Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is usually caused by exposure to asbestos, naturally occurring fibers that were used for decades in building materials, automotive parts, and other products. Exposure to asbestos can damage the mesothelium, the lining that surrounds the heart, chest, abdomen, and testicles, which can lead to mesothelioma.
How People Can Be Exposed to Asbestos
A large number of people who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma were exposed to asbestos at work according to Cancer.net. For decades, asbestos was common at commercial and industrial locations, such as oil refineries, power plants, steel mills, chemical plants, and textile factories. All branches of the U.S. military used asbestos, but it was particularly common in Navy yards and on ships. Asbestos was also used in construction materials, vehicle parts, and fire-proof clothing.
Individuals who worked in commercial, industrial, military, construction, automotive, and firefighting jobs may have been exposed to asbestos if they were not warned of the danger and given proper protective equipment. The risk of mesothelioma is higher in people who were exposed to large amounts of asbestos or who were exposed to it over long periods of time.
Many individuals who never worked with asbestos were nonetheless exposed to it and later got mesothelioma lung cancer. In some cases, workers returned home with asbestos fibers on their clothing, hair, and skin and unknowingly exposed their family members to the carcinogen. Asbestos has also been used in a wide range of household products, including potholders, ash trays, hair dryers, holiday decorations, cosmetics, baby powder, cookware, appliances, and cigarette filters.
The U.S. government began regulating the use of asbestos in the 1970s due to health concerns, but there is evidence that companies knew that asbestos could cause mesothelioma much earlier and continued to use asbestos in their products anyway. Some companies continued to use asbestos after the federal government-imposed regulations to protect public health. Those regulations banned certain products that contained asbestos but did not ban the use of asbestos entirely. Since asbestos was used so widely and for so long, nearly everyone in the United States may have been exposed to it at some point.
Forms of Mesothelioma
There are four types of mesothelioma, based on the part of the body affected:
Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of the disease, accounting for over 70 percent of cases. It affects the lining around the lungs, called the pleura, and reduces the lungs’ air capacity, which makes it more difficult for them to expand and contract. Many people who get mesothelioma lung cancer are diagnosed late because it is easy to mistake pleural mesothelioma for other conditions. Delayed treatment means that in many cases, when patients finally get a correct diagnosis, they have a poor prognosis.
About 10 to 20 percent of mesothelioma patients have peritoneal mesothelioma, the second most common form of the disease. That form of mesothelioma affects the peritoneum, the lining of the abdominal cavity.
Pericardial mesothelioma is rare. It begins in the pericardium, or the thin lining that surrounds the heart. In many cases, the disease is not discovered until it has progressed so much that it is untreatable. Even if pericardial mesothelioma is detected early, few treatment options are available.
The rarest form of the disease is testicular mesothelioma. Although it may be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, it is often impossible to completely eliminate the cancerous tissue.
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Frequency and Prognosis
Cancer.net goes on to say approximately 3,000 people, mostly men, are diagnosed with mesothelioma in the United States each year. Five-year survival rates for the disease are generally low, but a patient’s age and type of mesothelioma can influence the chance of survival. People who are diagnosed when they are younger typically live longer than those who are diagnosed at an older age. Patients who undergo surgery generally live longer than people whose cancer has spread too much to be treated with surgery.
Seeking Justice and Financial Compensation
Asbestos was used for decades, and some companies knew of the risk but failed to warn and protect workers and the general public. If you or a member of your family got mesothelioma lung cancer after being exposed to asbestos, Pintas & Mullins Law Firm may be able to help you seek financial compensation by filing a personal injury lawsuit or by pursuing compensation through an asbestos trust fund if the company responsible has gone bankrupt.
In many cases, a person who has been exposed to asbestos does not show symptoms of mesothelioma until long after the exposure. In our three decades representing victims of mesothelioma, Pintas & Mullins Law Firm has identified many of the companies that used asbestos in their products. We can help you figure out when and how you may have been exposed to it. Call our office at (800) 794-0444 to speak to a member of our team about how we may be able to help you. The call is free and there is no risk or obligation.