Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that occurs in the lining of the lungs and abdomen. People who have been exposed to asbestos, especially for extended periods of time, are most at risk for developing mesothelioma. Most cases of mesothelioma are not diagnosed until the cancer has reached an advanced stage because the disease tends to not develop until several decades after exposure.
Men who once worked in jobs where they were exposed to asbestos and easily able to inhale particles of the material are most at risk. Sadly, the disease has a poor prognosis, partly due to its late-stage diagnosis.
The symptoms of mesothelioma vary based on whether the cancer has developed in the lungs or abdomen.
Pleural (lung) mesothelioma symptoms include:
- Painful coughing
- Chest pain felt beneath the rib cage
- Shortness of breath
- Lumps of tissue under the skin on the chest
- Unexplained weight loss
Peritoneal (abdomen) mesothelioma symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain and swelling
- Lumps of tissue in the abdomen
- Unexplained weight loss
Despite the poor prognosis for mesothelioma patients, there are several treatments available. The treatment approach for most patients is aggressive, but the intended goal is more often than not preventing discomfort and helping patients maintain a decent quality of life for as long as possible. Treatment options available for mesothelioma patients include:
Surgery can be performed to remove as much of the cancer as possible, or to decrease fluid buildup or remove affected tissue in the lungs or abdomen. In some cases, doctors might remove a patient’s entire lung, which enables doctors to then use an aggressive radiation treatment because there is no concern for lung damage.
Chemotherapy is often used to kill mesothelioma cancer cells. It can be used alone or in conjunction with other therapies. Because chemotherapy can have a dramatic effect on a patient’s quality of life, some opt to forgo it in the latter stages of the disease.
Radiation utilizes high-energy beams to target the location of the mesothelioma cancer in an effort to kill the cancer cells. It’s often recommended after surgery to destroy any remaining cells. Radiation can also be an effective treatment to help keep symptoms at bay when attempts to remove the cancer are not an option.
Some patients are eligible to participate in clinical trials that provide access to the latest cancer treatments. Be sure to speak to your doctor about clinical trial options to determine if you are eligible. Current clinical trials for mesothelioma include gene therapy, targeted therapy, and biological therapy.
Mesothelioma litigation began in the 1970s once it became apparent there was a problem with exposure to asbestos. People who had been exposed during the earlier part of the 20th century began to develop symptoms of the cancer. Many claims were filed against manufacturers of asbestos-containing products, as well as companies that exposed employers to asbestos on a regular basis. Many of these lawsuits revealed defendants knowingly and/or negligently exposed employees to asbestos.
Claims filed against these companies forced many of them into bankruptcy, but victims of asbestos exposure have access to trust funds established to provide them compensation for their health conditions. There are approximately 60 trust funds in existence, many of which still have large sums of money available to those affected.
If you file a mesothelioma claim, your disease will be rated on a level ranging from one to eight. This rating is used to determine the amount of compensation you’ll receive from the appropriate trust fund. It’s important to file your claim as soon as possible to ensure you receive the compensation to which you are entitled. Most claims are settled within a year, unless the claimant chooses to pursue litigation. An attorney can review with you your options and help you decide what is in your and your family’s best interest.
It’s also important to remember that because of the long period of time between exposure to asbestos and diagnosis of mesothelioma, litigation tends to be complicated. The average state has a statute of limitations of approximately three years on personal injury claims, but the courts have extended the statute of limitations for asbestos-related cases. Still, it’s important to move quickly to ensure you receive the compensation you need for your medical care.
We want to help victims of asbestos exposure understand their options and realize they do not need to suffer alone.