If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos related cancer, you may want to seek legal advice. Typical legal settlements can reach five million dollars. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer in which malignant (cancerous) cells are found in the mesothelium, a protective sac that covers most of the body’s internal organs. Most people who develop mesothelioma have worked on jobs where they inhaled asbestos particles.
What is the mesothelium?
The mesothelium is a membrane that covers and protects most of the internal organs of the body. It is composed of two layers of cells: One layer immediately surrounds the organ; the other forms a sac around it. The mesothelium produces a lubricating fluid that is released between these layers, allowing moving organs (such as the beating heart and the expanding and contracting lungs) to glide easily against adjacent structures. The mesothelium has different names, depending on its location in the body. The peritoneum is the mesothelial tissue that covers most of the organs in the abdominal cavity. The pleura is the membrane that surrounds the lungs and lines the wall of the chest cavity. The pericardium covers and protects the heart. The mesothelial tissue surrounding the male internal reproductive organs is called the tunica vaginalis testis. The tunica serosa uteri covers the internal reproductive organs in women.
What is mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma (cancer of the mesothelium) is a disease in which cells of the mesothelium become abnormal and divide without control or order. They can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs. Cancer cells can also metastasize (spread) from their original site to other parts of the body. Most cases of mesothelioma begin in the pleura or peritoneum.
How common is mesothelioma?
Although reported incidence rates have increased in the past 20 years, mesothelioma is still a relatively rare cancer. About 2,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the United States each year. Mesothelioma occurs more often in men than in women and risk increases with age, but this disease can appear in either men or women at any age.
What are the risk factors for mesothelioma?
Working with asbestos is the major risk factor for mesothelioma. A history of asbestos exposure at work is reported in about 70 percent to 80 percent of all cases. However, mesothelioma has been reported in some individuals without any known exposure to asbestos.
Asbestos is the name of a group of minerals that occur naturally as masses of strong, flexible fibers that can be separated into thin threads and woven. Asbestos has been widely used in many industrial products, including cement, brake linings, roof shingles, flooring products, textiles, and insulation. If tiny asbestos particles float in the air, especially during the manufacturing process, they may be inhaled or swallowed, and can cause serious health problems. In addition to mesothelioma, exposure to asbestos increases the risk of lung cancer, asbestosis (a noncancerous, chronic lung ailment), and other cancers, such as those of the larynx and kidney.
Smoking does not appear to increase the risk of mesothelioma.
Smoking does not appear to increase the risk of mesothelioma. However, the combination of smoking and asbestos exposure significantly increases a person’s risk of developing cancer of the air passageways in the lung. Mesothelioma the medical name for cancer of the pleura (the lining of the lung and chest cavity) or cancer of the peritoneum (the lining of the abdomen). It is usually caused by prolonged or persistent exposure to asbestos. Symptoms of mesothelioma may not appear until between twenty and fifty years after exposure, which explains why so many new cases of this form of cancer are coming to light now, even though the dangers of asbestos were realized long ago and measures taken to reduce the risk of the disease.
As with many forms of cancer, the mesothelioma tumor can spread rapidly, often infecting the opposite pleura, and continuing on to other internal organs. Symptoms include a shortness of breath, chest pains, coughing, and loss of weight. Testing can be carried out initially by X-Ray, with a Thoric CT and open lung biopsy being used to confirm the findings of the early tests. If it is diagnosed early enough, the tumor can be surgically removed, and with follow-up chemotherapy and radiation treatment, full recovery is often possible.
However, in more advanced cases, cure is usually not possible. In such cases, chemotherapy and radiation treatment can be used alongside other pain relief treatments, to ease the symptoms. Where cure is not possible, the average survival time is between four and eighteen months, depending on the stage of the tumor and the general health of the patient.