Mesothelioma, short for diffuse malignant mesothelioma, is a type of cancer that ravages the linings of vital organs and regions in the body. The word “diffuse” refers to the spread-out quality of mesothelioma which presents as “sheets” of malignant cells.
Types of Mesothelioma
Two main types of mesothelioma are most common:
Pleural mesothelioma attacks the lining of the lungs, called the pleura. The pleura facilitate inhaling and exhaling. Pleural mesothelioma is caused by inhaled asbestos fibers that move outside the lung. It impairs the ability to breathe normally and can eventually completely disable one or both lungs. Pleural mesothelioma accounts for about 75%of all mesothelioma cases in the United States.
Peritoneal mesothelioma destroys the peritoneum, the lining of the abdominal cavity. It is caused by asbestos fibers that are inhaled and then migrate to the peritoneum, which supports and aids the functioning of the abdominal organs. Peritoneal mesothelioma is characterized by excessive buildup of fluid in the abdomen and by tumors that spread out in sheets. It accounts for about 20 percent of all mesothelioma cases.
Less frequently, mesothelioma can develop in other locations including the lining of the heart, or pericardium (pericardial mesothelioma), and in the lining of the ovaries (ovarian mesothelioma) and scrotum (scrotal mesothelioma).
Cause of Mesothelioma
While mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer in the general population, it occurs frequently in people who have been exposed to asbestos in the workplace or through workplace fibers that have been brought into the home or from asbestos-containing products used in a home setting. In fact, in the United States, asbestos is the only confirmed cause of mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma began to be identified among asbestos workers and associated with asbestos exposure in the workplace in the 1940s. By this time, there were large volumes of information establishing that asbestos caused scarring in the lungs known as “asbestosis” and information already linking asbestos to lung cancer. Epidemiology studies conducted in the 1960s definitively established asbestos as the cause of mesothelioma.
Length of development
Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases usually develop years after an initial exposure to asbestos. Indeed, the latency period can range from 10 to more than 50 years before mesothelioma clinical symptoms can be seen. For this reason, people diagnosed with mesothelioma are often shocked to learn that a short-term asbestos exposure that took place years ago is the source of their present-day cancer.
More than 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year in the United States. In contrast, approximately 160,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer each year in this country.
Mesothelioma Treatment & Cure
Unfortunately most traditional treatments for cancer are less effective in treating mesothelioma. Traditional mesothelioma treatments and experimental ones may work to slow the effects of the cancer, but there is no known cure at this time. When answering the question: “What is Mesothelioma?” most doctors will tell you that the disease is caused by asbestos and there is no known cure. However, mesothelioma doctors are able to use traditional mesothelioma treatments and may suggest enrollment in mesothelioma clinical trials. Traditionally, treatment for the disease involved segregation of the sheets of diseased cells, but new mesothelioma treatments are centered on less obtrusive methods.
According to the legal definition of mesothelioma, it is a terminal, but yet preventable disease caused by asbestos and by corporations that failed to warn of the dangers of asbestos. Had workers been warned about the hazards of asbestos, by the companies that manufactured asbestos products, then workers could have taken steps to protect themselves from such risks.
- Preserve your rights to bring a legal action against the responsible parties within the limited time frame allowed by law, known as statute of limitations;
- Obtain maximum compensation in your case by being able to:
- Preserve evidence and establish facts of the asbestos exposure while the claimant is still alive and able to provide information;
- File and resolve a lawsuit against the responsible parties before they file for bankruptcy or, if they already have, to obtain compensation before their bankruptcy trust funds run out of money;
- Expedite your case, as courts tend to give higher priority to mesothelioma lawsuits where the claimant is still alive.