What Is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a cancer that affects the mesothelium, the thin tissue lining that covers many of the internal organs. There are three forms of the disease: pleural, peritoneal, and pericardial. Since the disease takes such a long time to develop, seniors tend to be the largest group affected by this disease.
Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type. Tumors grow on the pleura or lining of the lungs and chest cavity. The second most common form is peritoneal mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the abdomen. The rarest, pericardial mesothelioma, develops on the lining of the heart. If you know you may have encountered asbestos in the past, discuss it with your doctor right away, as the initial symptoms of this type of cancer can mirror those of less severe conditions.
What Causes Mesothelioma?
Prolonged asbestos exposure causes mesothelioma. Asbestos refers to a group of six naturally occurring minerals. Historically, the mineral has been used in a number of industrial, commercial, and residential applications.
Due to its heat-resistant nature, asbestos use was widespread during World War II. Many members of the military were unknowingly exposed to dangerous levels of the carcinogen (cancer-causing substance). Veterans, especially Navy vets, are among those commonly diagnosed with mesothelioma, accounting for approximately 30 percent of all cases reported annually.
Other occupations are at a higher risk of exposure, too. Firefighters, first responders, auto mechanics, and construction workers all have an elevated risk of developing the disease. Approximately 125 million people in the world have been exposed to asbestos at the workplace, and it’s estimated that the mineral causes half of the deaths from occupational cancer.
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This disease has a remarkably long latency period (the time it takes to grow and develop), typically ranging from 20 to 50 years. The latency period specifically refers to the time period between the initial exposure to asbestos and the onset of symptoms.
People who experienced exposure to asbestos as a young adult may discover they have a disease like mesothelioma many decades later as seniors. The extended latency period is the primary reason that this disease largely affects seniors.
Compensation for Seniors
Victims of mesothelioma are usually eligible for financial compensation that can be achieved through legal action. There are lawyers who specialize in helping victims seek justice for negligent asbestos exposure.
In the United States, there is an estimated $37 billion in asbestos trust funds. A specialized asbestos attorney will be able to guide you and your family through the process of pursuing legal action. The lawyer will likely file a personal injury lawsuit if the patient is still living or a wrongful death suit for the surviving family if the victim has passed away. Veterans typically qualify for additional compensation.
Veteran Seniors and Mesothelioma
As previously mentioned, veteran seniors account for around 30 percent of all mesothelioma cases. Veterans who served in World War II have the highest risk of having been negligently exposed to asbestos. For this reason, veterans are often eligible to receive special compensation and benefits.
Filing a VA claim can be a complicated process. Veterans facing mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease will want to work with a specialized asbestos attorney. An experienced lawyer will ensure that you receive the most financial compensation possible.
Caring for Seniors With Mesothelioma
Caring for someone with aggressive cancer like mesothelioma can be very taxing on family members and loved ones. Common tasks a caregiver may take on include feeding and bathing your loved one, assisting with housekeeping, transporting them to and from medical appointments, administering and tracking medication, and sometimes managing financial and legal matters.
Although it can feel very isolating, it’s important to remember that as a caregiver, you are not alone. There are many support resources available to caregivers. Taking time to care for yourself will allow you to provide better care to your loved one.
Find Assisted Living or Hospice Care
Many seniors with this illness eventually move into an assisted living home or hospice. Below are a few resources to help you find reputable assisted living facilities or hospice care centers.