Mesothelioma is an aggressive and fatal form of cancer. There are many factors that may increase the likelihood of contracting mesothelioma, including genetics.
Research shows that certain inherited genetic mutations may lead to an increased risk of developing mesothelioma. However, overwhelmingly, the primary risk factor for developing mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos.
How Mesothelioma Affects the Body
According to the Mayo Clinic, mesothelioma develops in the layer of tissue that covers most of the internal organs, called the mesothelium. Pleural mesothelioma, which occurs in the tissue around the lungs, is the most common form. Peritoneal mesothelioma affects the tissue around the abdomen.
The signs and symptoms of mesothelioma can go undetected for years, but progress quickly once they become known. Signs and symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, unexplained weight loss, and lumps under the skin on the chest. As the disease spreads, further complications may include difficulty breathing and swallowing, pain caused by pressure on the nerves and spinal cord, and build up of fluid in the chest.
Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma may include abdominal pain and swelling, nausea, and unexplained weight loss. Rare forms of mesothelioma may also affect the heart and testicles.
If you believe you have any of the signs and symptoms of mesothelioma, talk to your doctor, especially if you suffered exposure to asbestos.
How Mesothelioma Is Diagnosed and Treated
Your doctor may use a variety of tests to determine if you have mesothelioma and how far the disease has progressed. Initially, your doctor will conduct a physical exam to feel for the presence of tumors. She may also order an x-ray or a computerized tomography (CT) scan.
Depending on the initial findings, your doctor may conduct a biopsy. If you are diagnosed with mesothelioma, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or positron emission tomography (PET) scan may be conducted to determine how far the cancer has spread.
Treatment options for mesothelioma include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery. Other treatments may include immunotherapy or targeted drug therapy. No alternative treatments have shown to cure mesothelioma, though acupuncture, breath training, and relaxation training have shown to help relieve symptoms.
Exposure to asbestos is not a guarantee you will get cancer, but it is the primary risk factor for developing mesothelioma. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), 70 to 80 percent of people diagnosed with mesothelioma suffered exposure to asbestos. All forms of asbestos are known to be carcinogenic in humans.
Smoking and radiation exposure, especially to the chest, are also known risk factors for developing mesothelioma. Though rare, mesothelioma can be inherited. About one percent of people with mesothelioma inherited mesothelioma, usually because of a mutation in the BAP1 gene.
How People Are Exposed to Asbestos
Asbestos is a naturally-occurring fibrous mineral commonly used in insulation, roofing shingles and other building materials, brake linings, gaskets and pads for automobiles, and as an additive in cement and other products. Its use was especially common from the 1930s to the 1960s, but decreased significantly in the United States after 1989 once its link to cancer became widely known.
Exposure to asbestos happens when asbestos fibers are inhaled or swallowed and attach to the mesothelium. Some older homes and buildings in the U.S. still contain building materials with asbestos. By far, the most common manner of contact with asbestos is while at the workplace.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 125 million people around the world are still exposed to asbestos while on the job. Occupations especially at risk for asbestos exposure include:
- Brake mechanics
- Contractors and builders who work on older homes
- Asbestos miners
- Shipyard workers
- Demolition workers
Avoiding Asbestos Exposure
If you work around asbestos, be sure to always wear protective gear and follow safety precautions. People who live with someone who works with asbestos displayed a higher risk for mesothelioma. For this reason, it is important to shower and change clothing after asbestos contact to reduce the chance of carrying the fibers home on your body or clothing. If you are unsure whether you work around asbestos, ask your employer.
Older homes and buildings can possibly contain asbestos. Disturbing materials that contain asbestos can cause the fibers to become airborne, increasing the chance they could be inhaled. If you are remodeling an older building, you should consult experts and test for the presence of asbestos before beginning any demolition.
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Pintas & Mullins Law Firm Can Help
If you or a loved one received a diagnosis of mesothelioma, you may be entitled to seek compensation. You may be able to seek awards for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, wrongful death, and more.
To learn more about your legal options, contact the legal team at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm risk-free at (800) 307-3113.