Mesothelioma is a rare, aggressive form of cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart. Caused by asbestos, mesothelioma has no known cure and has a very poor prognosis.
Mesothelioma is most commonly classified by the location in the body where it develops. Specifically, the cancer forms in the lining of certain organs or spaces within the body, known as the mesothelium.
When diagnosed with mesothelioma, the prognosis is usually very poor, as there is no cure for the disease, and typically it is discovered at a late stage of development. Generally, the earlier mesothelioma is diagnosed, the better prognosis a patient has.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral found in rock and other minerals, such as vermiculite. There are two main types of asbestos: serpentine and amphibole. Serpentine asbestos is generally less friable than amphibole asbestos.
Asbestos exposure is the only proven cause of mesothelioma. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral, originally admired for its unique insulating and fire retardant capabilities.
The cause of mesothelioma is generally attributed to asbestos exposure, but determining when the exposure occurred can be difficult. In some cases, patients may not even realize they have been exposed to asbestos at all.
Exposure can occur in unlikely places, including the household. However, when left undisturbed, most materials containing asbestos pose no immediate threat.
Pleural mesothelioma is a rare cancer often diagnosed in people who have been exposed to high levels of asbestos. The malignancy affects the pleura, a thin membrane of lubricating cells that lines the lungs and chest wall. It sometimes takes ten years or more for changes to appear that are indicative of pleural disease, and even longer for symptoms to manifest. These differences can include a thickening or calcification of the pleural lining—a condition commonly diagnosed as pleural plaques. Conditions like pleural calcification or the development of pleural plaques often serve as precursors to mesothelioma.
In most instances, pleural disease is not considered fatal but it can cause diminished lung function and may confirm that a person has sustained significant asbestos exposure. Patients diagnosed with pleural conditions are generally considered to be at a higher risk for developing the more severe pleural mesothelioma.
Malignant peritoneal mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that occurs in the thin cell walls surrounding the abdominal cavity, known as the peritoneum. This thin membrane acts a lubricant within the abdominal cavity so that surrounding organs and internal body structures may contract and expand within their normal body function. Incidence of peritoneal mesothelioma is quite rare, and typically presents in less than 500 individuals in the United States each year.
Other types of mesothelioma include the more common malignant pleural mesothelioma, occurring in the chest wall membrane surrounding the lungs, and malignant pericardial mesothelioma, which occurs in the pericardial lining of the heart. Peritoneal mesothelioma is the second rarest form of the disease and accounts for approximately 20% of all mesothelioma cases each year.
Pericardial mesothelioma develops in the thin membrane surrounding the heart, known as the pericardium. The membrane has two layers: An outer layer called the parietal layer, heart sac or theca cordis; and an inner layer known as the visceral layer or epicardium.
There are four common forms of mesothelioma, and pericardial and testicular are the rarest. To date, approximately 200 cases of pericardial mesothelioma are described in medical literature — that's 1 percent of all known diagnosed mesotheliomas.
Almost all mesotheliomas can be traced to asbestos exposure, but medical researchers continue to study the link between asbestos and cancer of the pericardium. Studies are clear on how inhaled microscopic fibers reach the lungs, but less clear on how the fibers reach the heart.
This form of cancer strikes twice as many men as women, and is most often diagnosed in people between the ages of 50 and 70. Like the other types of mesothelioma, the disease develops over a long period of time — one to five decades — and is typically discovered at a later stage. Symptoms include chest pain, fatigue and shortness of breath. Diagnosis is difficult because symptoms mimic those of other disorders.
Successful asbestos ligation requires an attorney who understands the many facets of the case, from how people get exposed to asbestos to the state-by-state regulations about filing lawsuits, to the fragile nature of many clients. Often, people who inquire about an asbestos-related claim are people who are also coping with mesothelioma cancer and all the health issues that go along with treatment.
Choosing a lawyer to represent you in depositions and in legal filings can be as important to your family’s future as selecting the right doctor. If were you exposed to asbestos and you tim got sick as a result, you have a right to stake a claim for compensation.
The dangers and toxicity of asbestos were well-known in the 1930s, yet corporations continued using it extensively through much of the 20th century. They willingly put profits ahead of the health and well-being of employees and the public. An experienced asbestos lawyer will know how to hold those corporations responsible.