Mesothelioma does not develop quickly but over the course of many years or decades. The most common cause of mesothelioma is long-term exposure to asbestos. That is why the average age of a person diagnosed with mesothelioma in the chest is 72 years old, according to the American Cancer Society.
Why Mesothelioma Usually Develops Slowly
Asbestos is a generic name for fibers made from natural minerals. Asbestos was used for many years in construction and manufacturing because it is durable and flexible. However, asbestos is no longer widely used because it is known to cause cancer, including mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma forms in the lining of the lungs called the mesothelial lining. The disease has a long latency period. This is the time from when you are exposed to asbestos, and when you start to have symptoms.
Eight out of 10 people who are diagnosed with the most common form of mesothelioma, called pleural mesothelioma, were exposed to asbestos through their work, according to the American Cancer Society.
Stages of Mesothelioma
Like all forms of cancer, mesothelioma is diagnosed according to its stage.
There are four stages of the disease:
- Stage 1: The cancer is localized to one side or both sides of the mesothelial lining.
- Stage 2: The cancer has advanced from the lining to the lungs and the diaphragm.
- Stage 3: The cancer has spread to nearby tissues, organs, and lymph nodes.
- Stage 4: The cancer is widespread, affecting the distant organs on the other side of the body.
Unfortunately, mesothelioma is usually diagnosed in the later stages. This limits treatment options and is the reason why mesothelioma has a lower survival rate than other forms of cancer.
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How Mesothelioma Is Diagnosed
Mesothelioma symptoms are like those of lung cancer and other illnesses.
According to the Mayo Clinic, most people who are diagnosed with mesothelioma see their doctor when they have:
- Unintentional weight loss
- Chest pain
- Chest lumps that can be felt underneath the skin
- Shortness of breath, wheezing
- Painful cough and coughing spells
Diagnosis and Staging of Mesothelioma
After a physical examination that includes questions about asbestos exposure, a doctor will typically order the following diagnostic tests:
- Computerized tomography (CT scan) or an x-ray scan of your chest to check for tumors.
- A biopsy of the tumor.
- A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or positron emission tomography (PET), if your doctor thinks that the disease has spread to other tissues or organs.
Mesothelioma does not develop quickly, but there are preventative measures that people who are at-risk can take.
People Most at Risk for Mesothelioma
The best way to avoid developing mesothelioma is to avoid contact with and exposure to asbestos. For some people, this may be difficult if their job puts them in contact with the carcinogen.
People with a higher than average risk for mesothelioma include:
- Construction workers
- Demolition workers
- Disaster relief workers
If your job involves removing asbestos or puts you in contact with burning or eroding asbestos, you should have personal protective equipment (PPE).
Protection from Harmful Asbestos Exposure
Your lungs can become scarred and inflamed from breathing in asbestos fibers or fumes from burning asbestos. Over time, this can lead to mutations in your cells, which causes cancerous tumors to spread over healthy tissue.
That is why people who work with asbestos should be protected with equipment that might include:
- Filtration masks
- Oxygen tanks
- Goggles or a face shield
- Protective clothing, gloves, and shoe coverings
You have the right to protection from hazardous material and to a safe workplace that complies with state and federal regulations.
Legal Options for Mesothelioma Patients
If you or a loved one was diagnosed with mesothelioma, you could be entitled to compensation, even if you are retired from the job that exposed you to asbestos.
The two most common ways to pursue compensation are:
- Class-action lawsuit with many plaintiffs,
- An individual lawsuit where you are the only plaintiff.
In either case, it might be beneficial to consult with a lawyer about your individual situation and if you might qualify for financial awards.
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Why Call Our Firm
Mesothelioma lawsuits are complex because they often involve a lengthy timeline from when you were exposed to when you were diagnosed. Each state has a different statute of limitations, or deadline, for legal action.
A lawyer with the Pintas & Mullins Law Firm can help you seek compensation and justice for your physical, emotional, and financial suffering. We invite you to call our firm today to learn more about your legal options.
Call (800) 307-3113 for a free consultation with a member of our firm.