Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that affects the lining of the body’s internal organs.
There are three main types of mesothelioma:
These types are further broken down by the type cancer cells present in the tumors. These include epithelial, sarcomatoid and biphasic cells.
Almost all mesothelioma diagnoses have been linked to asbestos exposure.
Pleural (lung) mesothelioma is caused by the inhalation of asbestos particles. When these fibers remain in the lungs, they can thicken the pleura (the lining of the lungs) and cause cancerous tumors to grow.
When asbestos is ingested through food or drink, pericardial (heart) or peritoneal (abdomen) mesothelioma may develop. Pericardial mesothelioma is believed to be caused by asbestos fibers that are absorbed into the bloodstream, enter the heart and become trapped in the pericardium (the lining of the heart). Peritoneal mesothelioma develops when asbestos particles travel through the digestive system and enter the peritoneum (lining of the abdomen).
The primary risk factor for developing mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos, which most often occurs in the workplace. Occupations and industries with the highest rates of mesothelioma diagnoses include construction, shipbuilding, industrial and metal works, automotive mechanic work, and power and chemical plant work. Those who worked in these fields may have also exposed their loved ones to asbestos, as the mineral’s fibers could be carried home on a worker’s clothing, skin or hair.
While asbestos mines are no longer operating in the United States, residents near these deposits may still be at risk for mesothelioma if asbestos particles become airborne.
While most mesothelioma victims are over the age of 50, there is a small percentage of young people who have developed the disease from second-hand asbestos exposure. It is extremely rare for a child to be diagnosed with mesothelioma. In fact, one study found that less than ten children and young adults were diagnosed with mesothelioma between 1999 and 2002. The medical community is not certain why children and young adults develop mesothelioma.
No, smoking does not cause mesothelioma; however, smokers who have been exposed to asbestos are between 50 and 90 percent more likely to develop asbestos-related injuries (such as asbestosis, or the inflammation of lung tissue) and nearly twice as likely to develop mesothelioma. This is because smoking weakens the lungs and irritates the air passages, which makes it even more difficult for the lungs to eliminate asbestos particles.
Mesothelioma not caused by asbestos is extremely rare. In a limited number of instances, mesothelioma may have been caused by exposure to radiation. In addition, exposure to erionite, a mineral found in parts of North America and Turkey, may also cause mesothelioma.
It is important to note that not all mesothelioma victims are people who worked in the asbestos industry. Some spouses and children of asbestos workers have developed mesothelioma as a result of second-hand asbestos exposure to a worker’s clothes or belongings.
Mesothelioma has a long latency period, meaning that those exposed to asbestos typically do not develop cancer until decades later. Most cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed between 20 and 50 years after the initial exposure.
Symptoms of mesothelioma vary depending on the area of the body affected by the cancer.
While early-stage mesothelioma typically causes symptoms such as fatigue and shortness of breath, advanced-stage mesothelioma often produces more debilitating symptoms, including chest pains and significant weight loss.
The prognosis for mesothelioma victims varies based on their specific type of mesothelioma, as well as their overall health. The three main types of mesothelioma typically have the following prognoses:
A number of other factors may contribute to a patient’s prognosis, including the type of cells present in the tumors (epithelial cells typically have a better prognosis than sarcomatoid and biphasic), the patient’s age, and whether they smoke; however, the most significant factor is the stage of the cancer at the time of diagnosis.
Yes. The time limit for filing a lawsuit, known as a statute of limitations, varies depending on the state where the case is filed and the type of lawsuit filed (personal injury or wrongful death). This time period can range from one to several years following a mesothelioma diagnosis or death. An attorney can determine the specific statutes that may apply in your case.
Personal injury and wrongful death attorneys typically only charge their clients if they are able to produce favorable outcomes in their cases. This fee is typically collected out of the money recovered in the case.
Some mesothelioma lawsuits have resulted in multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements; however, each case is different.
The amount of compensation you may receive depends on a number of factors specific to your case. These may include the number of dependents, the patient’s age and the stage of the cancer.
You may be able to sue one or more asbestos manufacturers depending on the source of your exposure.
You may still be able to collect compensation. Many asbestos manufacturers were ordered to set up trust funds specifically for asbestos victims prior to dissolving or filing for bankruptcy. An attorney can help mesothelioma victims determine whether they qualify for trust fund compensation.
The stages of a mesothelioma lawsuit often follow the same process: First, your attorney will prepare your case by gathering information about where you were exposed to asbestos. Next, your attorney will collect evidence to support your case by obtaining medical records, interviewing witnesses or speaking with experts. Then, he or she may draft a complaint, a legal document that describes the cause of your injuries and why the company you are suing is responsible for your cancer, and file it in court. At this point, the company you are suing may offer you a settlement to avoid taking your case to trial. If you do not agree to any proposed settlements, your case will continue to trial, where a judge and jury will determine whether the defendant is liable for your injuries and, if so, calculate your award.
While some mesothelioma lawsuits can be resolved within a year, others may take several years. In many states, courts recognize the time-sensitive nature of these cases and can fast track mesothelioma lawsuits for this reason.
The Mesothelioma Research Foundation of American (MESORFA) is an organization dedicated to funding research for mesothelioma cures and offering cancer victims the chance to test new treatments in clinical trials.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides a variety of benefits for veterans, as well as their dependents and survivors. Veterans who were exposed to asbestos while serving and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma may be able to collect additional compensation by filing a claim through the [VA’s mesothelioma program][link].
Given the thousands of people affected by mesothelioma, several support groups have been created to provide resources for mesothelioma victims and their families: