What is Mesothelioma?
Malignant mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer and is one of the most serious health problems associated with asbestos exposure. Asbestos exposure causes cells in the mesothelium, a protective lining covering most internal organs, to become abnormal and divide without control or order. These cancerous cells then metastasize (spread) to other parts of the body, causing damage to other tissues and organs.
The form of malignant mesothelioma someone has is an important factor in evaluating both treatment options and symptoms of the disease. The most common forms of mesothelioma include:
- peritoneal mesothelioma (cancer of the abdominal lining);
- pleural mesothelioma (cancer of the lung lining); and
- pericardial mesothelioma (cancer of the heart lining).
What are the Symptoms of Mesothelioma?
Symptoms of mesothelioma may not appear until decades after exposure to asbestos occurs. When symptoms do appear, they sometimes include shortness of breath and chest pain, weight loss and abdominal pain and swelling, bowel obstruction, blood clotting abnormalities, fever, night sweats and anemia. Because the symptoms caused by mesothelioma are similar to many other less serious health problems, it is important to see a doctor for a correct diagnosis.
What Risk Factors are Associated with Mesothelioma?
Although mesothelioma is a relatively rare cancer, reported incidence rates have increased in the past twenty years. The most important risk factor for mesothelioma is workplace exposure. Most people who develop mesothelioma have worked jobs where they were exposed to and inhaled asbestos fibers.
Another important factor is length of exposure to asbestos. The risk of developing mesothelioma increases the longer one is exposed to asbestos. However, some individuals with only brief exposures have developed mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma also occurs more often in men than in women, and risk increases with age. Yet, mesothelioma may appear in either men or women at any age.
There is also some evidence that family members and others living with asbestos workers have an increased risk of developing mesothelioma. This risk may be the result of exposure to asbestos dust brought home on the clothing and hair of someone who worked with asbestos.
Who is at Risk for Asbestos Exposure?
Health hazards from asbestos dust have been recognized among those who handle or handled asbestos during the mining, milling or manufacturing of asbestos products, as well as those who work or worked with asbestos products in the shipbuilding or construction industries. Demolition workers, mechanics involved in brake repairs, drywall removers, and firefighters also may be exposed to asbestos dust.
In addition to workplace exposure, asbestos exposure can occur when workers inadvertently carry asbestos fibers home on their clothing and equipment, exposing their families; this is called paraoccupational exposure. Also, some people living in the vicinity of asbestos mills, mines or other industrial operations may be exposed to asbestos particles in carried by the wind; this is called neighborhood exposure.
Although it is known that the risk to workers increases with heavier exposure and longer exposure time, investigators have found asbestos-related diseases in individuals who had only brief exposures. Workers who develop asbestos-related diseases may show no signs of illness for a long time after their first exposure. It can take from several decades for symptoms of an asbestos-related condition to appear. Because of this time-lapse issue, lawyers are often asked if there is still time to make a claim for an injury or illness caused by asbestos.
Can I be Compensated for Injuries Caused by Asbestos Exposure?
A plaintiff who can prove that he or she was exposed to asbestos may be able to recover for both the economic and noneconomic consequences of that exposure, including:
- The cost of past and future medical care;
- The cost of necessary rehabilitation;
- Lost past and future wages;
- Lost earning capacity;
- Lost enjoyment of life;
- Emotional distress; and
- Past and future pain and suffering.
Many people who have suffered injuries from toxic substances such as asbestos did not know of the health risks at the time of the exposure. As a result, some states have enacted laws allowing people to file lawsuits for a certain amount of time after the date when their asbestos-related illness was detected, rather than from the date of the exposure. An attorney can tell you whether you still have time to file a lawsuit within the limitation period applicable in your state.
Who Can I Call?
If you are concerned about potential exposure to asbestos, or if you or a loved one suffer from asbestosis, mesothelioma, or another medical condition associated with asbestos exposure, please contact our office and discuss your case with an experienced asbestos/mesothelioma attorney.