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Causes and Symptoms of Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos, a naturally-occurring mineral that was used in various products during the 20th century. When asbestos particles are inhaled or ingested though food and drink, they can become trapped in the body and may cause cancerous tumors to form on the lining of the lungs, abdomen or heart. Mesothelioma is considered malignant, meaning it can become progressively worse and spread to other areas of the body.

Your Legal Options

Nearly all mesothelioma victims were exposed to asbestos prior to their diagnoses, and these victims may have legal recourse against the asbestos manufacturers who put their health at risk. If you are interested in learning more about filing a lawsuit against an asbestos manufacturer, contact us today.

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What Are the Risk Factors for Mesothelioma?

The primary risk factor for developing mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Most mesothelioma victims were exposed to asbestos in the workplace; however, people who lived near a mineral deposit or with someone who worked with asbestos may also be at risk for developing mesothelioma.

Occupational Exposure

People who worked in the following occupations, fields or industries may be at the greatest risk for developing mesothelioma:

  • Shipyards: Those who built and repaired ships, as well as those serving on military vessels, may have been exposed to asbestos, as the mineral was previously used to insulate and prevent fires on both civilian and military ships.
  • Power plants: Due to the fire-resistant properties of asbestos, the mineral was often used on heat-generating machinery and may have put power plant workers at risk for developing mesothelioma.
  • Chemical plants: Because of its resistance to chemicals, asbestos was often used on machinery in chemical plants, as well as workers' protective clothing (gloves, aprons, facemasks, etc.). This may have exposed chemical plant workers to the dangerous mineral.
  • Construction: An array of construction workers, including brick layers, roofers and stone masons, may have been exposed to asbestos; however, the use of asbestos in drywall and insulation products may put those who renovate or demolish older homes at the greatest risk for developing mesothelioma. This is because the mineral can become airborne when disturbed, and workers may inhale these dangerous fibers.
  • Industrial and metal workers: Those who forge, cast, smelt, smolder or stamp metals may be at risk for developing mesothelioma because asbestos was previously used as an insulator for industrial machinery.
  • Automotive mechanics: Asbestos has been used to manufacture brakes, clutches and heat seals due to its heat-resistant properties. When these parts break or disintegrate, the asbestos can become airborne and put mechanics at risk for developing cancer.

Secondary Exposure

Those who are exposed to asbestos in the workplace may bring the particles home with them on their clothing, skin or hair. This may put family members at risk for secondhand exposure to the dangerous mineral.

Environmental Exposure

While asbestos mines are no longer operative, those who reside near mineral deposits may still be at risk for developing mesothelioma, as small amounts of these fibers may become airborne.

Minor Risk Factors for Mesothelioma

Minor risk factors for mesothelioma include exposure to the following:

  • Thorotrast (Thorium dioxide), a substance previously used during X-ray testing.
  • Zeolite, a silica-based mineral with similar chemical properties to asbestos, which is found in the soil of the Anatoli region of Turkey.
  • Simian Virus 40 (SV40), a virus that doctors have found in cells of mesothelioma patients.
  • Erionite, a mineral that is similar to asbestos.

Symptoms of Mesothelioma

The three main types of mesothelioma may cause symptoms unique to the area affected by the cancer.

Pleural (lung) mesothelioma symptoms include:

  • Chest pains
  • Reduced lung capacity
  • Faint or harsh breathing sounds
  • Dry cough/wheezing
  • Pleural effusions
  • Lower back pain or rib area pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Coughing up blood

Pericardial (heart) mesothelioma symptoms include:

  • Heart palpitations or murmurs
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pains
  • Night sweats

Peritoneal (abdomen) mesothelioma symptoms include:

Symptoms may also vary depending on the stage of the disease. For example, early-stage mesothelioma may cause symptoms such as shortness of breath, fatigue and dry coughs. In contrast, advanced-stage mesothelioma may be signaled by chest pains, weight loss and respiratory complications.

Because mesothelioma has a long latency period, victims typically don't experience these symptoms until decades after they were exposed to asbestos. As a result, those who develop mesothelioma are typically diagnosed when they are in their 50s, 60s or 70s, and the prognosis for these victims typically ranges between six and 18 months.