Until the 1970s, asbestos was widely used in industries such as automotive, construction, and shipbuilding. This durable mineral was admired for its resistance to fire, thermal and chemical stability, and flexibility. Use asbestos in building and manufacturing is prohibited in the United States, but before the ban, many workers in the industries listed (and possibly others) were exposed to the fibers that cause asbestos-related disease. Most of the research about asbestos-related disease focuses on three conditions including asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.
About Malignant Mesothelioma
Malignant mesothelioma is a cancer that affects the pleura or the peritoneum. The pleura includes the chest cavity and the lining of the lung. The peritoneum is the lining of the abdomen. Malignant mesothelioma is caused by long-term exposure to asbestos. In the past, some attorneys attempted to argue that most asbestos workers were smokers, so smoking caused the condition. Medical experts disagreed and concluded that smoking does not cause malignant mesothelioma.
Symptoms of Malignant Mesothelioma
Like other asbestos-related diseases, malignant mesothelioma may take decades to develop. Although symptoms typically appear 20 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos, in some cases symptoms do appear earlier. This is why it's important to have the ability to recognize common symptoms of the disease. Early diagnosis may offer access to more effective treatment options. Some of the most common symptoms of malignant mesothelioma are chest pain, cough, fatigue, weight loss, abdominal bloating and pain, and shortness of breath.
It is important to keep in mind that symptoms of malignant mesothelioma are also symptoms of less serious conditions such as the common cold, pneumonia, whooping cough, and the flu. If a patient has been exposed to asbestos, it is crucial that he or she disclose this to the doctor to prevent misdiagnosis, which will lead to a delay in treatment.
Diagnosis and Treatment for Malignant Mesothelioma
Malignant mesothelioma is typically diagnosed at age 60. The doctor will assess the patient's symptoms, give a full examination, and take fluid and tissue samples. The doctor will also order any necessary tests such as a chest CT, chest x-ray, pleural biopsy, cytology of pleural fluid, or open lung biopsy. One of several staging systems may be used to determine the size of the tumors and the stage the disease. Brigham, Butchart, and TNM (Tumor, Lymph Nodes, Metastasis) are the three most common staging systems.
Although difficult to treat, malignant mesothelioma can be "cured" in rare cases. If caught very early, the tumor can be removed with surgery. Unfortunately, the disease is usually diagnosed in its later stages, so the goal of treatment is usually to make the patient as comfortable as possible. Radiation and chemotherapy as well as supportive treatments such as oxygen and pain relief may help minimize symptoms. If left untreated, the survival rate is 9 months. Average survival times for patients undergoing treatment range from four to 18 months. However, the outlook may depend on everything from age and general health to the way a patient responds to treatment.
If you have been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma or any other asbestos-related disease, we can help you. You will need medical, legal, and financial guidance through this very tough time. Fill out our contact form to get the help you need today.