Mesothelium is the lining of an internal organ and in mesothelioma, cancerous tumors form in the lining of some organs such as the lungs, the abdomen and the heart. It is rarer than most types of cancer, with only around 2000 to 3000 cases diagnosed each year. However, the figure is increasing.
One of the most prevalent types is mesothelioma in the lungs, which is typically brought by prolonged asbestos exposure. The condition would not manifest until decades after the exposure to the substance; hence, increasing number of individuals today who are diagnosed with this type of cancer.
Asbestos has been widely used in construction because of its excellent fireproofing and insulation properties. It was only when it was confirmed that it is a carcinogen that the Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of Asbestos (1989). It may not be widely used today, but a person could still get exposed to the substance during renovations or demolitions. More recently, rescue workers and clean-up crews who were involved in debris removal in New York City after the 9/11 attacks have reported asbestos-related symptoms and complications.
Causes and Risk Factors
Those who handle asbestos or similar substances on a regular basis and for a prolonged period (typically six months or more) are at risk of developing the condition. Some of those who have occupations that are closely linked to asbestos-related diseases are demolition or renovation crews, construction workers, insulators, asbestos mine workers, mechanics and asbestos manufacturing plant workers.
Living with someone who works with asbestos is a risk factor too, because asbestos fibers could easily cling to clothing. While most cases of mesothelioma reported today are brought by exposure to asbestos, the condition might also be brought by genetic issues, exposure to a virus, particularly the simian virus 40, as well as exposure to radiation.
Those with Pleural (lung lining) mesothelioma experience coughing (usually painful), shortness of breath, lower back pain, discomfort on the side of the chest, exhaustion and difficulty in swallowing. Pleural is the most common type, found in about 75% of the cases. The symptoms usually are mistaken at first for everyday problems that a lot of people have. Fatigue or persistent coughing are the first symptoms. Back pain, chest pain, swelling, hoarse voice, and night sweats may follow. The combination of the symptoms and the person getting tired of having the coughing is usually when the person seeks medical advice. Testing is performed and the diagnosis can be obtained.
Peritoneal (abdomen lining) mesothelioma symptoms include swelling in the abdomen and nausea. This is a very rare type of this disorder. The symptoms can be latent for 50 years and this makes it difficult in diagnosing. The first symptom of this type is usually stomach pains. Nausea, vomiting, anemia, and fatigue may follow. All types of mesothelioma usually includes weight loss.
Those with Pericardial (heart area lining) mesothelioma typically suffer from low blood pressure, fluid retention particularly in the legs, shortness of breath and palpitations. The symptoms of this type seems similar to the pleural type and the only way to tell the difference is to determine where the focus of the lumps are.
Almost all who are affected with this condition would experience unexplained weight loss and fatigue (albeit in varying degrees) and pain in the affected area.
Diagnosis can be difficult because mesothelioma typically causes symptoms that are also symptoms of other conditions (see previous section). The physician would have to take note of detailed history, and information about your employment history would be required. X-rays of the chest and abdomen may be necessary, as well as CT, MRI and PET scans.
If mesothelioma or other forms of cancer is suspected, a biopsy would be scheduled. If the biopsy confirms mesothelioma, the stage of the cancer would be determined by more tests.
Treatment options vary, and are recommended depending on the size and location of the tumor. Surgery is typically considered for cancers at their early stage. Chemotherapy medication as well as targeted therapy may increase chances of survival. Radiation may be recommended to alleviate symptoms or to kill remaining cancer cells post-surgery. There are experimental treatment options that seek to extend life expectancy and ultimately find a cure.
Do not delay the treatment of this disorder. Most of the time symptoms do not occur for 20 to 50 years after extreme exposure to asbestos. It has had time to do a lot of damage to the body already. More delays in treatment can cause more damage. The damage is compounded as it affects different parts of the body.
Mesothelioma and malignant mesothelioma are used interchangeably because all three major types of the cancer are aggressive. Survival rates for this condition are low because symptoms are hardly observed in the earlier stages, and diagnoses are typically made in the latter stages (typically stage III or stage IV). This is compounded by the fact that cancer cells spread rapidly. Life expectancy for someone diagnosed with stage III or IV mesothelioma is between 8 and 18 months.
The Legal Aspect
In the United States legal system, every company - manufacturers, suppliers, distributors and sellers - is bound by law to provide safe products and ample warning regarding potential dangers. Plus, everyone who develops the condition brought by on-the-job exposure to asbestos is in that situation because of negligence on the part of the company that was supposed to give him a safe working environment. In the absence of the required precautionary measures, and when a company fails to fulfill its obligations, it is liable.
However, each case is unique, and the assistance of a lawyer would be necessary to further your cause. The potential case would be discussed, as well as the viability of a lawsuit. Upon confirming that you are a good candidate for such, lawyers would take care of all the paperwork. There are excellent lawyers that provide services at no cost to you; they would represent you on a contingency basis, which means they only get paid when you collect a settlement.
This condition could be prevented through safety measures at work, as well as awareness, which could also help in early detection. But if the disease was not prevented and was indeed caused by negligence, it is only just that the patient already suffering from the condition be compensated.