Mesothelioma is a rare, aggressive form of cancer that attacks the tissues which protect and line the lungs, the abdominal organs,the heart, and the testicles. There is a proven connection between exposure to asbestos dust and the development of mesothelioma. Unfortunately, there is no known cure although cutting-edge scientific researchers are working hard to find one.
What Causes Mesothelioma?
Almost all of the 3,000 new cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year can be traced to job-related exposure to asbestos.
Asbestos refers to a group of minerals that occur naturally in the earth. For decades, asbestos was mined, processed and incorporated into products for fireproofing, insulation and as a binding agent. Microscopic fibers can sluff off asbestos-containing products when they are manipulated, installed or removed. Untouched and undisturbed, fibers from asbestos-containing products typically do not pose any long-term risk. If disturbed, however, fibers can be released and become airborne. If breathed in or swallowed in sufficient quantities, these fibers can be lethal. They become trapped in the lungs and other parts of the body, and remain there for decades. Over time, they cause internal scarring which can lead to a variety of significant health problems. Asbestos is a known human carcinogen, or cancer-causing agent. Exposure can result in mesothelioma lung cancer, asbestosis and other serious diseases.
Who Is At Risk?
Anyone who inhales significant quantities of asbestos fibers is at risk. For years, it was thought that only individuals who worked directly with raw asbestos were more likely to develop an asbestos related disease. However, since the 1950s, scientists and researchers have determined that anyone who breathes in an appreciable quantity of asbestos containing dust could be at risk, even if they did not work directly with raw asbestos or asbestos-containing products. Typically, serious complications take 15 to 50 years after exposure to appear.
Who Is Responsible?
Manufacturers and sellers of asbestos-containing products knew about the health risks of breathing asbestos dust since the 1940s. However, the public didn’t find out about these dangers until the 1970s. By then, it was too late for many people who had been exposed while working in mines, factories, steel mills, power plants, construction sites, shipyards, automobile and brake garages, train yards, and other places.
What Does Mesothelioma Form?
The medical community recognizes four main locations where mesothelioma develops in the body. These include:
- The Lungs (Pleural Mesothelioma) – Pleural mesothelioma affects the two thin layers that line the lungs. It is the most common type/ Seventy five percent of those who are diagnosed each year are diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma.
- The Abdomen (Peritoneal Mesothelioma) – Peritoneal mesothelioma is the second most common type. It forms on the lining of the abdominal cavity that protects abdominal organs. Approximately 15%-20% of those diagnosed with mesothelioma each year have this type.
- The Heart (Pericardial Mesothelioma) – Pericardial mesothelioma is a very rare form of mesothelioma, Only 5% percent of newly diagnosed cases each year. It forms on the covering that surrounds and protects the heart.
- The Testicles (Testicular Mesothelioma) – Testicular mesothelioma is a extremely rare. Only about 100 cases have been reported in medical literature. t forms in the membrane lining that covers the testicles.
How is Mesothelioma Diagnosed?
Because mesothelioma cancer is so rare and first presents with symptoms common to other diseases like the flu, pneumonia, intestinal flu or back strain, doctors sometimes mistake it for a less-serious illness. Initial symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include shortness of breath, chest pain, back pain, trouble swallowing or swollen arms or face. Peritoneal mesothelioma patients typically experience abdominal pain and distension. Patients with pericardial mesothelioma often present with heartburn. If the symptoms are intense or last more than a week or so, the doctor will often initiate a series of tests to determine whether something else is going on, beginning with imagining, such as an x-ray, CT scan or a PET scan. While a radiologist cannot definitively diagnose mesothelioma from any type of imaging, he can see occlusions or abnormal build-ups of fluid (effusions) in the chest cavity or abdomen which he may consider suspicious, particularly if the patient presents with difficulty breathing or pain in the abdomen.
Whenever an imaging test is suspicious, the doctor-in-charge often orders cytology, a procedure used to evaluate the behavior of the mesothelioma cells in an abnormal fluid build-up. Using a minimally invasive biopsy procedure called a thoracentesis (the collection of fluid in the lung lining) or paracentesis (the collection of fluid in the abdominal lining), the doctors insert a a small needle to collect samples. Both procedures are relatively quick and virtually painless. A pathologist prepares slides from the samples and dips those into stains or chemical dyes. Each type of stain causes a reaction that changes the cell’s color. When a pathologist examines the cells on the slides under the microscope, he is able to determine whether the fluid sample contains, or does not contain, cancerous mesothelioma cells, thereby reaching a differential diagnosis.
However, cytology is not always a definitive means of diagnosing mesothelioma. A pathologist can only do that by conducting a full-out biopsy of the affected tissue.
Do Mesothelioma Tumors Have Different Cell Types?
There are three different cell types of mesothelioma cancers–epithelial, biphasic and sarcomatoid. Epithelial mesothelioma is the most common type, making up about 50% to 70% of the mesothelioma cases that are diagnosed each year. Biphasic consists of a varying combination of epithelial cells and sarcomatoid cells. Approximately 20% of mesotheliomas diagnosed each year are biphasic. Sarcomatoid mesotheliomas are the least common, constituting 5% to 10%. It is the most virulent. All mesothelioma are fatal, some being more aggressive with patients having shorter life-expectancies. Published studies reveal that patients with epithelial mesothelioma have a better prognosis that either of the other two types. Sarcomatoid has the worst prognosis and is usually the most difficult to treat.
Are There Stages of Mesothelioma?
There are four primary stages of mesothelioma, Stages I, II, III or IV. The lower the stage number, the more treatment options are available, and the higher the patient’s life-expectancy is likely to be.
- Stage I – Stage I mesothelioma is difficult to diagnose because the tiny tumors have grown only in one layer of the pleura and symptoms, if any, are vague. If doctors are fortunate to diagnose a patient in Stage I, they typically recommend aggressive surgery to resect as much of the tumor as possible. Stage I patients have a significantly better prognosis than patients diagnosed in later stages. They may live 3 years or more. Their median life expectancy is 21 months.
- Stage II – Stage II pleural mesothelioma patients typically present with non-definitive symptoms that are sometimes mistaken for other illnesses like the flu. Patients with peritoneal mesothelioma may have recently lost weight, but still feel bloated. Depending on the patient’s age and overall health, some pleural mesothelioma patients may qualify for curative surgery, while other are limited to chemotherapy, radiation or some other form of clinical trial therapy. Stage II patients can also live for several years, with a median life expectancy of 19 months.
- Stage III – Stage III pleural mesothelioma patients typically suffer shortness of breath and intense chest pain, typically caused by an effusion. Peritoneal mesothelioma patients usually have some type of bowel obstruction and severe cramping. Because the tumors have spread to multiple areas of the body, patients experience diffuse discomfort throughout the body, including the lymph nodes, esophagus, muscles, rib cage, heart and chest wall. Given the spread of cancer to other sites, Stage III patients are usually limited the doctors to palliative treatment options. Patients typically live less than 2 years, with a median life expectancy of 16 months.
- Stage IV – At this stage, the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Patients experience extreme, often constant pain in the chest, back, rib cage, nausea, and have considerable shortness of breath requiring oxygen. Many are too weak to undergo further chemotherapy and radiation. Instead doctors rely on palliative medications to ease pain and manage the quality of patients’ remaining lives. Patients with Stage IV mesothelioma have a median life expectancy of 12 month or less.
Because of the way mesothelioma spreads, most patients are not diagnosed until Stage III or IV. Doctors usually treat mesothelioma with a combination of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery. Their treatment recommendations are based on the extent that the disease has progressed and location of cancer cells. If doctors believe that all visible signs of cancer can be completely removed and a patient is healthy enough for aggressive treatment, they may recommend surgical removal of the tumor. If the cancer has spread too widely such that it cannot be removed completely, doctors will generally recommend other treatment options, including chemotherapy, radiation and other experimental treatments.
What Legal Rights Do Mesothelioma Victims Have?
Because manufacturers did not warn of the hazards of asbestos and continued to expose workers and those who develop asbestos related diseases, including mesothelioma, they are generally determined to be responsible. Victims may be eligible for financial compensation to cover expenses such as lost wages, medical bills, emotional suffering, physical pain, and more.
What Are My Legal Options?
Mesothelioma sufferers have various avenues available to seek compensation, including filing a lawsuit, filing claims with various asbestos bankruptcy trusts, filing a worker’s compensation claim, and filing a claim with the Veterans’ Administration if the victim was exposed while serving on active duty in the military. Each action is procedurally unique. An experienced mesothelioma attorney can explain these options and advise a client which avenue to pursue.
Looking for a Mesothelioma Lawyer?
Anyone who develops mesothelioma should consult with a highly-qualified attorney. Mesothelioma victims face a grim future. There are many attorneys and law firms competing to represent victims of mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases. The best lawyer to handle a mesothelioma is one who has experience and expertise in this field, one who can advise his client about the intricacies of his claim and provide him with a realistic estimate of the compensation he might recover. Their ability to understand and appreciate the unique facts of a client’s situation will have a dramatic impact on the outcome of whatever legal course a victim choses.
The lawyer’s job will be to determine whether the victim has a claim, and, if so, to research and identify the parties responsible and to commence legal action. Victims have various avenues available to seek financial redress, including filing a lawsuit, filing claims with various asbestos bankruptcy trust funds, and, filing a claim with the Veterans’ Administration.
Why Choose Stern Law?
At Stern Law, PLLC, we appreciate how difficult a mesothelioma diagnosis can be. For decades, we have successfully helped other mesothelioma victims and want to help you. We will work with you in deciding what is best for you and your family and then work hard on your behalf until you and your family members are justly compensated. Everything we do is intended to improve the lives of our clients and to ensure that their rights are protected.
Contact Us Today
The attorneys at Stern Law, PLLC offer the highest level of service and emotional support. For decades, we have successfully represented other mesothelioma victims and want to help you as you deal with this disease. To schedule a free consultation, contact us at (844) 808-7529 to learn more about available legal rights and options. You and your loved ones may be entitled to significant compensation. We are ready to make a difference, so don’t wait-pick up the phone and call us.