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.
Asbestos and Mesothelioma
Asbestos has been classified by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as a known human carcinogen. People were primarily exposed to asbestos in the workplace, but also in their communities and homes. If certain asbestos-containing products are disturbed, tiny fibers can be released into the air, resulting in accidental inhalation and/or ingestion. This can lead to fibers becoming trapped in the lungs and/or migrating to other parts of the body, including the heart and abdominal wall. Over time (the latency period is typically between 10 and 50 years after exposure), fibers can accumulate, form scar tissue, and lead to malignant melanoma, which forms life-threatening tumors.
Types of Mesothelioma
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 with nearly 2,500 new cases diagnosed per year. Specifically, pleural mesothelioma attacks the lining, or pleura, of the lungs, and accounts for roughly 80% of all mesothelioma cases. When an individual has been heavily exposed to asbestos over a long time period (i.e., has inhaled asbestos leading to asbestos fibers becoming embedded in the pleura), it can lead to chronic inflammation, scar tissue, and may ultimately cause tumors to form in 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, 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. Due to its location, peritoneal mesothelioma is sometimes referred to as abdominal mesothelioma. Researchers believe that after continuous and ongoing exposure to asbestos, the fibers first enter the lungs and then travel to the abdominal cavity via the lymphatic system. Further theories posit that peritoneal mesothelioma can also develop in the event that asbestos is accidentally ingested due to regularly working with the substance. 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.
For all of the above forms of mesothelioma, symptoms of the disease can start anywhere between 10 and 50 years after exposure to asbestos and depends upon several factors, including the type and level of one’s exposure.
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.
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.
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.