Mesothelioma (me-zoe-thee-lee-O-muh) is an aggressive cancer in the lining of the lungs or abdomen.
If you or a family member has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be entitled to financial compensation from the companies that were responsible for you or your loved one’s asbestos exposure.
We help caregivers and patients understand their rights and get the help they need during this difficult time.
Malignant mesothelioma is a highly aggressive and painful cancer with symptoms that vary from patient to patient and with the area of the body affected.
Mesothelioma most often occurs in the tissue surrounding the lungs (pleural) but can also occur in the tissue in the abdomen (peritoneal), the tissue that surrounds the heart (pericardial) and the tissue surrounding the testicles (tunica vaginalis).
The mesothelium is composed of mesothelial cells, which provide a protective surface and play a role in a number of processes such as fluid transport, inflammation, and tissue repair.
The mesothelium lines the pleural, peritoneal, and pericardial cavities, as well as the testicles.
When asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested, they can enter the mesothelium and injure the mesothelial cells, eventually giving rise to malignant tumors.
The Cause of Mesothelioma
The only known cause of this type of cancer is asbestos exposure.
Asbestos is a fiber that was once widely used in hundreds of building, industrial, commercial, and housing products and is still present in millions of U.S. workplaces and homes.
The risk of exposure to asbestos remains a very real danger and symptoms of malignant mesothelioma do not appear for at least 15 years after asbestos exposure.
For those who worked with or around asbestos products, airborne fibers can be inhaled or ingested, lodging themselves in the tissue lining the lung (known as the pleura), chest cavity, or abdominal cavity.
These fibers can stay in the body for decades before mesothelioma develops.
People who are exposed to asbestos typically inhale tiny fibers that stick in the pleura tissue lining the lungs and coating the chest wall.
These asbestos fibers can cause cellular changes, and may cause irritation and inflammation in the pleura for many years before malignant pleural mesothelioma develops.
In some cases, people ingest rather than inhale the microscopic asbestos fibers, which can then become lodged in the tissue lining the abdominal cavity and organs.
This can eventually cause peritoneal mesothelioma, also known as abdominal mesothelioma.
In rare cases, the asbestos fibers make their way to the tissue lining the heart or the testicles, resulting in pericardial or testicular mesothelioma.
Asbestos poses a serious health hazard to anyone exposed to it.
Since the 1970s, the U.S. government has been working to reduce the use of asbestos-containing materials and has implemented asbestos safety precautions for workers who may come into contact with the deadly material. However, it is still not completely banned in the United States. And there is no safe level of exposure.
Asbestos exposure can lead to a number of serious diseases.
Although there are no screening tests yet, if you know or suspect that you have been exposed to asbestos, you should talk to your doctor about doing a chest X-ray once a year.
X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs can be used to help diagnose mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases early.
Also, cutting-edge blood tests (such as the MESOMARK blood test) have the potential to improve your chances of early detection.
Adenocarcinoma is a cancer that originates in the glandular cells. According to the National Cancer Institute, most cancers of the lung, prostate, colon, pancreas, and breast are adenocarcinomas. Inhalation of asbestos fibers can be a cause of adenocarcinoma in the lungs.
Asbestos refers to a group of six fibrous minerals that occur naturally in the environment.
These minerals have been used in many industrial and household products over the years. Asbestos is considered a dangerous carcinogen, which means it is a cause of cancer.
A type of cancer caused by asbestos exposure.
Signs and Symptoms of Mesothelioma
Symptoms of malignant pleural mesothelioma, the most common form of the asbestos cancer, often start out like other respiratory diseases such as the flu, pneumonia, or COPD.
However, anyone with a history of asbestos exposure should seek medical attention immediately if he or she exhibits these symptoms:
Types of Mesothelioma
The most common type of the cancer is malignant pleural mesothelioma, which affects the pleura — the mesothelial membrane lining the lungs and chest wall.
This type begins in the pleura typically results from asbestos fibers being inhaled. Tumors that develop in the pleura may spread to the nearby diaphragm, heart, and blood vessels of the chest. Early symptoms can include shortness of breath, pleural effusion (pleural fluid build-up), chest pain, cough, and a lack of energy.
Although the cancer can spread (“metastasize”) from the pleura into the lung, the origin site is the actual pleural tissue surrounding the lung – not the lung itself. (There are many differences between mesotheliomas and lung cancer.)
When it develops in the peritoneum, the mesothelial membrane that covers the abdominal cavity and the organs within it, the cancer is called peritoneal mesothelioma (or abdominal).
Peritoneal mesothelioma is the second-most common form of this cancer, accounting for about 10 percent to 15 percent of new diagnoses.
This peritoneal cancer may result from swallowing asbestos fibers or inhaling fibers that then work their way into the abdomen.
Patients with malignant peritoneal mesothelioma often experience abdominal swelling due to fluid build-up accompanied by abdominal pain, weight loss, and loss of appetite.
The pericardium is the mesothelial membrane covering the heart.
Pericardial mesothelioma is a highly lethal and very rare form of the cancer, accounting for roughly 1 percent to 5 percent of all new cases.
Fluid in the pericardial space, shortness of breath, fever, chest pain, weight loss, and heart palpitations are symptoms of this pericardial cancer.
The rarest of all types, mesothelioma of the tunica vaginalis testis (testicular mesothelioma) is a tumor of the membrane covering the testicle.
Because of its rarity, there is little clinical agreement about this type of testicular cancer characteristics and symptoms, making diagnosis extremely difficult.
Patients sometimes report painful swelling of the testicle, and a doctor diagnoses the cancer intra-operatively (during surgery) or post-operatively, following laboratory analysis.
Ultrasound and other imaging scans and tests may also be used for testicular mesothelioma diagnosis.
Questions About Mesothelioma:
The mesothelium is the membrane that surrounds many of the body’s vital organs. This membrane secretes a lubricating fluid that provides easy movement of the organs within the body.
This is where the cancer develops when asbestos is inhaled or ingested. When the mesothelium becomes cancerous, it is called mesothelioma.
There can be multiple forms of the cancer when it affects the mesothelium.
The form is determined by the location in which the tumor begins, known as its origin site, and the type of cells that the tumor invades, known as its histological subtype. Each type may require a different treatment.
Asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma. If you are a smoker who has been diagnosed, your doctor will urge you to quit immediately.
Most people are exposed to asbestos when fibers from asbestos-containing materials become airborne. This could happen when cutting, sanding, drilling, filing, or otherwise disturbing these dangerous materials. In the past, some workers also were exposed to raw asbestos, which was mixed with other materials to form products such as asbestos cement.
Airborne asbestos fibers could easily drift across an entire worksite, putting everyone in the vicinity at risk, not just those who were working directly with the material. This widespread exposure risk makes pleural the most common type of the disease.
No, malignant mesothelioma cannot be inherited, and it is not contagious.
However, family members could have been exposed to asbestos secondhand (known as take-home asbestos) when those who worked with the material accidentally brought fibers home on clothing or uniforms.
Secondhand exposure to asbestos can cause mesothelioma. There may be some genetic factors in the development of this asbestos cancer.
People may confuse malignant mesothelioma with lung cancer. However, these are two separate types of cancer. Lung cancer is a carcinoma that affects the lung itself.
Mesothelioma is a cancer that attacks the mesothelium tissue that lines the lungs, chest cavity, and other organs in the body. Exposure to asbestos can cause both types of cancer, but it is the only known cause of malignant mesothelioma.
Asbestosis disease is a chronic lung condition that is caused by inhaling asbestos fibers.
The asbestos fibers lodge in tiny sacs in the lungs, known as alveoli. Symptoms of asbestosis include shortness of breath, tightness and pain in the chest, chronic cough, loss of appetite, weight loss, and clubbing of fingers and toes.
Treatment can include use of an oxygen tube or mask, pulmonary rehabilitation exercises, or a lung transplant in extreme cases.
No. Although both of these diseases, along with lung cancer, are associated with exposure to asbestos, they are not the same.
Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease, not a cancer. It is caused by inhalation of asbestos fibers, which can get stuck in the small sacs in the lungs. Having asbestosis can increase a patient’s chances for developing asbestos-related lung cancer.
Malignant mesothelioma is a cancer. It affects the mesothelium tissue, which lines the lungs and chest wall, as well as the abdominal cavity, heart, and testicles. Malignant mesothelioma is caused by the inhalation or ingestion of asbestos fibers, which lodge in the mesothelium tissue.
How Is Mesothelioma Diagnosed?
When you begin to experience symptoms, your doctor will first do a physical exam and talk to you about your work history.
He or she will likely perform:
A biopsy is ultimately needed to confirm a mesothelioma diagnosis.
What To Expect After a Mesothelioma Diagnosis
Patients and their families worry about what to expect after a diagnosis.
Your doctor will review all the treatment options with you, which may include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.
You may also be able to participate in clinical trials.
The treatment you receive will be aimed at extending your life, alleviating symptoms and slowing the spread of the cancer if possible.
As soon as you are diagnosed, it is crucial that you see a doctor who specializes in this rare type of cancer.
You should also talk to an experienced mesothelioma lawyer about your options for pursuing financial compensation.
Contact us today to be connected to medical experts and legal professionals.
For centuries, doctors have noted that asbestos had an adverse effect on people’s health.
Benign (or noncancerous) tumors can develop in the mesothelium tissue lining. However, these tumors are not the result of asbestos exposure, and they can be removed with a positive prognosis for the patient. Unfortunately, though, the large majority of mesothelioma cases are malignant. Benign mesothelioma cases are extremely rare.
Benign tumors, if not removed, are usually carefully monitored for changes that may indicate they have turned cancerous. For people who have had a benign mesothelioma tumor removed, there is a risk that the tumor could come back as cancer.
Because mesothelioma is a rare cancer, doctors may not immediately recognize symptoms. Patients may be told they have pneumonia or other lung conditions. It is important to discuss your history of asbestos exposure with your doctor. And do not hesitate to seek a second opinion from a mesothelioma specialist if you are experiencing symptoms.
Learning you or a loved one has mesothelioma can be extremely difficult to come to terms with.
What Is Your Prognosis?
Because this is an aggressive cancer that is often detected in the late stages, the prognosis for mesothelioma patients is not good.
Treatment options generally focus on keeping a patient comfortable, rather than on eradicating the cancer.
The earlier the cancer is detected, though, the better the prognosis for mesothelioma patients. So people who have been exposed to asbestos in the past should see a doctor at the first sign of symptoms.
Research has estimated a median survival time for malignant mesothelioma patients of less than a year.
In cases where the cancer is diagnosed early and treatment is aggressive, research has shown a life expectancy of two to five years.
Patients can improve their life expectancy by focusing on their overall health and exploring every mesothelioma treatment option available, including clinical trials.
Unfortunately, yes. Researchers have not yet found a cure for the disease, and patients typically do not have a long life expectancy. However, treatment options are constantly evolving, and there is hope that life expectancy will improve with future research.
Mesothelioma Treatment Options
Treatment for malignant mesothelioma will depend on the patient’s health and the stage at which the cancer was caught.
The most common treatment options include:
Many treatments focus on maximizing life expectancy and decreasing the pain and symptoms associated with malignant pleural mesothelioma and other forms of the cancer.
There are some rays of hope for mesothelioma sufferers.
With the success of recent research and clinical trials, new treatments have been developed that specifically target malignant mesothelioma.
Targeted therapies take advantage of the unique genetic characteristics of the patient, and personalized treatments allow doctors to select an approach that is most effective for each patient.
If a patient is in relatively good health and the cancer is detected early, surgery may be an option.
Some of the common surgeries for malignant mesothelioma include:
Other surgical procedures your doctor may consider include segmentectomy of the lung, or a lobectomy.
Most of these treatments would be in addition to radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma or another form of the disease, you should talk to your doctor about your options for participating in a clinical trial.
Although there is no single directory of clinical trials to look through, your doctor can point you in the right direction and discuss how a trial may fit into your current treatment plan.
Here are some sites to help start your search:
Unfortunately, treatment for malignant mesothelioma can be extremely expensive.
For example, a pleural mesothelioma patient who needs surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and follow-up treatment could easily face more than $100,000 in medical bills.
Then there are the additional costs of ongoing daily care.
However, patients and their families may be entitled to compensation from asbestos companies to cover the cost of mesothelioma treatment and other expenses.
Patients and families should seek legal advice as soon as possible to learn about their options for financial help.
In some cases, doctors may be able to remove a malignant tumor and attempt to kill off any remaining cancer cells with chemotherapy and radiation.
However, even if the surgery and treatment are successful, that does not mean a patient is “cured.” The tumor can come back. Particularly in the case of mesothelioma, complete eradication of the cancer is not possible.
Mesothelioma remission may occur when aggressive treatment leads to a reduction in tumor size.
Patients who experience mesothelioma remission will need to be closely monitored by their doctors. Because the cancer is not considered curable, doctors will watch for signs of mesothelioma recurrence to decide on how to proceed with treatment.
Treatment for mesothelioma is complicated by many factors. First, because people may not develop mesothelioma until decades after they were exposed to asbestos, many patients are older and in poor health by the time they are diagnosed. This leaves them fewer options for treatment.
In addition, because the aggressive asbestos cancer is so rare and symptoms are similar to other diseases, doctors may not recognize it right away. This means many cases of malignant mesothelioma are not diagnosed until the cancer has progressed to a stage that is much more difficult to treat.
Malignant mesothelioma is one of many cancers that is still considered incurable. Treatment is difficult because the cancer is:
Legal Help & Lawsuit Info
The great tragedy of this deadly disease is that it was preventable.
Corporations that manufactured and profited from the sale of asbestos-containing products were aware of the hazards of asbestos.
These companies did not warn of the risks or protect workers.
It was their legal duty to know about their products and to test them for any potential hazards. If a potential hazard did exist, the company had a responsibility to warn workers.
In many cases, companies hid the knowledge they had in order to protect themselves from liability or from having to find a new business model.
The result is that many workers have unnecessarily developed mesothelioma.
Many families find themselves overwhelmed by the cost of mesothelioma treatment and the challenges of caring for a loved one full time. You should not have to worry about how you can afford legal help, too.
A good malignant mesothelioma attorney will provide a free initial consultation on your case. You should also not be charged anything to get started on your claim. Instead, the mesothelioma attorney should be willing to handle your case on a contingency-fee basis. That means you don’t pay anything until the asbestos attorney recovers compensation for you.
Contact us to discuss your legal options for pursuing compensation after a mesothelioma diagnosis. As an added service to veterans, our attorneys also take care of VA claims for those diagnosed with mesothelioma.
We can connect you with lawyers who have extensive experience handling mesothelioma claims, which means they have already done much of the research and legwork needed to build the foundation of your case. Depending on where you are located, there may be a law requiring expedited handling of lawsuits involving plaintiffs with life-threatening diseases. Typically, our lawyers fight to resolve cases within one year.
Mesothelioma Information Sources
Free Mesothelioma Patient
& Treatment Guide
We’d like to offer you our in-depth guide, “A Patient’s Guide to Mesothelioma,” absolutely free of charge.
It contains a wealth of information and resources to help you better understand the condition, choose (and afford) appropriate treatment, and exercise your legal right to compensation.