Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that is almost always related to inhalation of asbestos fibers. In many cases, the person worked in construction or manufacturing and regularly handled asbestos without taking breathing precautions. This cancer occurs in the pleura, the thin membrane that lies between the lungs and the chest wall.
This type of cancer grows aggressively and is often deadly. There are treatments available for mesothelioma, but the eradication of mesothelioma is often impossible.
What are the Causes of Mesothelioma?
The cause of mesothelioma is well established—it is caused by asbestos exposure. Asbestos is a natural mineral fiber that was widely used in many industries from the 1930s to the early 1980s. This material was used in construction materials, insulation, fireproofing products, and many other products without regard for its serious health risks.
Not only did workers unknowingly put themselves at risk during this period, but manufacturers of asbestos-containing products also knew about its deadly effects on human health yet kept silent to continue profiting from their sales.
Because the use of asbestos was so pervasive for so long and because those who were exposed to it are just now reaching retirement age and developing mesothelioma or other related illnesses like lung cancer or asbestosis, this issue will remain important for years to come.
Risk Factors for Mesothelioma
Asbestos exposure on the job is the main cause of mesothelioma, and some fields of work are at higher risk than others.
Men over 65 are at a higher risk for mesothelioma because they are more likely to have worked in asbestos-contaminated worksites, not because of their age or gender being direct risk factors. Most exposures occurred before EPA regulation in the 1980s.
- Construction workers
- Demolition workers
- Power plant workers
- Industrial sector employees
Asbestos is still present in many building materials, and regulations have helped lower the incidence of mesothelioma, but the danger remains for those in high-risk occupations.
Despite these professions being a major risk factor, other factors may have resulted in a person experiencing asbestos exposure.
According to the American Lung Association, about 80% of people diagnosed with mesothelioma were exposed to asbestos. When a person breathes in and inhales asbestos fibers, these tiny fibers can embed in the lungs and build up in the thin membrane that lines the outside of the lungs, the pleura.
As more and more asbestos fibers build-up, inflammation and irritation occur in the mesothelial cells of the pleura. This can lead to cancerous lesions between the lungs and the chest wall, pleural effusion, pain, shortness of breath, and other symptoms. This description refers to the most common type of cancer which develops in the lungs, pleural mesothelioma.
Some people with a history of asbestos exposure may develop a less common but equally serious form of this cancer, peritoneal mesothelioma, which affects the layers of tissues in the abdomen.
In rare cases, this type of cancer can also grow in other areas of the body with a similar membrane. Rare types of mesothelioma include:
- Pericardial mesothelioma: affects the chest cavity with tumor growth in the lining of the heart
- Testicular mesothelioma: affects the lining of the testes
Symptoms OF Mesothelioma
Early symptoms of mesothelioma can be easily mistaken for those of other lung diseases, such as shortness of breath, chest pain, and a dry cough. These symptoms may not become severe enough to seek medical attention until the disease has progressed to an advanced stage.
Mesothelioma symptoms change based on the location of the cancer.
The following are some possible indications and symptoms of pleural mesothelioma, which affects the tissue surrounding the lungs:
- Lumps on or around your chest
- Painful coughing
- Chest pain
- Night sweats
- Shortness of breath
- Appetite loss
- Fluid buildup in the chest
- Unexplained weight loss
Peritoneal mesothelioma forms in abdominal tissue. Possible symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain or swelling
- Unexplained weight loss
Diagnosis of mesothelioma requires physical examination as well as imaging tests, such as X-rays and CT scans, to analyze the internal organs. Other procedures may also be used to examine biopsy samples taken from the pleura or peritoneum lining to determine if cancer cells are present. Blood tests may also prove useful in diagnosing the disease by looking for markers associated with certain types of cancers.
If left untreated, mesothelioma tumors can cause further complications and severely reduce your quality of life. Therefore, if you are experiencing any recognizable signs or symptoms of mesothelioma, it is important that you contact your doctor immediately for diagnosis and treatment.
Treatment and Prognosis After a Mesothelioma Diagnosis
American Cancer Society statistics show that mesothelioma is often deadly. There are treatments for mesothelioma available, but there is no known cure. Treatments may include gene therapy, chemotherapy drugs, surgery, or other courses of action. Some people respond well to treatment, but many rely on palliative and supportive care—treatment that eases symptoms but does not cure cancer—to stave off serious symptoms if possible.
In general, the five-year survival rates for people diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma between 2008 and 2014 include:
- Eighteen percent of patients are still alive five years after diagnosis when the cancer is only in the pleura
- Eleven percent of patients with mesothelioma are still alive after five years when cancer has spread to the local lymph nodes or other locations in the region
- Seven percent when cancer metastasizes to distant areas of the body
Overall, the five-year survival rate was only 9% when comparing their risk of death to that of their same-age peers without mesothelioma.
Of course, looking at statistics does not tell the whole story of what could happen to you or your loved one. Many factors play a role in how well an individual patient will do in the fight against mesothelioma. This includes:
- The age of the patient
- The overall health of the patient
- Where/if cancer spreads after the initial diagnosis
- If the location of the cancer allows surgical removal (resection)
- The type of mesothelioma
Depending on the stage of the mesothelioma, some factors that can lead to longer survival times include:
- Maintained mobility and activities of daily living, independent living
- Younger age at the time of diagnosis
- Women tend to survive longer than men
- Having epithelioid mesothelioma
- Having normal LDH levels
- Having normal readings of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and other blood parts
It is also important to note that research is ongoing for treatments and a cure for mesothelioma every day. The five-year survival rates consider those who received their diagnosis at least five years ago.
Talk to an Attorney About a Mesothelioma Lawsuit
If you or a loved one has mesothelioma after asbestos exposure, you may be eligible to pursue compensation for the costs of treatment, pain, and suffering, and other damages you experience. At Zanes Law, a mesothelioma and asbestos lung cancer lawyer can make this process convenient and straightforward for you and your family.
Call us as soon as possible for a free review of your case. We can handle your free case consultation and sign-up all on the same call. A member of our team is available immediately. Contact us to get started today.