When most people think of asbestos and cancer, they think of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a rare and deadly form of cancer that attacks a little-known organ called the mesothelium that serves as a lining for the lungs, the abdominal cavity, and the sac where the heart is found. But asbestos is a powerful carcinogen that can initiate many other types of cancers throughout the body, including the lungs themselves, the colon, the ovaries, the gastrointestinal system and colon, and more. When cancer is found in any other area of the body and it is discovered to be associated with exposure to asbestos, it is referred to as asbestos cancer.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or any other asbestos-related disease, you may be entitled to compensation from the asbestos companies. No matter what your mesothelioma stage, this compensation can come from filing a mesothelioma lawsuit or from filing a claim with the $30 billion asbestos trust funds. For more information on your rights and the reimbursement you may be able to receive, contact us today. We will send you a free Financial Compensation Packet, or put you in touch with one of our compassionate and experienced mesothelioma attorneys.
Asbestos and Mesothelioma
Of all the different types of cancer that are caused by exposure to asbestos, mesothelioma is probably the one that has gotten the most attention. It is the most fatal form of asbestos-related cancer, and though it is most commonly found in the lungs, it can also appear in the abdominal lining, the lining that holds the heart, and even in the testicles. When it appears in the lining of the lungs it is referred to as malignant pleural mesothelioma. Though smoking cigarettes may exacerbate a person’s risk of being diagnosed with asbestos-related lung cancer, this is not true of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is almost exclusively caused by asbestos, which the victim has generally been exposed to in the workplace. Asbestos fibers are extremely small and easily become airborne when the material breaks down. The dust and fibers are inhaled or ingested and become embedded in the cells of the mesothelium, and once they are there they begin causing terrible damage. The cells die, and those surrounding the asbestos experience genetic changes, eventually mutating into aggressive tumors. Whether these tumors form in the lungs, the abdomen, the pericardium or the testicles, over time they evolve into large growths that cause discomfort and eventually death.
Though the majority of people who are diagnosed with mesothelioma have been exposed to asbestos in the workplace, there are a significant number of victims whose exposure is what is known as ‘second-hand’ – the carcinogenic dust was carried into their homes by a family member or friend who worked with it and had it on their hair, skin or clothing. Other victims’ exposure has been traced back to having lived near an asbestos mine or processing plant, or on a road where trucks carrying loads of asbestos traveled. There have been a few instances of mesothelioma that have been tracked to being treated with radiation therapy, but these are extremely rare.
Mesothelioma is a condition that has a long latency period. This means that it can take several decades after the asbestos has entered the body for the symptoms to appear. The average period of time between exposure and becoming sick is about 30 years, but some mesothelioma patients do not become symptomatic for as long as 50 years. This long period of time can make it extremely difficult to diagnose the disease, as patients often do not remember having been exposed to asbestos and have not included it in their medical history. The difficulty in diagnosing mesothelioma is made worse by the fact that many of its earliest symptoms are extremely similar to those of other, less serious conditions such as the flu, bronchitis, or pneumonia. By the time the condition is correctly diagnosed, it has often progressed to such an advanced stage that it is very difficult to provide effective treatment.
In most cases, those who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma have an employment history that included exposure to the carcinogen over a long period of time, but that is not always the case. There are notable instances of people who have been diagnosed with the condition when they have only been exposed for a short period of time and to a small amount of the material. In theory, it takes just one asbestos fiber to cause mesothelioma, and that has often been the testimony offered by expert witnesses during mesothelioma lawsuits. Examples of people who have had minimal asbestos exposure yet who have been sickened include those with second-hand exposure. There are also instances of first-responders being diagnosed with the disease after having worked to rescue people in asbestos-contaminated buildings. There are currently serious concerns being expressed for teachers and hospital personnel who are working in buildings that were originally constructed using asbestos, and who may now be vulnerable to mesothelioma as a result of minimal exposure.
The symptoms of mesothelioma vary depending upon where in the body it is located, but can include:
- Dry cough, wheezing
- Fatigue and lethargy
- Unexplained weight loss
- Nausea or vomiting
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
- Abdominal pain
- Lumps on the chest or abdomen
- Difficulty in drawing a deep breath
Mesothelioma is always considered a fatal condition, but each patient is unique and it is difficult to predict how long they will survive after having been diagnosed with the disease. Though the median overall survival rate is less than two years, some patients are diagnosed relatively early and respond well to the new treatments being offered. In these cases patients can live with a high quality of life for several years. Much of the expected survival is dependent upon how far the cancer has advanced, the patient’s age and overall health at time of diagnosis, and the experience of the physician and care facility that is providing them with treatment.
Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer
In addition to mesothelioma, the lungs can be severely impacted by exposure to asbestos in other ways, and according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) the most frequently seen impact of asbestos I n the workplace is lung cancer. The disease claims several thousand annually. Like mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer has a long latency period and can take decades to develop. Because of this, occupational health experts fear that the condition will be diagnosed more and more frequently over the next several years, as those who were exposed to the carcinogen thirty and forty years ago begin to exhibit symptoms.
Unlike mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer is exacerbated by the use of tobacco. Though cigarette, cigar and pipe smoking does not cause the disease, it does have a dramatic impact on the likelihood that a person will eventually develop this particular form of cancer.
Symptoms of Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer
Those who have an employment history that includes exposure to asbestos – and particularly those who smoked – are warned to be on the lookout for asbestos-related lung cancer’s symptoms, which include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Dry cough and hacking
- Chest pain
- Fatigue and lethargy
- Throat pain
- Chronic pneumonia or bronchitis
- Swelling of the face or neck
- Unexplained weight loss
- Inhalation accompanied by a gargling sound
Other Forms of Asbestos-Related Cancer
In addition to mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer, there are other cancers that have been shown to be linked to exposure to asbestos. These include cancer in the gastrointestinal system and colon, the throat, the esophagus, the gallbladder and the ovaries.
Occupational Exposure to Asbestos
sthe 1970s. Up until that point it was common for it to be used in industrial and construction settings because of its characteristic strength, its resistance to heat and flame, and its low electrical conductivity. It also had the advantage of being readily accessible and inexpensive. As a result, there are many occupations that were exposed to it. The workers who are most frequently diagnosed with asbestos-related cancers include construction workers and insulation professionals, shipyard workers, plumbers, roofers, factory workers, steel mill workers and paper mill workers, engineers, firefighters and refinery workers. Many of those diagnosed with these cancers served in the military, which was one of the largest users of asbestos up until the time that its dangers were discovered.
Because of the nature of the work that involved exposure to asbestos, most of those who were exposed to it on the job were men, and as a result these diseases are most frequently diagnosed in males who are sixty years old or older.
Asbestos in the Environment
In addition to occupational hazards, it is important to remember that asbestos is a mineral that can be in the environment naturally. There are concerns about asbestos that has been found in the west where a highway is being constructed in Nevada, and Libby, Montana was the site of a notorious mine that exposed many in the nearby towns to be diagnosed with asbestos-related cancers. There are also villages in the country of Turkey that have experienced alarmingly high rates of asbestos-related cancers as a result of asbestos that occurs naturally in the region.
How Asbestos Cancers are Diagnosed
As mentioned above, the symptoms that alert physicians to the presence of asbestos-related cancers are often confused with those of other, more benign conditions. This can delay diagnosis and make treatment more challenging, as the longer the condition goes undetected the more it progresses and spreads throughout the body. The most important thing that a person who has worked with asbestos can do is to make sure that their health care provider is aware of their previous exposure to the carcinogen. It is essential that asbestos exposure is included in your medical history so that your physician can include asbestos-related cancers and diseases in their differential diagnosis of your condition and do the appropriate testing.
When asbestos cancers are suspected, there are a number of tests that your physician can order. These include X-rays, MRIs and CT scans that provide a view of what is going on inside the body. These tests allow physicians to see where abnormal growths are present. Other tests may include blood tests to look for biomarkers that reveal cancer, and biopsies that provide tissue or fluid samples that can be analyzed in the laboratory for the presence of cancer cells.
Though many people who have been exposed to asbestos ask about monitoring or screening for asbestos-related cancers and mesothelioma, at this point in time there are no accurate tools available that would provide early notice that the cancer is present and allow treatment to begin early.
People who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma may be eligible for compensation from the $30 billion asbestos trust funds, or to file a mesothelioma lawsuit against the asbestos companies that negligently exposed them to asbestos. If you or someone you love has an asbestos-related condition like mesothelioma, asbestosis, or asbestos lung cancer, contact our office today at 1-800-706-5606. We will put you in touch with one of our experienced mesothelioma attorneys or send you a free Financial Compensation Packet that will provide you with helpful information about the compensation that you may be eligible to receive.