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Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer affecting the lungs, abdomen, or heart lining. It is caused by asbestos dust and fiber exposure, a naturally occurring mineral commonly used in building materials, shipyards, and other industries before its dangers were widely recognized. This web page will address ‘what is mesothelioma?’ and address related concerns.

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Did you or a loved one receive a malignant mesothelioma diagnosis likely caused by asbestos exposure? Our personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC legally advocate for victims of rare cancer caused by exposure to toxic substances, including asbestos.

Contact our mesothelioma lawyers at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free), or use the contact form to schedule a free consultation to discuss your legal options.

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Understanding Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is an aggressive and rare cancer, with only about 3,000 cases diagnosed annually in the United States. Life expectancy for most mesothelioma patients is 12-24 months after diagnosis.

It develops in the lining of the internal organs, such as the lungs, abdomen, or heart, as healthy cells mutate to cancerous ones primarily due to exposure to asbestos fibers, either inhaled or ingested and embedded in the body’s tissues.

Mesothelioma tumors can form 20-60 years after asbestos dust exposure. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral used in various industries, such as construction, shipbuilding, and automotive manufacturing.

Mesothelioma Cell Types

There are three mesothelioma cell types: epithelioid, sarcomatoid, and biphasic. The most common type is epithelioid mesothelioma, accounting for about 60% of all cases. This type of mesothelioma is usually less aggressive and responds better to treatment than the other two types.

Sarcomatoid mesothelioma is the most aggressive form of the disease, with cells that are less responsive to treatment. Biphasic mesothelioma combines both epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells, making treating it more challenging.

Different Types of Malignant Mesothelioma

Each type of mesothelioma has distinct symptoms, risks, and treatment options. Understanding the differences between the distinct types of malignant mesothelioma is critical to accurately diagnose mesothelioma and offer effective treatment. [1]

There are three main types of mesothelioma: pleural, peritoneal, and pericardial. A fourth rare type is testicular.

Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma

  • Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type, accounting for about 75% of all mesothelioma cases.
  • Although developing in the lining of the lungs or pleura, it is not lung cancer.
  • It can cause mesothelioma symptoms such as dry cough, respiratory complications, chest pain, abdominal pain, fever or night sweats, pleural effusion (fluid around the lungs), tiredness, and muscle weakness.
  • Mesothelioma tumors in the pleura can be benign or malignant.
  • Pleural mesothelioma normally develops from asbestos fibers in the workplace.
  • Treatment for pleural mesothelioma can include chemotherapy [2], surgery, radiation, and immunotherapy.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma

  • Peritoneal mesothelioma is the second most common type, accounting for about 20% of all cases.
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma develops in the protective lining of the abdominal cavity or peritoneum.
  • The symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma are non-specific.
  • When peritoneal mesothelioma develops, symptoms such as abdominal pain, swelling, blood clotting, fever, inflammatory lesions, intestinal obstruction, nausea, peritoneal fluid buildup, and weight loss can manifest.
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma is also often caused by asbestos fibers.
  • Life expectancy for patients diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma is about 2.5 years, but it can depend on cell type, gender, and cancer stage.

Pericardial Mesothelioma

  • A pericardial mesothelioma is a scarce form affecting the heart’s lining.
  • It can cause chest pain, difficulty breathing, heart palpitations, and other symptoms.
  • Pericardial mesothelioma occurs by asbestos fibers, although the exact mechanism by which asbestos affects the heart is poorly understood.

Testicular Mesothelioma

  • This mesothelioma is the rarest type, accounting for less than 1% of cases. Testicular or tunica vaginalis mesothelioma [3] develops in the tunica vaginalis, the lining surrounding the testicles.
  • When testicular mesothelioma develops, symptoms may include swelling or a mass in the testicle, pain or discomfort, and fluid buildup in the scrotum. These symptoms are also present in other conditions, such as testicular cancer, so getting a correct diagnosis is essential.
  • Due to its rarity, there is no established standard treatment for testicular mesothelioma tumors, and treatment options may vary depending on the individual case.
  • Treatment may include surgery to remove the affected testicle, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Clinical trials may also be an option for some patients.

Like other forms of mesothelioma, it is usually caused by dust or fiber asbestos. Mesothelioma usually develops when asbestos fibers are inhaled and transported to the testicles through the bloodstream.

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It may take several decades for malignant mesothelioma symptoms to develop, so individuals exposed to dust or fiber asbestos should continue to monitor their health and discuss any concerns with their healthcare provider.

It is important to note that regardless of the type of mesothelioma, early detection is crucial in improving the chances of successful treatment.

National and Illinois Mesothelioma Statistics

Mesothelioma is a rare and intensely progressive cancer with a generally poor prognosis, national and state statistics can give a broader picture of mesothelioma and its effects, on patients and medical professionals.

National Mesothelioma Statistics

Statistics regarding mesothelioma in the US include:

  • The National Cancer Institute estimates that in 2023, there will be approximately 2,500 new cases of mesothelioma diagnosed in the United States.
  • It is estimated that about 3,000 new mesothelioma cases are diagnosed in the United States each year.
  • According to the American Cancer Society, despite advances in treatment, the 5-year relative survival rate for mesothelioma is only around 10%.
  • Approximately 80% of mesothelioma cases are pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the lungs and surrounding tissue.
  • The median age at diagnosis for mesothelioma is 72 years old.
  • According to the National Cancer Institute, men are more likely to develop mesothelioma than women, with a male-to-female ratio of about 3:1.
  • The American Cancer Society (ACS) [4] states that asbestos fiber exposure is the primary risk factor for mesothelioma development, with about 70-80% of cases linked to asbestos dust or exposure.
  • The estimated life expectancy for mesothelioma patients is about 12-21 months.
  • According to Environmental Health and Preventative Medicine, reducing asbestos dust or fiber exposure is the most effective way to prevent mesothelioma.

Illinois Mesothelioma Statistics

Illinois mesothelioma statistics are as follows:

  • According to the Illinois Department of Health, there were 711 mesothelioma deaths in Illinois from 1999 to 2015.
  • Of these deaths, the majority (88%) were in individuals aged 60 years or older.
  • Cook County had the highest number of mesothelioma deaths in Illinois, with 239 deaths in the same period.
  • Male individuals accounted for 79% of mesothelioma deaths in Illinois.
  • Industries associated with a high risk of asbestos exposure in Illinois include construction, shipbuilding, and manufacturing.

It is important to note that mesothelioma statistics can vary depending on the source and the period analyzed. However, these numbers provide a general understanding of the impact of mesothelioma in the United States and Illinois.

Mesothelioma Risk Factors

Mesothelioma is primarily caused by exposed asbestos dust which can become lodged in the lining of internal organs and lead to the development of mesothelioma tumors.

Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos dust or fiber exposure is the primary risk element for mesothelioma development. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral widely used in various industries until the 1970s when its dangers became apparent. Asbestos dust or fibers can be inhaled or ingested, and once they become lodged in the lining of the lungs or other organs, they can cause cancerous cells to develop.


Certain occupations carry more risk for developing mesothelioma due to asbestos dust exposure, such as:

  • Asbestos manufacturers – asbestos workers employed in the factories.
  • High-risk occupations – construction, shipbuilding, firefighters, and automotive manufacturing workers are among the top high-risk jobs.
  • Military veterans – [5] service people were exposed to high levels of asbestos because it was used in all military branches.
  • Secondhand exposure – women, children, and other household members with asbestos dust exposure on a worker’s clothing, hair, or skin.

People with a history of asbestos exposure are also at risk of developing other asbestos-related diseases, such as asbestosis, lung cancer, or pleural plaques. These diseases can also increase the risk of developing mesothelioma.

Other Risk Factors

While asbestos exposure is the primary risk factor for mesothelioma, other factors can increase the risk of developing the disease, such as:

  • Gender and age

Mesothelioma is more common in men than women, with men being four times more likely to develop the disease. The risk of mesothelioma developing also increases with age, with most cases diagnosed in people over 65.

  • Family history

Although rare, mesothelioma can run in families. People with a family history [6] of mesothelioma may have a higher risk of developing the disease themselves.

It is essential to be aware of the risks associated with mesothelioma, especially if you have a history of being exposed to asbestos. Asbestos lung cancer is any lung cancer related to asbestos.

Mesothelioma Symptoms

Mesothelioma is an aggressive and rare cancer that can be difficult to diagnose in its early stages and often offers non-specific symptoms.

Common Mesothelioma Symptoms

The mesothelioma symptoms can vary depending on the type of the disease, but some common symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Pain in the chest
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Respiratory difficulties (dyspnea)
  • Tiredness
  • Fever and night sweats
  • Buildup of fluid
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness of muscles
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight loss

There are not many symptoms in the mesothelioma early stages. Depending on the mesothelioma type, other symptoms manifest when tumors spread, grow, and press against the chest wall and abdominal cavity.

Many of the symptoms are non-specific, making it difficult to diagnose mesothelioma and often leading to a confirmed diagnosis only in the later stages of cancer.

How is Mesothelioma Diagnosed?

Because mesothelioma is rare and its symptoms can be similar to other conditions, it can be challenging to diagnose mesothelioma. However, several diagnostic methods [7] can help identify the disease, including:

  • Blood tests – blood tests can detect certain substances in the blood that may indicate the presence of mesothelioma. Blood tests are not definitive but can help doctors decide if further testing is necessary.
  • Biopsies – biopsies involve removing a tissue sample from the affected area and examining it under a microscope for the presence of cancer cells. It is the most reliable method for mesothelioma diagnosis. It also allows specialists to see which type of mesothelioma cells make up a tumor.

Mesothelioma Treatment Options

Mesothelioma treatment can include a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or multimodal therapy. Doctors develop a treatment plan based on cancer type, location, and stage.

Mesothelioma treatment options include:

  • Multimodal

A multimodal or multidisciplinary option combines different mesothelioma treatments, such as surgery and chemotherapy, in a specific order based on the cancer stage. It is recognized as the best way to treat mesothelioma.

  • Surgery

Removal of the lung – Extra pleural pneumonectomy, removal of the pleura-pleurectomy, and decortication or testicular surgery offer a better prognosis for patients.

  • Chemotherapy treatment

More than 70% of mesothelioma patients undergo chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is a standard mesothelioma treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be given as a pill or an injection directly into the affected area.

Mesothelioma treatment is often combined with other approaches, such as surgery and radiation. The drugs used in chemotherapy may cause side effects such as nausea, fatigue, and hair loss.

  • Radiation

Doctors can administer mesothelioma radiation at any cancer stage with surgery and chemotherapy. As a mesothelioma treatment, radiation reduces pain and slows tumor growth. Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. It is a non-invasive treatment typically used after surgery or combined with chemotherapy.

The radiation is usually administered externally, but in some cases, it may be administered internally. Side effects of radiation may include skin irritation and fatigue.

  • Immunotherapy

Mesothelioma immunotherapy drugs control cancer growth using cells from the immune system.

  • Tumor treating fields (TTFields)

The TTFields is an FDA-approved mesothelioma treatment and involves a battery-operated device worn on the skin in combination with chemotherapy to limit cancer growth.

Clinical Trials and Emerging Treatment Options

In addition to traditional treatments and clinical trials, emerging treatment options are available for mesothelioma patients. Clinical trials evaluate new therapies and drugs that the FDA has not yet approved.

Mesothelioma cancer centers offer a range of treatment options and clinical trials, including immunotherapy, gene therapy, and other emerging treatments. These novel approaches for treating mesothelioma use the immune system to target and kill cancer cells.

Life Expectancy and Survival Rates

When it comes to mesothelioma prognosis, the outlook for patients is often poor. Unfortunately, mesothelioma is an intensely progressive cancer typically diagnosed in its later stages.

It can make the choice of treatment options difficult and reduce the chances of survival. The average life expectancy for mesothelioma patients is around 12 to 21 months after diagnosis, although It can vary depending on several factors.

Average Life Expectancy for Mesothelioma Patients

At the time of mesothelioma diagnosis, the cancer stage [8] is one of the primary factors that can affect a patient’s life expectancy. Patients receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis in the earlier stages of the disease have a better chance of survival and longer life expectancy.

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Factors affecting life expectancy include the patient’s health, age, and gender. For example, women and younger patients have longer life expectancies than older men.

Other factors that can affect mesothelioma prognosis include the type of mesothelioma, the location and size of the tumor, and whether cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Certain cell types, such as epithelioid mesothelioma, are associated with a better prognosis than other types, such as sarcomatoid mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma Support and Resources

Receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis can be overwhelming. However, patients and their families do not have to go through it alone. Various mesothelioma support and resources are available to help patients cope with the disease and its effects.

Mesothelioma Specialists

Mesothelioma is a rare and complex disease that requires specialized care. Working with a mesothelioma specialist can help ensure that patients receive the most effective treatment and support.

Mesothelioma specialists are medical professionals who specialize in mesothelioma diagnosis and treatment and are employed in mesothelioma cancer centers across the US.

Working With a Mesothelioma Lawyer

Many people with a mesothelioma diagnosis were exposed to asbestos and may be entitled to compensation from the companies responsible for their exposure. Working with a personal injury lawyer can help patients and their families navigate the legal system and seek the compensation they deserve. Mesothelioma lawyers specialize in asbestos-related cases and can help patients understand their legal options.

Mesothelioma and Wrongful Death

Mesothelioma is a devastating disease that can cause significant physical, emotional, and financial harm to the affected individual and their loved ones. In some cases, mesothelioma can lead to wrongful death, a legal term used to describe a death caused by another party’s negligent or intentional actions.

If a loved one has passed away due to mesothelioma, it may be possible to file a wrongful death lawsuit to seek compensation for the damages suffered. It can include compensation for medical bills, lost income, funeral expenses, and pain and suffering.

Mesothelioma FAQs

Our personal injury attorneys understand that many families have unanswered questions about mesothelioma and compensation for damages. An attorney from our law office has answered some of those questions below.

Contact us at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC at (888) 424-5757, or use the contact form for additional information and answers, or to schedule a free case evaluation to discuss your case.

What is mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that affects the lining of organs in the body, most commonly the lungs.

What causes benign and malignant mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a mineral commonly used in many industries, including construction, shipbuilding, and manufacturing. Mesothelioma is a rare disease, and it is important to be aware of the risks and symptoms, especially if you have a history of asbestos exposure.

What is the most common form of mesothelioma?

Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of the disease, accounting for about 75% of all cases. This type of mesothelioma develops in the lining of the lungs, called the pleura. The symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include chest pain, shortness of breath, and pleural effusion, a buildup of fluid in the space between the lungs and chest wall.

The symptoms of mesothelioma can include shortness of breath, chest pain, and a persistent cough. Other symptoms may include fatigue, weight loss, and difficulty swallowing.

How is mesothelioma diagnosed?

A mesothelioma diagnosis is confirmed through various tests, including imaging tests [9], blood tests, and a biopsy.

Is mesothelioma treatable?

Mesothelioma is treatable, but there is no cure for the disease, and life expectancy is short. Treatment options may include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.

What is the life expectancy for someone with mesothelioma?

The life expectancy for someone with mesothelioma varies depending on the stage of the disease at the time of diagnosis, as well as other factors such as age and overall health. On average, the life expectancy for someone with mesothelioma is around 12-21 months.

Can mesothelioma be prevented?

The only way to prevent mesothelioma is to avoid asbestos exposure. [10] Asbestos workers must wear protective equipment and follow safety protocols when working with or in areas where asbestos may be present.

How Can an Attorney Help with a Mesothelioma Case?

Watching a loved one slowly suffer the consequences of mesothelioma is emotionally traumatic. If you or a loved one have suffered injuries or wrongful death related to mesothelioma, we can help.

Contact our personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free), or use the contact form to schedule a free consultation to discuss your legal options. We can pursue financial compensation on your behalf for medical expenses, pain, suffering, loss of income, and other damages.

Contingency Fee Agreement

Our personal injury attorneys accept all serious personal injury claims and wrongful death cases on a contingency fee agreement. This arrangement immediately ensures our clients have legal representation without paying upfront out-of-pocket expenses.

Our law firm advances all expenses in resolving claims and gets paid only when negotiating a settlement or winning a jury trial award. Our “No-Win/No-Fee” Guarantee is simple: We do not get paid if you do not win!

Resource: [1], [2] NIH, [3] PubMed, [4] ACS, [5], [6] PubMed, [7] PubMed, [8] NIH, [9] NIH, [10] NIH

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