More than likely, you’ve heard about an asbestos cancer known as mesothelioma. You may have seen a television commercial for a law firm or read about the disease in a newspaper or online. However, many people really don’t know exactly what this disease is all about. So what is mesothelioma, and why should you be worried about it?
A rare, deadly form of cancer, mesothelioma occurs when asbestos fibers are either ingested or inhaled.
There are three areas of the body that mesothelioma affects: the pericardium (heart area), the pleura (the lungs) and the peritoneum (the abdominal area).
Causes of Mesothelioma
Through most of the 20th century, various trades across the United States used asbestos, because it is very highly resistant to heat and it is also inexpensive. Until the 1970s, it was used on nearly every industrial and construction job site. It was also heavily used across the country on military bases and Naval shipyards. Though the use of asbestos was limited by the Environmental Protection Agency in the 1980s, the material was not banned. In fact, the threat of exposure to asbestos continues today because the material is still being imported into this country.
When military, construction, industrial and other workers are exposed to asbestos, they can carry the fibers on their clothing, hair and shoes. These fibers not only threaten workers, but any friends or family members who are exposed to them secondhand. For example, a wife can be exposed when doing her husband’s laundry and a child can be exposed when giving his or her father a hug when he comes home from work. People with no history whatsoever working around asbestos can be at risk for developing mesothelioma.
Typically, this asbestos cancer lies dormant for long periods of time. In fact, people may not develop the disease for decades after being exposed. By the time mesothelioma is diagnosed, the disease is usually extremely difficult to treat because it has already entered an advanced stage. Because of this, and because the disease is so aggressive, mesothelioma survival rates are, unfortunately, low.
Three Kinds of Mesothelioma
Because there is more than one kind of mesothelioma, not all diagnoses are alike. The type of mesothelioma a patient has, of course, determines the type of treatment. Here is some information on the three kinds of mesothelioma.
This is the rarest form of mesothelioma. It forms in the sac that surrounds the heart, which is known as the pericardium. Once this cancer progresses, the body cannot get enough oxygen from the heart and the patient’s overall health steadily declines. Mesothelioma symptoms include nausea, chest pain and shortness of breath.
We would like to speak with you if you have reason to think that you or someone you know has been exposed to asbestos. For more than 35 years, the mesothelioma lawyers with Baron & Budd have worked with patients. We are committed to helping you get the information you need to help you make the best possible medical and legal decisions.
When asbestos fibers are ingested, this can cause peritoneal mesothelioma, which is found in the abdominal region. Often, this form of mesothelioma will spread to the spleen, bowels and liver. Peritoneal mesothelioma often results in patients feeling intense pain in the abdomen due to the build up of fluid in the area. There are other symptoms as well, however, including:
- Swollen feet
- Irritable bowel movements.
Women who have been exposed to asbestos are particularly susceptible to this form of mesothelioma.
The most common type of asbestos cancer, pleural mesothelioma typically occurs when asbestos is inhaled. Pleural mesothelioma develops in the inner chest wall and the outer lining of the lungs, which is known as the pleura. It tends to spread to the brain and other organs.
This form of the disease is typically very hard to detect in its early stages. When a patient is in Stage 1 of pleural mesothelioma, symptoms are usually mild so the disease is difficult to diagnose. A patient suffering from mesothelioma will often tell his or her doctor that there is constant pain in one side of the chest. Other common signs of the disease include weight loss, fever and difficulty breathing due to a build up of fluid in the chest cavity.
The best way to detect the presence of pleural mesothelioma at this time is through a pleural biopsy. In addition, it is also the best current way to determine the progression of the disease.