What is Mesothelioma?
In the United States, there are approximately 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma diagnosed each year. Mesothelioma is an aggressive and rare form of cancer that can attack the lining of the lungs, heart, and/or abdomen. Caused primarily by ongoing and continuous exposure to asbestos,the disease is mainly diagnosed in older individuals who worked or regularly came in contact with asbestos in an industrial setting such as in a factory or ship.
If you or a loved one was exposed to asbestos and developed mesothelioma or any other type of asbestos-related disease as a result, you may have legal rights. At Stern Law, PLLC, our team of seasoned asbestos exposure attorneys provide compassionate yet zealous advocacy for those who have been injured due to asbestos. To learn more about your legal options, call (844) 808-7529 now to schedule your free consultation. We look forward to fighting for your right to receive the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
What is Asbestos & Where Was it Primarily Used?
Touted for its heat and fire resistant properties, asbestos is a group of minerals that form as a bundle of fibers. There are two main types of asbestos – chrysotile and amphibole asbestos. Chrysotile asbestos, also referred to as “white asbestos,” is the most common spiral shaped form of asbestos used in industrial settings. Conversely, amphibole asbestos contains straight and needle-like fibers, and was less used due to its brittle and inflexible nature.
Mined and used commercially in the United States since the late 1800s, asbestos has been incorporated into a variety of different products and applications, including, without limitation, insulation, roofing, sound absorption, fireproofing, brake and clutch pads, caulk, gaskets, boilers, hairdryers, ceiling and floor tiles, paints, coatings, adhesives, and plastics.
Factors that Increase the Risk of Developing Mesothelioma
There are several factors that increase one’s risk of developing mesothelioma or some other type of asbestos-related condition, such as:
- Dose – this represents the amount that an individual was exposed to asbestos.
- Duration – this is the amount of time that the individual was exposed to asbestos.
- The size, shape, and type of asbestos fiber – while each type of asbestos is hazardous, some fibers are associated with certain health risks. For instance, chrysotile asbestos is more likely to cause mesothelioma than other types of asbestos because it tends to remain in the lungs for a longer time period.
- The exposure source – people who are regularly exposed to airborne asbestos in an industrial facility may have a greater chance of developing mesothelioma than those who handled contained and non-airborne asbestos.
- The individual’s health status& lifestyle – if a person is a heavy smoker and/or has a pre-existing lung disease, these may increase one’s risk of developing mesothelioma.
How do People get Exposed to Asbestos?
While asbestos is the proven cause of the disease, there are several paths of exposure that lead to mesothelioma. These are as follows:
- Occupational exposure – the most common form of exposure, occupational exposure relates to those working in industrial settings who came into contact with asbestos-containing materials. Occupations such as shipyard workers, constructions workers, chemical and power plant workers, insulators, boiler room workers and auto mechanics are associated with the most prevalent occurrences of asbestos exposure.
- Secondhand exposure – secondhand exposure refers to a type of exposure wherein those working with asbestos would inadvertently expose people in their home. For example, many wives of men who worked with asbestos have contracted mesothelioma due to laundering their spouse’s work clothes that were covered with asbestos.
- Environmental exposure – asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral. As such, those who reside near large deposits of asbestos (such as mines) can be exposed through water run-off and mining activities. While rare, this can be a deadly form of exposure.
The Three Types of Mesothelioma& its Associated Symptoms
There are three types of mesothelioma: pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma, and pericardial mesothelioma, all of which are further described as follows:
- Pleural mesothelioma – pleural mesothelioma is the most common of the three types of the disease and specifically affects the liming, or pleura, of the lungs. Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include chest or lower back pain, a persistent cough, coughing up blood, trouble swallowing, shortness of breath, fluid buildup around the lungs, hoarseness, difficulty talking, body aches, and blood clots.
- Peritoneal mesothelioma – peritoneal mesothelioma is a rarer form of cancer, with about 500 new cases diagnosed per year in the United States. This type of mesothelioma affects the abdominal lining, or peritoneum, and accounts for approximately 20% of all mesothelioma cases. Symptoms of this disease include abdominal pain, abdominal swelling, difficulty breathing, loss of appetite and/or weight loss, weakness, fever, anemia, nausea and vomiting.
- Pericardial mesothelioma – the least common type of mesothelioma, this disease develops in the lining, or pericardium, of the heart, and accounts for less than 50 cases diagnosed per year in the United States. Unlike pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma, it is unclear as to how asbestos fibers reach the pericardium. Often mimicking other diseases, pericardial mesothelioma causes the following symptoms: cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, heart murmurs, fatigue, fluid buildup around the heart, swelling of the extremities, heart arrhythmias, a more prominent jugular vein, and accentuated variance in the pulse during respiration.
When do Mesothelioma Symptoms Develop?
For all of the above forms of mesothelioma, symptoms of the disease can start anywhere between 10 to 50 years after asbestos exposure and depends upon several factors, including the type and level of one’s exposure. Generally, symptoms typically emerge in subtle ways, causing some people to shrug them off as simply a minor ailment that will eventually go away. Most often, this type of cancer takes years to develop, and is not fully detected until after tumors have started to spread, or metastasize, in the body. The vast majority of those who get mesothelioma are not diagnosed until the disease has reached later stages, such as stages III (the disease has spread where surgical options are often limited) and IV (the disease had already spread to the opposite side of the body and treatment is usually limited to symptom management).
How does Mesothelioma Develop?
Exposure to asbestos typically occurs when its fibers become loosened or disturbed, causing the release of asbestos into the air. Once airborne, a person can develop mesothelioma via ingestion and/or inhalation. Once in the body, asbestos fibers can become lodged on the protective linings of the heart, lungs, and abdominal wall. These fibers, once trapped, can cause tissue irritation to these organs, ultimately resulting in genetic mutations that can develop into cancerous tumors over time (typically 10 to 50 years after exposure).
How is Mesothelioma Diagnosed?
As noted, detecting mesothelioma can be challenged due to the fact that it often mimics other, more common ailments. In general, mesothelioma can be diagnosed as follows:
- Imaging – imaging studies provide critical information that can help make or rule out the diagnosis of mesothelioma. These include X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and PET scans.
- Blood tests – there are three mesothelioma biomarkers (mesomark, osteopontin, and Fibulin-3) that may be detected by a simple blood test. While blood tests are not the only method for diagnosing mesothelioma, they can provide useful information and may be part of the mesothelioma diagnostic workup.
- Biopsies – a biopsy is the single most reliable method for detecting mesothelioma. There are several different types of biopsies that depend upon the suspected location of the cancer. Your healthcare professional will be able to determine which type of biopsy is necessary depending on where he or she feels the disease may be located.
One’s prognosis typically depends on a number of different factors including:
- The stage of the cancer at the time of diagnosis – undoubtedly, those who are diagnosed early have the greatest chances of survival, as they have more treatment options and a better outlook.
- The specific type of mesothelioma – as noted above, mesothelioma can affect the lungs, abdominal wall and heart. Depending on the specific location of mesothelioma in addition to the cells involved (whether epithelioid, sarcomatoid, and biphasic), these altogether affect a person’s prognosis. Typically, those who are diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma have a more favorable prognosis than those suffering from pleural or pericardial mesothelioma.
- The person’s age and overall health – for those who are younger and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, having a healthy lifestyle gives you a greater chance of success than those who are older and in poor health.
While mesothelioma patients typically live only one to two years after being diagnosed, recent research and advancements in medicine have led to progress in terms of earlier detection, diagnosis, and a variety of different treatment options. Although mesothelioma can be a challenging diagnosis, there is hope. Don’t fight cancer alone and without the compensation you deserve for your injuries. Contact Stern Law, PLLC to receive the skilled and compassionate legal representation you need.
Taking Action Early is Key to Your Survival
If you are facing any of the above symptoms and were exposed to asbestos, it is critical that you seek medical attention immediately. The sooner you are diagnosed, the sooner you can be treated and potentially survive in the event that the disease is caught early.
Although mesothelioma can be a challenging diagnosis, there is hope. Don’t fight mesothelioma alone and without the compensation you deserve for your injuries. Contact Stern Law, PLLC to receive the skilled and compassionate legal representation you need.
Your Legal Rights
When you are diagnosed with mesothelioma, you need to work with your doctor to develop a treatment plan and start care immediately to increase your chances of survival. Once you have taken these critical steps, you should then speak with an experienced asbestos exposure attorney. At Stern Law, PLLC, one of our skilled asbestos exposure attorneys will review your case, determine your sources of exposure, and if you have a viable case, provide you with a list of legal rights and options, which may include, for example, the following:
Filing a Lawsuit
If filing a lawsuit is the right option for you (or if qualifying surviving family members feel that a wrongful death suit is warranted), your attorney will assist you throughout each part of the litigation process. While every case is different and there is no guarantee as to their outcome, there are a number of steps involved in pursuing litigation, which means that the process may take a longer time than simply settling or filing a trust fund claim. Moreover, litigation involves a certain amount of risk, as the outcome of the case depends upon a judge and jury, which could be swayed at any time.
Settling Your Case
As noted above, you have to file a claim against a responsible party or multiple responsible parties before you can reach a settlement. Some defendants wishing to avoid litigation altogether choose to offer a settlement at the beginning of one’s case, which means that you will not have to go to court. If the amount is sufficient in light of your individual set of circumstances, accepting the offer may save time and money, especially for those who have a life expectancy of two years or less as a result of their asbestos-related illness. An experienced attorney will review with you the strengths of your case and help you to determine whether settling your case, filing a trust fund claim, or seeking a verdict is more appropriate.
Filing a Claim for Trust Funds
Over seventy former asbestos companies have filed for bankruptcy in order to avoid further lawsuits. However, the U.S. governing required these corporations to create trust funds with a sufficient amount of money to pay out current and future legal claims to those injured by asbestos. Filing a trust fund claim may be the quickest way to receive money, which is especially helpful to those who are at an advanced stage of illness however, it may be less money than if you file a lawsuit or seek a legal settlement. Your attorney can review with you whether filing a trust fund claim is right for you.
Were You Diagnosed with Mesothelioma? Contact Stern Law, PLLC Today
If you or a loved one was diagnosed with mesothelioma or some other asbestos-related disease, we want to help. At Stern Law, PLLC, our seasoned and compassionate team of asbestos exposure attorneys will take the time you need to review your case, determine the sources of your exposure, and develop a plan of action to help you fight for the compensation you deserve. Contact Stern Law, PLLC today at (844) 808-7529 to schedule your free consultation with one of our seasoned mesothelioma attorneys.