My Loved One Has Mesothelioma — What Now?

Mesothelioma. If you’ve never heard of it, you’re not alone. This rare cancer affects only a few thousand people in the United States each year, but it’s a serious illness that warrants immediate attention.

After receiving a diagnosis, for family members, it’s a tough situation. You’re worried about your loved one’s health, and there are likely many questions swirling around in your head. How did this happen? What are the best treatment options? What’s the prognosis? How can I help?

A cancer diagnosis can feel overwhelming, but there are a lot of resources and help available. If you have mesothelioma, you will find the support you and your family members need on this site.

What Causes Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is the result of exposure to asbestos, a mineral that was once touted as a “miracle material” and used as fire-resistant insulation in homes, buildings, and on military bases. This carcinogen was largely banned in the late 1970s but still exists in the walls of many old structures. The majority of patients were exposed to asbestos at work (called “direct exposure”), while others develop the illness from “indirect” causes.

Each year, an estimated 3,300 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma. At first glance, that may not seem like many, especially when compared to more common cancers, like breast, lung, or prostate cancer. Yes, this form of asbestos-linked cancer is rare. But that doesn’t mean your loved one is destined to become a statistic.

Common Questions About Mesothelioma

  • How does mesothelioma affect the body? Symptoms vary, depending on where the cancer is located. There are three main types: pleural, peritoneal, and pericardial.
  • How long does my loved one have to live? A patient’s prognosis not only depends on the type of mesothelioma they have but also how far it has progressed — or spread — within the body. Learn more about the four different stages of the disease.
  • How is mesothelioma treated? Patients have a variety of treatment options, both to stop the disease from spreading and to ease uncomfortable symptoms.
  • How will we pay for this? As family members of someone with mesothelioma, you and your loved one could be entitled to financial compensation and survivor’s benefits. Here’s some important information about legal compensation.
  • My loved one is a veteran. Could his or her exposure have occurred while serving our country? Asbestos was heavily used in all five branches of the military from the 1940s until the mid-1970s. Veterans comprise one-third of all mesothelioma patients. If your loved one was exposed while serving in the Navy, Army, or another branch of the military, they may qualify for veterans’ benefits.
  • How can I help? This diagnosis means your loved one will probably need outside support. Caregivers play a special and important role in patients’ lives.

Mesothelioma, in any form, is a serious illness, and it’s important to take action and start treatment as soon as possible. However, it’s not an immediate death sentence. The medical community is working on new, targeted treatments to relieve common symptoms and improve patient prognosis. Even after diagnosis, there’s still hope for your loved one.

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