Exposure to asbestos is the common cause of mesothelioma. No cure exists for this disease. The tissue that lines your organs is called mesothelium. Mesothelioma is a tumor of that tissue. It normally starts in the lungs, but can start in other organs. Malignant mesothelioma is where the person has inhaled asbestos particles over an extended period of time.
If you have developed mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos, you may be entitled to compensation. The manufactures of asbestos knew for years that their asbestos was a cancer causing agent and failed to warn the public. This led to numerous lawsuits against the manufacturers.
Mesothelioma is a relatively new disease but deadly and aggressive form of cancer. The disease gets its name from the fact that it attacks the lining of internal organs. This thin layer of tissue — on the inside and outside of organs, such as the lungs — is called “mesothelium.” Mesothelioma most often is found in the lining of the lungs and chest wall, though it can also affect organs in the abdomen as well.
According to www.mesothelioma.com, the medical community didn’t recognize mesothelioma until the 1930s. In the middle of the 20th century, doctors in South Africa began to see a pattern of lesions and lung tumors in people who worked in the country’s asbestos mining industry. As post-mortem diagnostic procedures advanced, researchers were able to discover more cases of this cancer.
Mesothelioma cases vary greatly around the world. Great Britain and Australia, for example, have much higher rates of diagnoses. In the United States, about 3,000 new cases are found each year. However, despite the relatively low number of cases, mesothelioma is one of the most dangerous types of cancer. Statistics show that in 2013, about 50,000 cases had been diagnosed worldwide. In that same year, nearly 35,000 people died from the disease.
This type of cancer generally affects older people, with most diagnoses not coming until the victim is 65 years of age or older. The reason for the disease affecting mostly older people is the cancer’s “latency” period. Studies have shown that the time between exposure to the cancer-causing agent and onset of symptoms is most usually many years.
Mesothelioma is a particularly aggressive form of cancer. Medical studies have shown that the average length of a time a patient survives after initial diagnosis is a year to 15 months
Symptoms of the disease include shortness of breath, coughing and chest pain. If the cancer is in the abdominal area, swelling and pain will be present, but a number of other symptoms — fever, vomiting, poor appetite, night sweats — may mimic other ailments. In cases where the cancer has spread to multiple organs, victims may have difficulty swallowing, and they may suffer from neck or face swelling.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral. For several decades, it was a popular building material because of its strength and fire resistance. Authorities banned most uses of asbestos in the 1970s after its cancer-causing properties became known.
Mesothelioma stems from asbestos fibers that are inhaled or ingested. The tiny fibers (about one-fifth the diameter of a human hair) may be inhaled into the lungs, where the fibers attach to the mesothelium, eventually causing a tumor. An asbestos fiber ingested into the stomach could attach to the lining of the stomach or intestines; it could also make its way into the bloodstream, where it could attach to the lining of the heart.
Products that contain or contained asbestos include (as compiled by www.asbestos.com):
- Auto parts — brake pads, clutches, hood liners, gaskets and valves.
- Cement — because of its durability, asbestos was a common additive.
- Cloth and clothing — resistance to fire made asbestos a popular foundation for blankets and heat- and fire-resistant clothing, especially firefighter suits.
- Construction materials — insulation, adhesives, tape, ductwork, ductwork connectors, drywall, ceiling or floor tile backing.
- Tiles — ceiling, flooring and roofing tiles. Also, adhesives to apply these types of tiles may also contain asbestos.
- Vinyl — both flooring and wallpaper.
The danger of asbestos exposure comes from exposure to the fibers, not an intact product that contains asbestos. In other words, an undamaged ceiling tile that contains asbestos is not necessarily a danger. However, a tile that has been damaged is more dangerous because the damage may allow fibers to be released.
Those most at risk for developing mesothelioma include those who worked in construction trades, at shipyards or with automotive parts, such as brake pads. However, because the risk from asbestos fibers includes inhaling or ingesting them, exposure to the fibers can also come from being in contact with skin or clothing of someone who has been exposed.
Recent studies and investigations have shown that shipbuilders, veterans and firefighters are among those at high risk of asbestos exposure, given the nature of their work and the prevalence of asbestos in their work surroundings.