Mesothelioma: Symptoms, Treatment, and Legal Options
Bergman Oslund Udo Little’s mesothelioma guide explains the symptoms and treatments for mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer that develops in the protective lining of your organs. The vast majority of mesothelioma cases are caused by asbestos exposure. If you or a loved one has mesothelioma, contact Bergman Oslund Udo Little’s knowledgeable and compassionate mesothelioma lawyers. We have specialized in mesothelioma lawsuits in Washington and Oregon since 1995. We will fight for you while you focus on your treatment.
Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that starts in the mesothelium or pleural lining, the membrane that protects most of your internal organs. Symptoms of mesothelioma include shortness of breath, a persistent cough, fatigue, and unexplained weight loss.
Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma. People are at risk of developing mesothelioma if they have worked with or been exposed to asbestos-containing materials. Asbestos is a durable mineral used throughout the 20th century in various building materials, including insulation, cement, siding, roofing, and machinery components. Asbestos fibers may be released into the air when people interact with materials containing the toxic substance. When inhaled or ingested, the fibers may get embedded in the mesothelium, leading to inflammation and scarring. Cancerous tumors may eventually develop decades after the initial exposure.
If you or a loved one has developed mesothelioma, contact Bergman Oslund Udo Little’s Oregon and Washington attorneys. Our mesothelioma guide can inform you about asbestos-related illnesses and how our team can help. We’ll analyze your case to determine whether you can file a lawsuit against the parties responsible for your asbestos exposure, such as asbestos product manufacturers.
What Is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma usually affects the lining of the lungs or pleura. However, it can also affect the lining of other body parts. The following are the main types of mesothelioma:
- Pleural mesothelioma affects the pleura, the lining of the lungs. It is the most common type of mesothelioma.
- Peritoneal mesothelioma affects the peritoneum, the lining of the abdomen. It usually does not cause any symptoms until the disease is advanced.
- Pericardial mesothelioma affects the pericardium, the lining of the heart.
- Testicular mesothelioma affects the tissue around the testicles. It is most common in men aged 55 to 75.
Mesothelioma has a latency period of 10 to 60 years or more. The latency period is the time between the initial asbestos exposure and diagnosis. Several factors can affect the latency period, such as the type of mesothelioma, co-occurring conditions, and the duration of asbestos exposure. Those exposed to high concentrations of asbestos for longer periods may have shorter latency periods.
Mesothelioma patients experience a wide range of symptoms. The most common mesothelioma symptoms include:
- Painful coughing
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Pleural effusion (fluid around one or both lungs)
- Unusual lumps under the chest
- Unexplained weight loss
- Muscle weakness
- Trouble swallowing or dysphagia
- Abdominal swelling (peritoneal mesothelioma)
- Altered bowel movements (peritoneal mesothelioma)
- Heart palpitations (pericardial mesothelioma)
- Swelling on a testicle (testicular mesothelioma)
Only doctors specializing in mesothelioma can determine whether you or a loved one have mesothelioma. The sooner you receive a precise diagnosis, the better your chances of survival. Early-stage mesothelioma is easier to treat than advanced, metastatic mesothelioma that has spread to other body parts.
There are multiple tools that a physician may use to diagnose or rule out mesothelioma:
- Physical examination: The doctor performs a physical examination to locate signs of mesothelioma. These may include decreased breath sounds, abdominal masses, and fluid build-up in your abdomen.
- Imaging and diagnostic tests: After performing a physical examination, the physician will conduct one or several imaging tests, such as a CT scan, X-ray, MRI, or PET scan. The doctor will use these tests to see whether you have a suspected mesothelioma, its size and location, and whether any cancer has spread or metastasized to other body parts.
- Biopsy and cytology tests: Physical exams and imaging tests can reveal signs of mesothelioma, but they are insufficient for a diagnosis. To be certain, the health care provider will remove tissue from your body for a pathologist to review under a microscope. This procedure is called a biopsy. The pathologist can determine whether you have mesothelioma. Analysis of fluid drained from around the lungs, known as plural effusion, may also show markers consistent with mesothelioma.
According to the American Cancer Society, mesothelioma patients’ five-year relative survival rate is 12 percent. Fortunately, doctors can prescribe treatments to improve your lifespan and quality of life.
Depending on your health, mesothelioma type, and stage, treatments may include the following:
- Surgery: Doctors usually prescribe a surgical procedure to remove the mesothelioma tumor and drain any fluid accumulating in the diseased area. Many surgeries can be hard on your health and may not be the best fit for people in poor health. For example, extrapleural pneumonectomy removes the diseased lung and part of the pleura, pericardium, and diaphragm. Patients undergoing this treatment are more likely to have irregular heartbeat, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and pneumonia. Talk to your doctor to learn which surgical procedures are the best for your condition.
- Radiation therapy: Doctors may use radiation therapy after surgery to prevent pleural mesothelioma from returning. This type of radiation, called adjuvant therapy, has been shown to improve the survival rate for patients with early-stage mesothelioma. People with advanced pleural mesothelioma that cannot be treated through surgery may be given a combination of radiation and chemotherapy to slow cancer growth and spread. Radiation may also help reduce pain for advanced pleural mesothelioma patients.
- Chemotherapy: Doctors may prescribe chemotherapy drugs to kill mesothelioma cells. Unfortunately, these drugs can also kill healthy, fast-growing cells, such as hair and nail cells. Health care teams often use systemic chemotherapy to shrink or slow the growth of a tumor that cannot be surgically removed.
- Experimental treatments: Doctors may recommend participating in a mesothelioma clinical trial, experiments testing the efficacy and safety of new treatments. Experimental treatments offer great promise, but they also carry risks. No one knows how effective the treatment will be and what side effects it will cause. While most side effects go away quickly, some are severe and permanent. For this reason, it’s a good idea to discuss the matter at length with your doctor.
Mesothelioma Lawyers Who Care
Treatments for mesothelioma can be costly, especially if insurance does not cover them. Victims of mesothelioma and their family members are likely entitled to significant compensation from the companies that manufactured and sold asbestos products. As such, you may consider filing a lawsuit for compensation if you or a loved one developed mesothelioma due to occupational exposure. If your lawsuit is successful, you may obtain compensation for economic and non-economic damages, such as medical fees, out-of-pocket costs, pain and suffering, and lost wages.
Bergman Oslund Udo Little has mesothelioma lawyers in Oregon and Washington. We provide mesothelioma patients the peace of mind to concentrate on their recovery and spend time with their families. Besides providing helpful legal information, we can help asbestos victims:
- Gather and preserve evidence
- Build a case
- Negotiate with the opposition
- Fight for your rights at trial, if needed
Talk to Bergman Oslund Udo Little’s trusted and compassionate asbestos attorneys to learn more about your options. We have ample experience fighting for mesothelioma victims’ needs and the needs of their loved ones. For example, in 2022, we won a $30 million mesothelioma verdict for a victim’s family. We take special care to always travel to meet clients where they live and work hard to ensure that the legal process does not impose unnecessary burdens on families dealing with a difficult diagnosis like mesothelioma.