The federal government forced many manufacturing companies producing goods containing asbestos to compensate mesothelioma patients from an asbestos compensation trust fund.
Many mesothelioma victims have reached out to personal injury attorneys to manage their health and guide them in making informed decisions about the care they can receive.
Mesothelioma claims are highly complicated, involving multiple defendants - individuals and companies - responsible for causing the victim’s harm or wrongful death. A workplace injury lawyer has answered some of the most common mesothelioma injuries frequently asked questions (FAQs) below.
- What Is Mesothelioma?
- How Common Is Mesothelioma?
- What Causes Mesothelioma?
- How Does Mesothelioma Develop?
- What Are the Mesothelioma Risk Factors?
- What Are the Complications of Mesothelioma?
- What Are Mesothelioma Symptoms?
- How Is Mesothelioma Diagnosed?
- Does Mesothelioma Have a Good Prognosis?
- How Is Mesothelioma Treated?
- How Do People With Mesothelioma Die?
- What Causes Mesothelioma Other Than Asbestos?
- What Is The Average Settlement For A Mesothelioma Case?
- How Does Being Exposed to Asbestos Cause Mesothelioma?
- What Populations Are Most Affected by Mesothelioma?
- What Kind of Cancer is Mesothelioma?
- How Does Mesothelioma Kill You?
- How Do You Treat Final-Stage Mesothelioma?
- How Much Asbestos Exposure Causes Mesothelioma?
- Can Families Get Compensation for the Wrongful Death of a Loved One?
- Why Should I Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer for Asbestos Related Mesothelioma?
What Is Mesothelioma?
Malignant mesothelioma is a life-threatening form of cancer affecting the thin layer of tissue covering internal organs. Although treatment is available for the aggressive form of cancer, mesothelioma is not curable for many patients.
Many with the condition will suffer severe complications, including intense chest pain, difficulty breathing and swallowing, pain in the spinal cord and nerves caused by pressure, and pleural effusion where fluid accumulates in the chest cavity.
How Common Is Mesothelioma?
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), nearly 3000 new asbestos cases are diagnosed each year in the United States. Most of the new cases involve pleural (chest lining) mesothelioma in and the remainder, though rare, involve peritoneal (abdominal) malignant mesothelioma cases.
What Causes Mesothelioma?
Typically, mesothelioma cancer starts growing from a series of mutations (changes) in the cell’s DNA structure that instructs the cell on what to do. The mutation causes an abnormal growth accumulation, eventually forming tumors.
Doctors have yet to identify what causes the genetic mutation leading to mesothelioma. However, there may be contributing factors that increase the patient’s risk.
There are likely inherited conditions, lifestyle choices, pre-existing health conditions, and exposure to toxins and the environment that lead to mesothelioma.
How Does Mesothelioma Develop?
Scientists have identified asbestos exposure as a primary risk factor for developing mesothelioma.
Asbestos is a naturally forming mineral found in the environment used in various applications, including brake lining, insulation, flooring, shingles, and other products due to its heat resistance properties.
Typically, the mining process for removing asbestos from the earth crushes the fibers, creating dust. If the asbestos dust is swallowed or inhaled, the fibers can become lodged in the stomach or lungs, causing irritation leading to mesothelioma.
How the irritation costs the condition is not yet understood. However, scientists believe it can take up to six decades or more for malignant mesothelioma cancer to begin developing after exposure to asbestos.
What Are the Mesothelioma Risk Factors?
Due to an individual’s genetic makeup, some people are more likely to develop mesothelioma than others. Common risk factors involving mesothelioma include:
Ancestral history of mesothelioma – Individuals with a child, sibling, or parent developing mesothelioma have a potential increased risk of acquiring the disease.
History of asbestos exposure – Individuals directly exposed to toxic asbestos fibers in the home or workplace have an increased risk of developing mesothelioma.
Living with people exposed to asbestos – Individuals working with asbestos, or exposed to the fibers, can bring dust and fibers into the home on their clothing or skin. Stray fibers picked up from the floor, on betting, or furniture can stay suspended in the air, increasing the family’s chances of inhaling dangerous asbestos dust.
Chest radiation therapy – Studies have linked an increased risk of developing mesothelioma with chest radiation therapy
People living in households with individuals subjected to asbestos can take preventative measures to minimize their exposure by having the worker change clothes and shower before leaving work.
Many companies offer high-risk jobs where workers are exposed to toxic chemicals and minerals. Occupations most at risk of developing mesothelioma include asbestos miners, brake mechanics, demolition contractors, electricians, home remodelers, insulators, military personnel, pipefitters, plumbers, and shipyard/dockworkers.
What Are the Complications of Mesothelioma?
Complications associated with asbestos-related diseases include:
- Difficulty breathing<
- Difficulty swallowing<
- Intense chest pain<
- Pleural effusion, where fluid accumulates in the chest cavity, compressing the lungs, making breathing difficult<
What Are Mesothelioma Symptoms?
Common mesothelioma symptoms typically appear when tumors begin to grow and spread, creating pressure on the abdominal cavity and chest wall.
Pleural mesothelioma patients typically develop shortness of breath and chest pain along with other symptoms including:
- Respiratory complications
- Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
- Night sweats
- Muscle weakness
- Abdominal or chest pain
- Accumulating fluid in the lungs (pleural effusion)
- Dry cough
- Blood clotting abnormalities
- Hoarseness or wheezing
- Unexplained weight loss
Peritoneal mesothelioma patients develop other symptoms, including constipation, loss of appetite, vomiting, nausea, unexplained weight loss, bowel obstruction, ascites (abdominal fluid build-up), and abdominal swelling/pain.
Pericardial mesothelioma affects the pericardium, the lining around the heart, where the tissue thickens, making it more challenging for the heart to pump effectively.
These patients typically experienced chest pain, shortness of breath, dyspnea (difficulty breathing), heart murmurs, arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), and heart palpitations.
The patient should address the symptoms as soon as possible to help improve life expectancy and medical outcomes. An accurate diagnosis and a quick treatment can benefit the patient to ensure they have a longer life and improve the quality of life.
Controlling the symptoms is an essential component for treating pleural mesothelioma.
How Is Mesothelioma Diagnosed?
A doctor can diagnose mesothelioma using various tests that include a blood test, tissue/fluid sample test, biopsies, surgical biopsies, and imaging tests.
Blood tests – while a blood test cannot accurately diagnose mesothelioma, the diagnostician will look for higher levels of osteopontin, fibulin-3, and SMRPs (soluble mesothelin-related peptides).
Tissue and fluid sample tests – Using a needle to extract fluid under the skin can help identify cancer cells that may be identified as mesothelioma via following further tests.
Biopsies – The doctor may acquire a biopsy by removing a portion of the tumor under the skin or use thoracoscopy, laparoscopy, and mediastinoscopy procedures to remove portions of tissue for examination.
Surgical biopsies – A surgeon can gather samples through a thoracotomy or laparotomy procedure to remove part or all of a tumor.
Imaging tests – Different imaging tests can accurately diagnose mesothelioma, including chest x-rays, CT (computed tomography) scans, PET (positron emission tomography) scans, and MRIs (magnetic resident imaging).
Does Mesothelioma Have a Good Prognosis?
Numerous contributing factors will determine an accurate prognosis for mesothelioma. The treating health care provider can diagnose and predict the extent of malignant cancer, and how it advances in the months and years ahead.
The doctor looks at:
- The stage and extent of mesothelioma cancer, including the tumor size, cancer cells reaching the lymph nodes, and whether the disease has metastasized (spread to other areas closed parental.<
- The extent of mesothelioma in the body<
- How the disease can be removed surgically<
- The amount of fluid build-up in the abdomen or chest<
- The patient’s general health and age<
- The specific type of mesothelioma cells<
- Whether the patient is experiencing a recurrence of a previously treated mesothelioma disease<
How Is Mesothelioma Treated?
Medical science can treat mesothelioma using surgical procedures, radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and tumor-treating fields (TTF). Typically, the patient will undergo a combination of two or three available treatments, including:
Surgery – The doctor can remove diseased tissue through various methods, including wide local incisions, pleurectomy, decortication, extrapleural pneumonectomy, and pleurodesis.
Radiation therapy – The doctor will use radioactive substances and high-energy x-rays internally and externally to stop the formation of new mesothelioma cells or kill off existing cells.
Chemotherapy – The defective chemotherapy medications can kill cancerous mesothelioma cells or stop the cell from dividing, similar to treating lung cancer. The medication is administered orally or through an injection.
Immunotherapy – The doctor may recommend specific medications that boost the body’s immune system to help fight cancer. The FDA has approved the use of Opdivo (nivolumab) and Yervoy (ipilimumab) to treat unresectable (not able to be surgically removed) mesothelioma tumors.
Tumor-Treating Fields (TTF) – Doctors use specific frequency electrical fields and chemotherapy to slow cancer cells from dividing.
How Do People With Mesothelioma Die?
The prognosis of the mesothelioma patient is approximately 12 to 16 months on average. Mesothelioma patients with the pleural (lung) form of the disease tend to live slightly longer between 19 to 21 months after its diagnosis.
Mesothelioma in patients with the peritoneal (abdominal) form of the disease can live five or more years after diagnosis with treatment. Those diagnosed with stage IV mesothelioma at the shortest life expectancy due to the disease being in its final stage.
A recent study of over 400 mesothelioma patients showed varying survival rates. Those with pleural mesothelioma survive nine months on average compared to peritoneal mesothelioma patients that lasted eighteen months on average. The analysis involved patients receiving and not receiving treatment.
What Causes Mesothelioma Other Than Asbestos?
According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD), up to 80% of all individuals developing mesothelioma were exposed to asbestos fibers. However, the remaining cases involve a non-asbestos-related form of the disease.
Scientists have linked the disorder to erionite, volcanic material, a form of zeolites chemically related to asbestos.
In one research paper, scientists proposed a link between SV40 (simian virus 40), playing a role in developing mesothelioma. However, peer review largely discredited the link.
What Is The Average Settlement For A Mesothelioma Case?
All asbestos claims have unique evidence and extraordinary circumstances surrounding the extent of injury the victim endured or how long they survived after being diagnosed with the condition.
That said, mesothelioma cases, paid out through asbestos trust funds, can reach a million dollars and higher. Some jury verdicts have awarded significantly higher amounts. However, presenting evidence at trial can be extremely risky with an uncertain financial outcome.
Nearly all mesothelioma cases are resolved through negotiated settlements to ensure that the victims and surviving family members receive their money quickly, sometimes in as little as three months.
If the victim was injured from exposure to asbestos in the workplace they can likely submit a workers compensation claim for benefits through the workers' compensation system, even if the exposure was years ago.
The workers comp benefits will pay the workers' medical bills and lost wages no matter which responsible parties were at fault for the injuries.
How Does Being Exposed to Asbestos Cause Mesothelioma?
Inhaled or swallowed asbestos fibers can irritate and educate the lining of the lungs and digestive tract, leading to cancerous tumors. However, the irritation can take between two and six decades for the first symptoms to appear.
What Populations Are Most Affected by Mesothelioma?
Statistics show that men and women fifty years and older are more likely to experience the signs and symptoms of mesothelioma. There are typically 3,000 new mesothelioma cases each year in the United States and likely many more that have not yet been reported or misdiagnosed.
Scientists believe that those most at risk for developing mesothelioma have a history of asbestos exposure, either directly or living in a household with someone exposed.
What Kind of Cancer is Mesothelioma?
Malignant mesothelioma is aggressive cancer that can affect any part of the body, primarily the lungs and abdomen. Mesothelioma is often misdiagnosed for other similar diseases, including carcinoma, lung cancer, leukemia, thymoma, myeloma, and lymphoma.
Even pneumonia can mimic many of the early symptoms of asbestos-related diseases associated with mesothelioma. Doctors will often misdiagnose the patient with mesothelioma when they suffer from pulmonary embolism, pulmonary fibrosis, lung disease, or a lung infection.
How Does Mesothelioma Kill You?
In its final stage (stage IV), mesothelioma is considered a terminal disease with a life expectancy of fewer than twelve months. The late-stage (end-stage) mesothelioma can be challenging to treat because not all the tumors have yet been removed.
Some individuals diagnosed with terminal cancer are going to remission following treatment. However, there is no cure. Cancer has finally spread from the lungs or abdominal region to other vital organs at its final stage.
In rare cases, the mesothelioma patient will develop cachexia where they “waste away,” experiencing muscle wasting in extreme weight loss, including losing body fat. Extreme weight loss results from muscle breakdown (atrophy), loss of appetite, and overall weakness.
Stage IV mesothelioma patients are often diagnosed with thrombocytosis (high platelet count) and anemia (low red blood cell count). Oddly, not all mesothelioma patients in the final stage show clear indications of the disease through symptoms.
Final stage mesothelioma is often diagnosed by the medical team at the hospital or oncologist who has a care center and not by the patient’s health care provider.
How Do You Treat Final-Stage Mesothelioma?
Your doctor is limited in the treatment options they can provide to minimize the symptoms associated with final-stage mesothelioma. The doctor may recommend aggressive surgeries, removing tumors if they have not yet metastasized to other areas of the body.
Typically, the doctor will recommend chemotherapy to treat the advanced disease. While it will not cure the condition, it could potentially shrink tumors, extend the patient’s life, and improve the quality of their daily existence.
Palliative treatment options are also available, including targeted radiation therapy to ease breathing by alleviating pressure and pain. The doctor might also recommend respiratory therapies, oxygen therapy, and pain medications.
The plaintiffs to improve the patient’s survival, reduce the treatment side effects, ease their symptoms, and improve the quality of life in the remaining days. Life expectancy dropped dramatically without treatment.
How Much Asbestos Exposure Causes Mesothelioma?
While short-term asbestos exposure could cause mesothelioma, it is infrequent. Short-term asbestos exposure usually lasts less than a few days.
Exposure over longer durations significantly increases the potential of developing the disease later in life. Scientists believe that a one-off exposure to asbestos fibers does not produce a significant risk of developing mesothelioma. However, cumulative short-term exposure to the toxic material could add up over time.
Typically, mesothelioma develops because millions of the microscopic toxic mineral fibers have accumulated over time deep inside the lung tissue or digestive tract.
Can Families Get Compensation for the Wrongful Death of a Loved One?
A mesothelioma attorney can file wrongful death claims on behalf of surviving family members who lost a loved one diagnosed with mesothelioma. Mesothelioma claims provide families compensation that may be able to pay for medical expenses, hospital costs, funeral/burial bills, pain, and suffering.
However, mesothelioma lawyers must file the lawsuit within two years after the workers' death to avoid the restrictions of the state's statutes of limitations. A mesothelioma lawyer successfully resolving the claim can provide additional revenue for the family over workers' compensation benefits.
Why Should I Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer for Asbestos Related Mesothelioma?
Thousands of products are manufactured every year containing asbestos fibers. Many manufacturers have declared bankruptcy in recent decades, but are still financially accountable to the victims of asbestos-containing products.
Filing mesothelioma claims can be highly complex. Nearly all mesothelioma lawsuits are never heard in court but are resolved through negotiated settlements.
Going along without a personal injury attorney can significantly reduce the amount of money you are entitled to receive.
To successfully resolve your case, you will need to prove how your asbestos exposure is directly linked with developing mesothelioma. You will need to identify the manufacturer, distributor, and retailer responsible for your injuries due to asbestos exposure.
A personal injury attorney working on your behalf can ensure that you file all the necessary paperwork before the statute of limitations expires and handle the asbestos litigation.
Your mesothelioma lawyer will take depositions, gather evidence, review medical expenses, look over medical records, and negotiate directly with the defendant’s insurance adjuster to support your asbestos case.
Your mesothelioma attorney will have all the necessary legal resources to produce a successful outcome. The attorney will usually offer a free case review, and will accept the case on a contingency fee basis to avoid the need for you to pay any upfront fees. The law firm will hire expert witnesses to provide testimony during the negotiations or when cases go to trial.
A mesothelioma lawyer will typically provide a free consultation to discuss filing an asbestos lawsuit seeking financial compensation from the responsible parties that caused the asbestos-related harm.