What is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a deadly asbestos-related cancer that develops in the lining of certain organs. Mesothelioma can affect different parts of the body, and the condition is categorized based on where the tumor originates. The main types of mesothelioma are:
- Pleural mesothelioma - develops in the lining of the lungs
- Peritoneum mesothelioma - develops in the lining of the stomach cavity
- Pericardial mesothelioma - develops in the lining of the heart
- Testicular mesothelioma - develops in the lining of the testicles
Causes of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos, a group of minerals made of microscopic fibres that were previously widely used in construction. When these microscopic fibres are breathed in, they travel to the ends of small air passages and cause inflammation and scarring. This often causes damage to cells' DNA that results in uncontrolled cell growth. Typically, a single exposure to one of these carcinogens is not enough to cause mesothelioma, but several years of prolonged high-dose exposure can cause the cancer to develop. Mesothelioma can take anywhere between 15 to 50 years to develop after asbestos exposure.
Everyone is exposed to asbestos at some time during their life. Low levels of asbestos are present in the air, water, and soil. However, most people do not become ill from their exposure. People who become ill from asbestos are usually those who are exposed to it on a regular basis, most often in a job where they work directly with the material or through substantial environmental contact.
Since the early 1940s, millions of American workers have been exposed to asbestos. Professions and places where you might have been exposed to asbestos include:
- Navy shipyards
- Construction sites
- Veterans serving in the military
- Milling and mining
- Demolition workers
- Drywall removers
- Asbestos removal workers
- Automobile workers
- Household or cosmetic products
Unfortunately, most patients are not diagnosed until after the cancer has already progressed because the symptoms of mesothelioma mirror other, more common illnesses, making the cancer difficult to pick up at an early stage.
Some general symptoms of mesothelioma include:
- Night sweats
- Excessive sweating
- Muscle aches
Other symptoms vary based on the part of the body affected by mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma can cause coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing and chest pains. Pericardial mesothelioma can cause irregular heart rhythms, chest pain and shortness of breath. Peritoneal mesothelioma can cause nausea, vomiting and stomach pains.
Mesothelioma is generally very hard to treat — regardless of the stage of the cancer. Multiple factors must be taken into account to determine the optimal form of treatment for mesothelioma. In addition to the type and extent of the cancer, a key consideration is the location of the tumor, and whether it can be safely removed during surgery. Common treatments for mesothelioma include:
- Radiation therapy
- Gene therapy
- Photodynamic therapy
Clinical trials are testing new types of treatment, such as biologic therapy.
Mesothelioma Survival Rate
After diagnosis, the life expectancy for most patients is approximately 12 months. There is no known cure for mesothelioma and the risk of developing the cancer does not diminish over time.
As researchers learn more about the condition, the mesothelioma survival rate is gradually increasing. Currently, more mesothelioma patients live for at least one year after diagnosis than ever before.
Mesothelioma is not the only disease that can result from asbestos exposure. To read more about the other types of asbestos-related diseases, please click here.
Asbestos and the World Trade Center
In 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City changed America Forever. The tragic attack led to the release of 400 tons of toxic asbestos carcinogens. Around 500,000 people were exposed to the toxic dust during the rescue, recovery and cleanup efforts that followed the attack and collapse of the twin towers.
According to the World Trade Center Health Program, anyone that was within a 1.5-mile radius of the World Trade Center at the time of the attack was at risk of exposure to asbestos as well as other carcinogens, including but not limited to, mercury, benzene and dioxins. A 2011 study conducted by The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that those within this proximity of the World Trade Center at the time of the attacks would be 19% more likely to develop cancer than the general population.
According to the most recent health survey conducted by the registry in 2016:
- at least 352 people have been diagnosed with asbestosis
- At least 444 people were diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis
- nearly 16% have been diagnosed with cancer
- nearly 70% of recovery personnel have suffered from lung problems, including World Trade Center cough syndrome
- in all, more than 63,000 people have been diagnosed with a 9/11-related health condition
Many of those affected have filed lawsuits to seek compensation, alleging the dust caused their health problems. In 2010, rescue and recovery workers claiming to be injured by the dust received a $713 million court settlement from WTC Captive Insurance Co. Inc.
Unfortunately, it is thought that the full extent of damage is not yet visible. Due to the delay in symptoms and development of asbestos-related diseases, we expect to see a very significant rise in mesothelioma cases.
How We Can Help
If you've been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, you may wish to speak with a mesothelioma attorney to discuss your legal options. Our attorneys have extensive experience in asbestos cases and the resources to maximize your recovery. Please contact us for a free, confidential, and no-obligation review of your potential legal claim and see how we can help!