What Is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that affects the body’s mesothelium (the thin tissue lining the chest and abdominal cavities). Mesothelioma is usually diagnosed at advanced stages and often occurs in older people.
There are three primary types of mesothelioma: pleural, peritoneal, and pericardial. Pleural accounts for the majority of cases, followed by peritoneal. Pericardial is extremely uncommon, accounting for less than 5 percent of all cases.
What causes it?
Exposure to asbestos, a carcinogenic mineral historically used in commercial and household applications, is the only known cause of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Products like insulation and automobile brakes can contain asbestos.
Asbestos poses little health threat to humans unless it is disturbed. When this happens, the tiny fibers become airborne and can be swallowed or inhaled. Similar to a splinter, these fibers lodge in the body’s mesothelium with no way of being expelled. Over time, this can cause scarring, impaired lung function, or the eventual development of malignant mesothelioma.
How common is mesothelioma?
Only 3,300 cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the United States each year, making it a very rare form of cancer. The National Cancer Institute defines a rare cancer as one with fewer than 15 diagnosed cases per 100,000 people per year. Mesothelioma accounts for less than one percent of all cancer diagnoses.
What is the latency period?
Latency period refers to the time between initial exposure to a toxic substance and the onset of symptoms. Mesothelioma is known for having a very long latency period, ranging from 20 to 50 years. This is the main reason mesothelioma tends to affect older people. While they may have been exposed to asbestos in their early life, the disease can take decades to develop or show any sign of symptoms.
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Who’s at Risk?
Typically, people who frequently came into contact on a daily basis are more likely to develop mesothelioma than those who have not. Certain risk factors like location, age, and sex contribute to the chances of developing mesothelioma.
What occupations are at high risk of developing mesothelioma?
About half of all occupational cancer deaths are a result of asbestos exposure. The disease typically affects blue-collar workers who were exposed to asbestos earlier in their lives and don’t learn until many years later that they have mesothelioma. Firefighters, construction workers, mechanics, and veterans are more likely to be exposed to asbestos. For this reason, they have a higher risk of developing cancers like mesothelioma.
What is second-hand exposure?
Asbestos fibers can be transported away from the initial site of exposure on clothing, skin, and hair, which can result in second-hand exposure (also referred to as indirect exposure). Family members are especially at risk, as the transferred asbestos fibers often end up in the home, where they can be inhaled or ingested.
Between the 1930s and the 1970s, each branch of the military used asbestos. However, military construction used asbestos-containing products as late as 1991. As a result, thousands of service members have been exposed to asbestos and risk developing mesothelioma.
Why are veterans at a higher risk of developing the disease?
Approximately 30 percent of all mesothelioma victims are veterans. This is primarily due to the rampant asbestos usage during World War II. Young soldiers, especially those serving in the Navy and working in shipyards, were negligently exposed to the carcinogenic mineral.
Many years later, they may discover they have an asbestos-caused disease stemming from their exposure during their time in the service. In this case, veterans are usually entitled to financial compensation.
What is a VA claim? How is this type of claim filed?
A VA Disability Claim is what the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) calls an application for VA Disability. The claim seeks compensation for injuries resulting in a disability, such as mesothelioma.
VA claims can be filed in three different ways:
- Online through eBenefits
- At a VA regional benefit office
- With the help of a qualified attorney, Veterans Service Organization, or claims agent
The process of making a claim can be complicated, and one mistake can lead to a denial of coverage. For this reason, we recommend working with an experienced VA claims attorney.
Most veterans also qualify for additional compensation from asbestos trust funds, personal injury cases, and wrongful death lawsuits. These are considered very strong cases with potentially large settlements against asbestos manufacturers.
Will a lawsuit against an asbestos company or other related claim filing affect my VA disability benefits?
No. The VA does not consider any money you may be awarded from a lawsuit or bankruptcy trust fund when assessing your eligibility for VA benefits.
Will a lawsuit against an asbestos company or other related claim filings affect my VA disability benefits?
No. The VA does not consider any money you may be awarded from a lawsuit or bankruptcy trust fund. The VA’s primary financial concern is that you do not “double-dip” on a benefit. The VA will consider your financial situation when the benefit is based on your income level such as a VA pension. The VA Disability Compensation amount is not based on income level or assets. Any assets acquired through the legal system have no effect on disability benefits.
Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prognosis
Mesothelioma is difficult to diagnose and treat. Your doctor will go over several options for treatment and recommend the best one to you. There are many factors that determine which treatment will improve your prognosis.
If I have a known history of potential asbestos exposure, can I get tested for mesothelioma early?
Although most people who come into contact with asbestos do not develop mesothelioma, for those who do, early detection can have a notable impact on their prognosis. This is because the cancer has not spread yet and there are more treatment options available.
If you think you may have been exposed to asbestos, inform your doctor right away. While mesothelioma can take decades to develop, it is wise to put the disease on your doctor’s radar, as it can be difficult to initially recognize and diagnose.
How is mesothelioma diagnosed?
Mesothelioma is extremely rare and its symptoms can often be mistaken for less severe conditions. For these reasons, doctors sometimes struggle to accurately diagnose mesothelioma in a timely manner. The only definitive way to diagnose mesothelioma is through a biopsy.
However, doctors also rely on imaging tests and blood tests to identify the presence of mesothelioma. It’s beneficial to partner with an experienced mesothelioma doctor to avoid misdiagnosis and ensure you receive optimal treatment. The majority of mesothelioma patients are men.
How many women are diagnosed and how are they exposed?
About 25 percent of mesothelioma patients are women. However, that number is expected to rise as more women who entered into roles with higher risks of exposure (manufacturing, the military, first responder roles, and firefighting) are reaching the end of their latency period. Women have historically been at a higher risk for second-hand exposure to asbestos.
Does biological sex affect mesothelioma treatment?
Treatment is usually the same regardless of sex. However, due to hormonal differences in women, the outcomes are often better, as natural estrogen receptors may be influential in the fight against mesothelioma.
How is mesothelioma treated?
Mesothelioma is typically treated with a multimodal plan combining surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Emerging treatments such as immunotherapy are also being used in conjunction with traditional treatments to improve patient survival times and overall quality of life.
What is involved in caring for someone with mesothelioma?
Caregiving for someone with mesothelioma can be extremely challenging. Tasks to assist your loved one may include feeding, bathing, housekeeping, providing transportation to and from appointments, administering and tracking their medications, working with their cancer care team, providing support, and handling financial, insurance, and legal matters.
As a caregiver, it’s important to make sure you are also caring for yourself, as the task can quickly become overwhelming. Remember: though it may feel isolating, you are not alone. There are many resources available to support you.
What are clinical trials? How do I find them?
Clinical trials provide researchers with the opportunity to test and observe potential new treatment options for consenting participants. While there is a certain level of risk when participating in clinical trials since the drugs in question are not yet FDA-approved, when successful, patients have found improved prognoses and better overall quality of life.
Clinical trials can lead to significant breakthroughs in medical research, in turn offering better treatment options for future patients. Speak with your doctor to find out if qualifying trials may be the right course of treatment for you.
How long do people usually live with mesothelioma?
The life expectancy for patients diagnosed with mesothelioma can range from months to years. This is dependent on a number of factors, including the type of mesothelioma (pleural, peritoneal, pericardial), the cell type (epithelioid, sarcomatoid, biphasic), stage (1–4), etc. Emerging treatments offer patients hope of longer survival times and improved quality of life while living with the disease.
Legal Frequently Asked Questions
Medical bills and loss of income can make it hard for a mesothelioma patient and their loved ones. Fortunately, compensation may be available. Victims have several options to choose from when filing an asbestos claim.
When was asbestos banned?
Many people think that the use of asbestos has been banned. However, the truth is asbestos usage is still legal in some cases in the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other government agencies are still working to get the material banned entirely.
How do I file a legal claim?
There are two kinds of asbestos lawsuits: personal injury and wrongful death. Personal injury lawsuits are filed while the claimant is still alive. Wrongful death lawsuits are filed by the family after a victim has passed away. Call the number above to connect with an experienced asbestos lawyer who can help get you and your family the compensation you deserve.
What is a statute of limitations?
Each state has a set time frame, called a statute of limitations, in which legal claims must be filed. The range is about one to five years, but the time period varies from state to state, so it’s important to speak with a qualified attorney as soon as possible. Personal injury lawsuits and wrongful death lawsuits can have different statutes of limitations.
What is the average amount of legal settlements?
The average mesothelioma case settles for between $250,000 and $2,000,000; however, there are many factors that weigh into each case. This financial compensation can be used to cover costs like travel and treatment when necessary, recover lost wages, and help support family members.
It’s highly recommended that you work with an experienced asbestos attorney when taking legal action. Your lawyer will ensure that you and your family are protected and your chances of successfully pursuing a lawsuit and compensation from asbestos trust funds are significantly increased.
What is an asbestos trust fund?
Asbestos trust funds are set up when an asbestos company files for bankruptcy to ensure future claimants receive compensation. In the United States, there are about 60 asbestos trusts, valued at an estimated $37 billion. Mesothelioma victims should consult with a specialized asbestos attorney to seek compensation from these trusts. Call the number above to connect with a qualified mesothelioma attorney.
Does filing a lawsuit cost money?
There are usually no out-of-pocket costs when filing a mesothelioma lawsuit. Lawyers specializing in asbestos cases typically work on a contingency basis, meaning they only get paid if you receive a settlement. It is important to work with an experienced mesothelioma attorney, as they are well-versed in the nuances of these types of claims.
How long does an asbestos claim take? What is the process like?
After you connect with a mesothelioma attorney, they will typically visit you to learn more about your case. The patient’s or family’s involvement usually only takes a few days. After that, your lawyer will prepare the case, which may take a few weeks or months.
If you are pursuing a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit, your attorney will determine which statute of limitations applies. This is the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit after the initial diagnosis, and it varies by state. Some legal venues expedite mesothelioma cases if the patient is still living, but many do not. In these cases, it may take up to a year before the case is brought to trial.
Asbestos trust funds are set up after an asbestos company files for bankruptcy to ensure future claimants receive compensation. In the U.S., there is about $37 billion set aside for mesothelioma victims. Asbestos trust claims are usually resolved faster than lawsuits and are typically paid out over 5–18 months.
What evidence is required when filing a claim?
There are two major components in filing a claim: medical proof and exposure proof. The medical diagnosis is the most straightforward — either someone has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or they have not. The exposure proof can be a challenge if the worker doesn’t remember which asbestos products they were exposed to. A qualified lawyer will be able to help victims identify products of potential exposure based on their job history.
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, this article may have answered some of your questions. Ready to talk to a lawyer? To learn more about your legal options, complete our free case evaluation today.
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