Defining a disease
Once rare, malignant mesothelioma is the most serious of asbestos-related diseases. Though mesothelioma is still relatively uncommon, numbers of individuals with the disease are growing due to more sophisticated screening measures and increased understanding of the cycle of latency of the disease.
Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer developing in the lining of the lungs and occasionally abdomen.
Pleural mesothelioma affects the lung’s lining in the chest and represents the majority of mesothelioma incidence. Peritoneal mesothelioma, affecting the abdominal cavity, and pericardial mesothelioma, affecting the cardiac cavity are less common.
In the majority of patients, most of whom are over 60 years of age, symptoms like shortness of breath and chest pain can mimic other ailments. And since mesothelioma can take 15 to 50 years to develop, it can be a challenge to diagnose. Specialists with more experience can be more adept at catching the disease.
Diagnosis and Prognosis
Diagnosis requires a body scan, either through magnetic resonance image (MRI) or computer topography (CT scan). These images can help to locate areas of concern and determine size, which informs surgeons where to perform biopsies.
Caught in its early stages mesothelioma is treatable with chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and some surgical interventions. Even in later stages, these are treatments that may be employed in varying ways, depending on whether the cancer is localized or has spread.
Unfortunately, because of the challenges with diagnosis, the disease is usually caught in later stages and has a poor prognosis. Even still, advances in treatment can help extend formerly grim prognoses.
Knowing what mesothelioma is and where it comes from can help guide doctors in coming to a correct diagnosis earlier, helping lead to better outcomes. A doctor who hears a patient say, “I’m having chest pains and shortness of breath” might assume cardiovascular issues and test to that end.
But a doctor, upon hearing, “I worked in the building trades in the 60s and wonder if it might be mesothelioma” might take a more assertive diagnosis stance. Additionally, earlier diagnosis can help get patients compensation through legal action.
Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a strong, fireproof and affordable mineral that was used extensively in shipbuilding in World War II, where the material was used to wrap the pipes, line the boilers, and cover engine and turbine parts.
Asbestos was also used in construction and other trades through the 1960s. Drywall and joint compound, plaster and mud used asbestos, as did many types of flooring, and “popcorn” ceilings. In dentistry, asbestos was used in dental cast linings, and brake pads and shoes have also used this material.
In the 1970s, court documents proved asbestos industry officials knew of the dangers of the material, but didn’t communicate these risks. Consequently, the use of asbestos declined, and the asbestos companies are financially liable for diseases like mesothelioma.
Because asbestos companies knowingly subjected thousands of workers to unnecessary risks, they are legally bound to make things right. Bergman Draper Ladenburg Hart is a firm committed to seeking justice for those impacted, and the ones they love. Contact us to find out more about your rights and how we can help you.