Understanding the History and Reality of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is a rare and extremely aggressive form of cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart, and is caused almost exclusively by exposure to asbestos. Unfortunately, mesothelioma has no known cure at this time and it also has a very poor prognosis for survival.
According to a 2017 report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 2,500 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma in the United States every year.
What is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is most often classified by the location in the body where it develops, most typically in one of three specific areas of the body where it occurs in the lining of certain organs which are known as the mesothelium.
Pleural Mesothelioma – This is the most common type of mesothelioma, occurring in the lungs and caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma – This occurs in the abdomen when inhaled or swallowed asbestos fibers become trapped in the lining of the abdomen.
Pericardial Mesothelioma – In rare cases, asbestos fibers can become lodged in the lining around the heart cavity, which is known as the pericardium.
The life expectancy for mesothelioma patients is poor, but the stage of the disease, cell type, and location of the tumors are the most important factors in a patient’s survival. Additionally, the patient’s overall health, age, and how far the cancer has spread may also impact the prognosis.
Symptoms and Treatment of Mesothelioma
The symptoms of mesothelioma can take decades following exposure to asbestos, and often do not appear for another 20-50 years after the first exposure to asbestos.
The most common symptoms of mesothelioma include chest pain, trouble breathing, fluid buildup in the lungs, nausea or vomiting, anemia, and weight loss.
The symptoms of mesothelioma often look like those of other diseases which can lead to a misdiagnosis, and it normally takes doctors weeks or months to arrive at an accurate mesothelioma diagnosis as they perform a battery of tests to rule out other diseases.
Upon diagnosis, mesothelioma will be categorized into one of four stages which can quantify the severity of the condition and how far the cancer has spread. Typically Stage 1 and 2 can be treated with surgery and other forms of therapy, while Stage 3 and 4 are treated palliatively to provide relief from the symptoms and stress of the mesothelioma.
Treatment for mesothelioma is like most other types of cancer, most often involving some combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. In some cases, these treatments can improve the prognosis of the patient and extend their life significantly.
Asbestos is a unique and naturally occurring mineral that has been used by humans for thousands of years, however it wasn’t until the industrial revolution when asbestos came into widespread use.
Asbestos possesses the unique property of being able to both insulate and prevent heat transfer, which made it ideal for use in a wide variety of commercial and industrial applications. Asbestos was often used as a fire-resistant coating for building materials, served as insulation for pipes, ceilings, or walls, and served as linings for brakes in trains and automobiles, among many other applications.
Asbestos is a microscopic and durable mineral which can be weaved into fiberglass and blended into paint, which made it ideal for many commercial and industrial applications. When asbestos sits firmly, it is not generally considered hazardous, but becomes extremely dangerous when the asbestos becomes airborne and is easily inhaled.
Activities that set asbestos airborne were an everyday occurrence in many industries ranging from home construction and renovation, shipyard employees, those working in the oil refinery sector, or even veterans since asbestos was often used in many military applications, particularly due to increased use during World War II.
People who were exposed to asbestos through their work or line of employment are at the highest risk of developing mesothelioma.
Thousands of workers were unknowingly exposed to asbestos without being aware of the presence of asbestos and without being made aware of the potential dangers, although medical evidence had already linked exposure with deadly diseases.
In turn, many family members of those working with asbestos were also unknowingly exposed to asbestos, likely the result of workers returning home with asbestos dust in their hair or clothes, and those family members often have a higher risk of developing mesothelioma.
The lawsuit that is widely considered to be the first victory by a person with mesothelioma is the case of Borel v. Fibreboard Paper Products Corporation, which was filed in 1969. Mr. Borel worked as an insulator and was exposed to asbestos for approximately 33 years, which resulted in him developing asbestosis and mesothelioma. In turn, he filed suit against numerous manufacturers of asbestos insulation.
Mr. Borel won his lawsuit, which was also upheld by the US Court of Appeals. Following the Borel decision, many more asbestos lawsuits began to be filed across the country to hold manufacturers responsible for the damages caused by their product.
The US Congress first identified asbestos as a hazardous air pollutant under the Clean Air Act of 1970, which resulted in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) overseeing the use and disposal of asbestos. This law was followed up with additional federal measures including provisions within the Consumer Product Safety Act and regulations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) which overseas worker health.
The harmful health effects and irrefutable link to mesothelioma have led to asbestos being banned in more than 50 countries, but that is not currently the case in the United States. Indeed, asbestos continues to be imported and used in a variety of applications today, and while its use is much more tightly regulated, it still poses dangers to future generations.
The families of those diagnosed with mesothelioma face a number of devastating changes, ranging from the severe financial burden of treating mesothelioma to the eventual loss of their loved one.
Most mesothelioma victims will accumulate medical bills ranging from the 10’s of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars as they pursue treatment. No amount of financial compensation can take away this devastating diagnosis, but hiring an experienced attorney and taking legal action may be the only way to recover from the hefty financial burden that often follows.
Mesothelioma cases can be particularly difficult to pursue because the latency period between exposure to asbestos and the onset of symptoms for mesothelioma often takes as long as 40 years.
Given the amount of time that has passed, it can be challenging to establish the time and place of asbestos exposure that occurred decades ago and often without a worker even being made aware that they were exposing themselves to this dangerous compound.
Every mesothelioma case is different and legal avenues may include past employers, product manufacturers, and even the asbestos industry itself. In some cases, the companies which once used, mined, or manufactured products with asbestos are no longer in operation if they have been acquired by other firms, gone out of business, or declared bankruptcy, often due to the number of mesothelioma lawsuits they were facing.
This does not mean that there are not recourses to obtain compensation for those diagnosed with mesothelioma. In most cases, these firms were required to setup up trust funds that were made specifically to compensate the victims of asbestos diseases, which are often referred to as mesothelioma trust funds. These funds play an important role in providing compensation in a mesothelioma settlement and the funds can be dispatched quite quickly, which is important for seriously ill individuals who need urgent medical care.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, it is imperative that you act quickly and seek out an experienced mesothelioma attorney who will help you and your family receive the compensation you need. Any compensation is linked to the strength of the case, which takes into account many different factors, including the health condition of the claimant, and the degree of perceived liability among the defendants.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact the experienced legal team at Fears Nachawati for a free, no obligation legal consultation to discuss the specifics of your mesothelioma case. Please call (866) 705-7584, or visit the offices of Fears Nachawati located throughout the great state of Texas, including in Houston, Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, and San Antonio.