Exposure to asbestos is a common factor in about 80 percent of all cases of malignant mesothelioma, according to the American Cancer Society. Because mesothelioma develops decades after exposure to asbestos, most of the remaining 20 percent of people with mesothelioma experienced an unknown asbestos exposure at some time. A study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America found that some cases of mesothelioma may be a result of exposure to erionite.
While mesothelioma cancer can affect other areas of the body, the most common form of the cancer (malignant pleural mesothelioma) grows in the thin membrane that lines the outside of the lungs, according to Mayo Clinic. Mesothelioma in the abdomen, around the heart, or in other areas of the body does occur, but rarely.
Understanding Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma
Malignant pleural mesothelioma takes years to develop. The process begins when the person experiences asbestos exposure. They inhale the asbestos fibers into their lungs, and the fibers stick in the lung tissue. When the fibers embed deeply enough, they can reach the pleura, the thin lining of the outside of the lungs and chest cavity.
Over time, the cells begin to change around the fiber. A malignancy develops and begins to grow. This process can take anywhere from 10 to 50 years following the person’s inhalation of the fibers. Initially, mesothelioma does not present symptoms. Rather, symptoms only develop as the cancerous cells spread to cover more of the surface of the lungs or metastasize to other areas of the body.
Once symptoms develop, they may include:
- Pleural effusion, a collection of fluid surrounding the lung
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty taking a full breath
- Chest pain
- Chronic cough
Diagnosis of mesothelioma requires an X-ray or CT scan and a biopsy. The cancer often spreads before diagnosis because symptoms do not appear initially.
Treatment and Prognosis of Mesothelioma Cancer
An aggressive cancer, mesothelioma typically lends itself to diagnosis only after it affects large areas of the lungs or has spread to other areas of the body. The diffuse nature of the tumors on the surface of the lung also makes the disease difficult to treat. These factors together often mean a poor prognosis for patients.
The five-year survival rate for pleural mesothelioma patients is less than 10 percent, according to the American Cancer Society. With the current treatments available, the median survival rate is 12 to 14 months after diagnosis. Treatments generally focus on easing symptoms and improving the quality of life. As of January 2020, no cure exists.
Mesothelioma Patients May Qualify for Legal Action
Since the great majority of people diagnosed with mesothelioma can prove a known history of asbestos exposure, many with this condition pursue a settlement or award to help pay for their treatment, related expenses, and pain and suffering losses. You may be able to hold the asbestos company responsible for your exposure liable and recover compensation.
Pursuing a payout will require you to prove several things:
- You have a history of asbestos exposure
- The company or companies profited from your exposure
- You have a mesothelioma diagnosis, or another asbestos-related condition
- Your mesothelioma was likely caused by your asbestos exposure
- Your documented expenses and losses related to your condition and treatment
Many people prefer to work with an attorney to build this type of case and navigate the process to recover an award. This particular mass tort can be more complex than many others because your compensation may rely on a payout from an asbestos trust fund.
Many asbestos companies have filed for bankruptcy. As a result, the courts ordered them to establish these trust funds to ensure victims could continue to recover compensation. Some of these trust funds continue to cover 100% of the victim’s cost, while others only pay a percentage.
What Is the Main Cause of Mesothelioma?
Asbestos exposure has been found to be the main cause of mesothelioma. If you inhale asbestos, you may have a higher risk of developing mesothelioma.
- How Mesothelioma Develops – According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, approximately 70% to 80% of patients that receive a mesothelioma diagnosis also experience asbestos exposure. Builders use asbestos, a natural fibrous mineral, to build properties. When you inhale asbestos fibers, they can create scarring and inflammation within different areas of the body. This scarring and inflammation can damage a person’s DNA, and after decades of remaining dormant, produce cancerous cellular changes. The World Health Organization gave asbestos, a natural mineral found in the ground, a carcinogen classification after discovering that it causes cancer. Mesothelioma can occur in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, heart, and testes.
- Highest Risk for Mesothelioma – Typically, one incident of inhaling asbestos will not raise someone’s risk of mesothelioma. Those involved in certain industries might have a much higher chance of developing mesothelioma.