Receiving a diagnosis of mesothelioma can be frightening and overwhelming, but the Mesothelioma Association can help guide you and your loved ones to the resources that you need.
It’s critical that mesothelioma patients are diagnosed early and properly and then begin a treatment plan with a qualified specialist. We can provide you with accurate information and connections that will assist you in making these first decisions.
If you have been exposed to asbestos, you may have mesothelioma. Unfortunately, the first indications of this cancer usually do not appear for at least 30 years after the exposure.
The symptoms for pleural mesothelioma, the most common form, include fever, difficulty swallowing, pleural effusion (fluid in the chest cavity), cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, hoarseness, and weight loss.
These symptoms are often mistaken for common illnesses, such as pneumonia, asthma, bronchitis, because of their similarity.
A less common form is peritoneal mesothelioma, which attacks the lining surrounding the abdomen. Symptoms include digestive disturbances, bowel obstruction, elevated white blood count, ascites (fluid in the abdomen), loss of appetite, weakness, anemia, and abdominal pain.
Pericardial mesothelioma is an extremely rare cancer that affects the heart’s serous lining. People who suffer from this disease usually have heart palpitations, irregular heartbeat, severe chest pain, fluid retention in the legs, difficulty breathing, night sweats, low blood pressure, and fatigue.
Types of Mesothelioma
Many people think of mesothelioma as a disease of the lungs, but that is not always the case. Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that is generally caused by asbestos exposure.
It can be diagnosed in anyone who has been exposed to asbestos, even briefly, but is more common in those who were exposed to high levels of the toxic substance, or who worked around it for years.
It can take 20 to 50 years after the exposure began for the individual to develop any mesothelioma symptoms.
Asbestos fibers are microscopic, sharp, and easy to inhale. After being inhaled, these fibers can lodge in any area of the body that has a special protective lining, called a mesothelium.
The mesothelium forms a double membrane, which both lines the inner body cavities and covers the organs. The lungs, heart, stomach, and testes are all protected by a mesothelial layer, and their natural movement is aided by the production of a special fluid produced by the mesothelium.
Pleural mesothelioma, which is one of the most common asbestos-related cancers, develops in the pleural mesothelium, the membrane that lines the lungs and the inside of the chest cavity.
Pleural mesothelioma can be extremely difficult to diagnose, both because of its decades-long latency period, and because its symptoms tend to be non-specific.
Shortness of breath, coughing, chest pain, and fatigue are associated with a number of common respiratory conditions, including the common cold, emphysema, bronchitis, and asthma.
Occasionally, a patient experiencing these symptoms may feel that they are just getting over a mild virus, or even just getting older, and therefore avoid consulting their physician.
When they do seek medical attention, the doctor may not suspect mesothelioma unless there is known asbestos exposure in the patient’s past. Many cases of pleural mesothelioma are initially misdiagnosed.
Peritoneal mesothelioma is the second most common type of cancer caused by asbestos exposure.
Doctors are not completely sure how the asbestos fibers make their way into the abdominal cavity, but one plausible explanation involves asbestos dust falling into the victim’s food or beverage, and then be ingested.
Others have hypothesized that the fibers can travel through either the bloodstream or the lymphatic system after being inhaled.
In any case, the fibers lodge themselves inside the abdominal lining and begin to develop tumors. Like pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma is very difficult to diagnose because of the range of non-specific symptoms that it can cause. Patients may experience pain, bloating, and in some cases, shortness of breath.
Pericardial mesothelioma is one of the rarest types of mesothelioma. Again, the genesis of this cancer is not precisely understood, but it is known the asbestos fibers can penetrate the pericardium or the membrane around the heart,
Which then develops scar tissue as a result of the constant invasion of these fibers. This scar tissue builds up, eventually interfering with normal heart function, in addition to fostering the formation of a cancerous tumor.
Some symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma include an irregular heartbeat and heart palpitations, as well as chest pain and difficulty breathing.
Many cases of both peritoneal and pericardial mesothelioma are discovered only when the patient’s physician is conducting screening or surgery for an unrelated condition.
Another form of mesothelioma involves the testicular lining. Testicular mesothelioma is the rarest form of mesothelioma, with under 100 confirmed diagnoses.
Because this cancer is so rare, it is difficult to determine what the actual symptoms are. The most apparent include testicular lumps or swelling in the scrotum area. Doctors simply do not know how the asbestos fibers are absorbed into the testicular lining.
Mesothelioma is aggressive cancer. Treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, but they are less effective than in other types of cancer.
Also, because the fibers are embedded in the body’s lining, the tumors will keep appearing and most likely become malignant. Another obstacle with mesothelioma is an accurate and timely diagnosis.
The latency period is so extensive, and the fibers have had plenty of time to wreak havoc on the body’s lining before ever causing any symptoms.
Men have a much higher rate of mesothelioma than women. This can be attributed to the 27.5 million jobs, most of which were traditionally held by men, that dealt with asbestos during the 40-year span of its peak usage.
Family members who lived with an asbestos worker are at higher-than-average risk of developing mesothelioma, as well, because asbestos fibers can be carried home on clothing.
A mesothelioma is a debilitating form of cancer that, although rare, has a relatively high occurrence in certain occupations, particularly those involving asbestos, such as milling, shipbuilding, metalworking, plumbing or pipefitting and construction.
This cancer has a high rate of malignancy and attacks the mesothelium, a cellular membrane that covers most organs in the body, including the heart and lungs.
When airborne asbestos fibers are inhaled, they can penetrate the mesothelium—usually that which surrounds the lungs—and lead to the formation of tumors.
However, inhaled asbestos can also affect the mesothelium surrounding other organs, including the heart, stomach, and testes. The four types of mesothelioma, from most to least common, are pleural, peritoneal, pericardial, and testicular.
Mesothelioma may present with a variety of symptoms, but may not be diagnosed until relatively late in life since symptoms may take 30 to 50 years to become prevalent.
This time between asbestos exposure and diagnosis of the disease is known as a “latency period” and is one of the reasons that most cases of mesothelioma are not discovered until they have reached Stage III or Stage IV.
Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms
In the most common form of this cancer, pleural mesothelioma, symptoms frequently include a dry or rasping cough, which does not go away, chest pains, and shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing.
Excessive fatigue, initially after exertion but later during periods of rest, may also occur. Some patients may also experience difficulty swallowing, weight loss, hoarseness, and swelling of the face or arms.
A persistent cough and pain in the chest can be due to pleural effusion, which is fluid buildup in the pleural space. Over time these initial symptoms can lead to fatigue or anemia, as well as hemoptysis, which is coughing up blood in the sputum.
If pleural mesothelioma continues without treatment, it can even lead to outcomes as severe as the collapse of a lung, or pneumothorax – a dangerous medical emergency in which air or gas gets into the pleural cavity after leaking out of the lungs.
However, part of the difficulty of diagnosing mesothelioma is that these symptoms can be present in a variety of other respiratory ailments.
Often, patients either delay seeking medical attention for their symptoms because they believe they are simply suffering from a simple virus or respiratory infection, or they do consult with their doctor and are misdiagnosed with bronchitis, asthma, or emphysema.
For this reason, it’s essential that anyone with possible exposure to asbestos, whether occupational or secondhand, let their doctor know about this so that mesothelioma can be considered should the patient present with these symptoms.
Diagnostic tests such as biopsy, x-ray, CT scan or MRI, or analysis of fluid in the lungs or pleural cavity, will generally be performed in order to successfully diagnose pleural mesothelioma.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms
The peritoneum, which is the mesothelial membrane covering the organs such as the liver, kidneys, and intestines, is also susceptible to mesothelioma and carries its own unique set of symptoms.
Peritoneal mesothelioma often firsts manifests as cachexia, or a loss of appetite, as well as loss of weight, anemia, and fatigue, due to damage done to the intestines and stomach.
Additionally, there will also be abdominal pain and ascites, which is a buildup of fluid between the peritoneum and the internal organs.
Ascites can also lead to abdominal swelling, which will appear paradoxical, given the patient’s lack of appetite and overall weight loss.
Due to the diversity of organs affected by this type of cancer, there may also be symptoms ranging from fever to bowel obstruction and abnormalities with blood clotting. Generally, these symptoms appear even later in life than those of pleural mesothelioma.
Pericardial Mesothelioma Symptoms
Pericardial mesothelioma, or cancer attacking the membrane around the heart, is rarer, but no less deadly than the other forms of this disease. Many of the symptoms of the pericardial mesothelioma are caused by the buildup of fluid in the pericardial space between the heart and mesothelium.
These symptoms can include heart palpitations, heart murmurs, and arrhythmia, also known as an irregular heartbeat.
Chest pain, dyspnea (difficulty breathing, even while lying down or resting), or a lingering cough may also be present, similar to the same symptoms seen in pleural mesothelioma.
These symptoms can, in turn, lead to chronic fatigue, as well as fevers and inappropriate sweating, especially at night.
As with pleural mesothelioma, many of these symptoms are so similar to those of other heart disorders that a successful diagnosis can often be quite difficult, and may even require an MRI or biopsy.
Effective Mesothelioma Attorneys California
It can be difficult for a mesothelioma patient to come to terms with a diagnosis, especially when finances are taken into consideration.
For some, the possibility of being awarded compensation for the mesothelioma diagnosis is motivation enough to file an asbestos lawsuit.
For others, it’s deep-seated anger that their job destroyed their health and wounded their family. Either way, filing a lawsuit is the best way to pursue justice while recovering damages.
In recent decades, a subspecialty of personal injury lawyers has developed in response to the increasing numbers of asbestos-related cases.
Attorneys who specialize in mesothelioma litigation have advanced knowledge of the factors involved in these complicated cases.
They also have access to a library of research materials concerning asbestos usage in the United States and the passion for going up against the defense lawyers at major companies targeted by asbestos lawsuits.
With the potential for millions of dollars in settlements, legal cases that involve asbestos exposure are not taken lightly by either side.
Because of this, you should hire either a law firm or an independent attorney within this specialty for your best possible outcome.
What to Look for in an Independent Mesothelioma Lawyer
Many of the companies that once manufactured or used asbestos have since declared bankruptcy. But some of these bankrupt companies have established asbestos trust funds to pay damages.
An experienced asbestos or mesothelioma lawyer will know how to pursue compensation from these companies for your best settlement.
Your attorney should be able to handle out-of-court settlements, as many victims and defendants prefer this method.
The process is often faster than a jury trial, although it may also yield a lower amount of damages. Alternatively, your lawyer should be accomplished in a courtroom if the case goes to trial.
In addition, your attorney should be adept at joining a class action with other litigants or pursuing an individual case.
While strong suits may stand well on their own, cases with less than solid evidence might fare better bundled with other litigation.
At the same time, your lawyer should be capable of helping the victim’s family, particularly if the patient died from the condition. The successors may be awarded damages for loss of income and loss of consortium as well as for medical costs, funeral expenses, and pain and suffering.
The evidence against the asbestos industry and companies that used asbestos products is strong, and millions of dollars are often at stake in mesothelioma lawsuits.
Mesothelioma lawyers have the experience and resources at their disposal to fight for justice in the court system and help asbestos victims receive ample compensation for their losses.
How We Can Assist You
If you have any of these symptoms and worked in a profession where you may have been exposed to asbestos — engineers, pipefitters, steelworkers, auto mechanics, miners, shipbuilders, and even military professionals – let us help you get started.
- Request our free Mesothelioma Informational Packet, which will be overnighted directly to you, free of charge. It includes a 200-page booklet of doctor-reviewed information on mesothelioma; up to four mesothelioma support books, including “100 Questions & Answers About Mesothelioma”; inserts that are customized to your specific diagnosis; and mesothelioma awareness wristbands for you and your family. Request the packet HERE.
- Tell us where you live, and we can locate the best mesothelioma doctors, specialists, and cancer centers in your area.
- Fill out our patient support form HERE so we can provide you with information specific to your situation.
- Get the most current information on your legal rights and options. Mesothelioma is a disease that could have been prevented because companies knew the dangerous effects of asbestos and blatantly disregarded them.
- Now, they should pay for your treatment, which can be expensive. One of our legal experts can evaluate your case and advise you on how to proceed. You can request advice HERE.
- If you’re a veteran, we can assist you with VA claims and benefits.
- The Mesothelioma Association employs veterans who understand your situation and can help you navigate the system to maximize their benefits. Fill out our veteran’s assistance form HERE for more information.
Mesothelioma Cancer Centers
Currently, between 2,000 and 3,000, new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed annually in the United States, compared with 215,000 new cases of traditional lung cancer.
Although mesothelioma may represent a small percentage of cancer cases, a great deal of research is being conducted on it. As a result, many cancer centers are conducting clinical trials for new methods of treating the disease.
Of course, some cancer centers are more focused on mesothelioma than others, and since where a patient seeks treatment can have a major impact on the success of the treatment, it is important to evaluate cancer centers carefully.
Accordingly, it is necessary for a patient newly diagnosed with mesothelioma to locate a cancer center or mesothelioma hospital to receive treatment.
However, the center must be right for the patient. In his or her search, the patient should consider how many mesothelioma cases the center has seen as well as the approaches it takes concerning treatment.
If a selected center is not near the patient’s home, some insurance providers will cover travel costs. In addition, social workers affiliated with most cancer centers can coordinate lodging and travel arrangements.
Deciding Between Cancer Centers
It’s important to realize that not all cancer centers are the same. Different centers have slightly different treatment plans or approaches, while others adhere to traditional methods.
Still more embrace a fuller approach that involves diet and emotional health. Some facilities have frequent clinical trials underway to test new drugs or treatment options.
In many cases, cancer treatment centers are affiliated with university medical schools. Others are simply top-rated hospitals that have developed excellent cancer programs.
A more recent development is the independent cancer care center, which has been founded strictly to treat cancer patients.
Other times, a doctor at a cancer center has hospital affiliations. This means these doctors must admit and treat patients in a specific facility. Sometimes this means that a patient will have to decide between the cancer center he prefers and the doctor he prefers.
As a result, when deciding which cancer center to attend, patients should make sure that they are comfortable with the methods the center employs.
They should also be comfortable with its perspective on these treatments. Most conservative cancer centers will employ a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Those that have a more holistic approach may use all of those treatment methods plus gene therapy, photodynamic therapy, and immunotherapy.
Hopefully, the list of cancer centers compiled in this section will be helpful to anyone seeking a treatment hospital.
You can also get help with your decision from the Commission on Cancer, a project of the American College of Surgeons.
This group evaluates hospitals to make sure that they offer the most current diagnostic equipment and treatment options.
Additionally, the National Cancer Institute ranks treatment centers on three different levels, from a basic treatment center to a comprehensive one.
Nationwide, 25 NCI designated Cancer Centers to exist, as do 40 designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers. Based on relevance, this site covers 39 of the 40 Comprehensive and 16 of the 25 Cancer Centers in addition to a number of other non-designated centers.