill out our form today for a free Financial Compensation Packet, filled with information about top mesothelioma lawyers in your area, how to get paid in 90 days, how to file an asbestos trust fund claim, and much more.
How Does Mesothelioma Develop?
The development of mesothelioma is a drawn-out process, which makes it hard to diagnose and treat. On average, it takes decades for the symptoms of mesothelioma to surface. Mesothelioma can mask its presence because its symptoms resemble those of more common respiratory illnesses. By the time a doctor orders a battery of tests to look for mesothelioma, it is usually too late to treat the cancer effectively. Symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pains, or a combination of both. As mesothelioma advances to its final stage, symptoms can become more severe and typically include severe chest and lung pain, bloating, coughing up blood, difficulty in swallowing, or buildup of fluid in the chest cavity. Extreme tiredness, lack of appetite, and subsequent weight loss, skin rashes, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, night sweats, and fever.
Between 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the U.S. every year.
Who Is the Average Mesothelioma Patient?
The majority of mesothelioma victims are people who have been in the armed forces and/or worked in an environment in which they were in daily contact with asbestos.
A case in point: U.S. Navy ships of all types that were launched and saw service from the 1930s to the early 1960s contained extremely large amounts of asbestos. Decks, compartment walls, hulls, electrical systems, steam pipes, and more contain asbestos fibers in order to add tensile strength, resistance to fire and heat, and low electrical conductivity. This made ships safer, particularly in regards to extreme temperatures and fires. However, these large amounts of asbestos containing materials present in warships and auxiliary vessels exposed sailors, Marines, and repair yard workers to carcinogenic asbestos fibers which trigger the disease.
In the civilian economy, many worksites such as electrical plants, steel mills, manufacturing facilities, oil refineries, welding businesses, and more used asbestos extensively prior to its ban. Prior to its ban in the late 20th Century, asbestos was used in many industrial plants, port facilities, and other buildings across the world where millions of workers were regularly exposed to it during their workdays.
Many owners of enterprises where fire and/or high temperatures are used in the manufacturing process used large amounts of asbestos to make their production facilities safer and more efficient. Asbestos was added to many factory components to make them stronger and able to resist flame and extreme heat. While these measures had positive results in preventing fires or diminishing the damage from them, they also exposed many industrial workers to asbestos fibers.
Although anyone exposed to asbestos is at some risk of developing mesothelioma, the average patients of this asbestos-related malady are usually males. This is because males were the predominant gender in the armed forces or in work sites which asbestos was used prior to its ban. Since it usually takes between 10 and 50 years from the initial exposure to a definitive diagnosis, mesothelioma patients are commonly older men in the 60-70 age group.
How Doctors Diagnose Mesothelioma
Unfortunately, as previously stated, it takes sometimes up to 50 years in order for doctors to diagnose mesothelioma since the symptoms tend to show up slowly. Even then, the symptoms manifest themselves so subtly that unless a physician has a patient’s complete medical and work history, including the fact that he or she was exposed to asbestos, diagnosis may be delayed.
Once a doctor begins the process of obtaining a diagnosis, several blood tests, CT scans, chest X-rays and a biopsy are usually performed. A biopsy allows the doctor to remove bits of lung tissue in order to search for asbestos fibers or indications of lesions or tumors. If a patient is diagnosed with mesothelioma, his or her physician will be also be able to assess what stage of the disease has reached.
The Four Stages of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma has four stages. The first stage is the earliest of the disease where the mesothelioma tumor is not fully formed. Patients with stage Ia and Ib mesothelioma have the best chances of getting the cancerous cells removed. As the mesothelioma tumors grow and affect more healthy tissue, the stage number rises, with Stage IV being the final stage. Stage II of mesothelioma still renders hope for the patient since the tumor, although it has increased in size, still has not spread to the point in which surgery is not an option.
Once a patient reaches Stage III, the cancer has moved to adjacent parts of the body and a patient’s life expectancy is shorter when compared to that when the cancer is in Stages I and II. However, if the tumor is in mass, surgery may still be an option for certain patients. However, once mesothelioma reaches Stage IV, the prognosis is not a good one and physicians will search for palliative treatments instead of treatments that promise a cure. Palliative treatments focus on helping mesothelioma patients manage pain and prolong their lives instead of attempting to remove the tumors. In the majority of cases, the tumors are far too widespread during this stage to be surgically removed.
The four stages of mesothelioma are listed and defined below:
- Stage Ia: Tumor is in the outer layer of the pleura (parietal pleura). It is not in the pleura covering the lung (visceral pleura).
Stage Ib: Tumor is in both the parietal and visceral pleura
Stage II: Tumor has spread into the lung or diaphragm.
Stage III: Tumor has spread to one or more of these organs or areas: the pericardium, part of the chest wall, or lymph glands inside the chest
Stage IV: Tumor has metastasized to one or more of the following: across the chest wall or pericardium, various areas of the chest wall, the heart, liver, windpipe or esophagus, or the opposite lung.
Unfortunately, many individuals may not even know they have mesothelioma until they have been diagnosed. Some patients’ mesothelioma tumors are not found until they’re reached Stage IV since it takes decades from the initial exposure to asbestos for the first symptoms to manifest themselves.
Chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of both are the most effective forms of mesothelioma treatments currently available. However, if the disease is detected in Stages Ia or Ib, surgery is almost always recommended in order to remove the tumor. The caveat, of course, is that the patient must meet certain health and age requirements. Older patients and/or patients with less-than-ideal health conditions may not be able to withstand the physical demands of a surgical procedure.
If the cancer has reached its late stages, especially Stage IV, multimodal treatment options are used. Multimodal treatment is a combination of two different types of treatments, typically chemotherapy and radiation. Surgery is not a widely-used option for patients with Stages III and IV mesothelioma, since the poor state of health of the patient, as well as the possible metastasis of the tumor makes surgery extremely risky.
In addition to standard treatments, many mesothelioma patients have chosen a wide variety of complementary or alternative treatments. Herbal therapies which involve the use of herbs and vitamins, acupuncture, holistic healing, meditation, and yoga are a fraction of the alternative treatments that can be employed against mesothelioma. Although many alternative treatments are not recognized in traditional medical practices, many doctors and healthcare practitioners are more accepting and open minded of how effective these non-traditional treatments can be. As a result of their willingness to embrace new ideas, some of these enterprising doctors have opened up their own alternative medicine practice.
Keep in mind that you may qualify for significant compensation if you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestos-related cancer, or asbestosis. Don’t forget to fill out our form to get our free Financial Compensation Packet, filled with information on the leading asbestos and mesothelioma attorneys in your area.