Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that occurs in the thin layer of cells lining the body’s internal organs. It is caused by inhaling or swallowing airborne asbestos and although it often occurs in the lungs, mesothelioma can also be found in the abdominal cavity and the heart. The negligence of employers and asbestos manufacturers is ultimately responsible for the consequences of exposure. Used extensively throughout most industries and the military, mesothelioma takes years to metastasize, often preying upon the elderly and most vulnerable in society. The attorneys at Advocates United will help you stand up against those who recklessly endangered your health and safety or the health and safety of those you love.

Unfortunately, Mesothelioma can go undetected for as many as 50 years, which means it is often significantly advanced by the time a diagnosis occurs. If you have been diagnosed with this deadly asbestos-related disease, filing a mesothelioma claim is the first step toward receiving compensation. Our experienced asbestos litigation attorneys at Advocates United can help you through the claims process and ensure that those responsible are held accountable.

Mesothelioma by the Numbers

  • 11 Million Number of people exposed to asbestos between 1940 and 1978, as estimated by the National Institute of Health
  • 3,000 Approximate number of cases diagnosed annually in the U.S.
  • 75 % Of people with mesothelioma were exposed to asbestos at work

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral. Its use was common in the following industries:

  • Military
  • Automotive
  • Manufacturing
  • Marine
  • Construction

It was commonly used in a wide variety of products because of its resistance to heat, versatility and strength. Examples of products containing asbestos include insulation, shingles, flooring tiles and other construction materials.

Asbestos particles, which are tiny, float through the air when they are disturbed. The particles are then either swallowed or breathed in. Ingestion of asbestos fibers can lead to serious, often fatal, diseases such as mesothelioma. It can also result in a chronic, non-cancerous lung disease called asbestosis.

The diseases caused by exposure to asbestos may not occur until 30 to 40 years after ingestion of the asbestos fibers.

Is asbestos banned in the United States?

Asbestos is not completely banned in the United States. However, only certain uses are still permitted. Here is information on the regulatory history of asbestos bans in the United States:

  • 1973 – Sprayed-on asbestos-containing fireproofing/insulating material banned by the EPA
  • 1975 – Use of certain asbestos pipe, boiler and hot water insulation banned pursuant to national emission standards covering hazardous air pollutants
  • 1977 – Use of artificial wall patching materials and artificial fireplace embers banned by the Consumer Product Safety Commission
  • 1978 – Use of sprayed-on asbestos containing surfacing materials not already covered by the previous ban pursuant to national emission standards covering hazardous air pollutants
  • 1989 – There was an attempt to ban the use of asbestos in most products by the EPA. The rule banning such use was, however, overturned and remanded by the Fifth Circuit Court of appeals in 1991. The result was that the attempted ban, that covered the importing, manufacture, processing and distribution of many products containing asbestos never went into effect
  • 1990 – Unless certain conditions were first met, the use of sprayed-on materials to pipes, electrical and other conduits, buildings and other structures, if the material contained more than 1% asbestos was banned by the EPA

What are some examples of asbestos containing products that are not banned?

  • Brake pads, blocks and drum linings
  • Gaskets
  • Roofing materials
  • Clutch facings
  • Transmission components
  • Cement flat and corrugated sheets
  • Pipe wraps
  • Vinyl floor tile
  • Cement shingle
  • Millboard
  • Cement pipe
  • Clothing
  • Friction materials
  • Non-roofing coatings

What are the different types of mesothelioma?

There are three different types of mesothelioma: Epitheliod, sarcomatoid and biphasic. The types differ based on the appearance of the cells under a microscope.

Epitheliod

Epitheliod cells appear as sheets of cells. This is the most common form of mesothelioma.

Sarcomatoid

Sarcomatoid cells appear spindly. This is the least common. It is also the most difficult to treat.

Biphasic

The final type, biphasic, is a combination of the first two types.

What are the symptoms of mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma symptoms mirror those of many other, more common, diseases. Symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Blood clots
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Pain, swelling or lumps around the ribcage or stomach

How is mesothelioma diagnosed?

Doctors diagnose mesothelioma using a variety of techniques and tools. The starting point, as with any doctor’s visit, is often your medical history, including whether you were exposed to asbestos. Your doctor will also want to know what symptoms you are experiencing and conduct a physical exam.

Your doctor may also use one or more tests such as an x-ray of your chest. Or the doctor may employ a computerized scan, often called a “CT scan”, which provides the doctor with a more complete picture than a standard x-ray.

Another possible test is a positron emission tomography or “PET” scan. A PET scan provides a 3-D color image.

Ultimately, the only way to definitely diagnosis mesothelioma is with a biopsy. A biopsy is a procedure where a piece of the tumor is removed for testing. There are several different biopsy methods. Depending on the area being biopsied, the procedure may be done through one or two small holes and the use of a very small camera and specialized tools. Or the biopsy sample may be collected with a needle. Finally, a larger opening requiring surgery might be required in order to biopsy the tumor.

How do you get mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is primarily caused by exposure to asbestos fibers. You may have been exposed to asbestos as part of your job, for example if you worked in construction. There is also “second-hand” exposure. Second-hand exposure happens when the asbestos is brought home by, for example, a family member on their clothes or skin. When asbestos materials break, become “friable”, the risk is that the asbestos fibers or dust get into your lungs.

Are certain people more likely to get mesothelioma?

Just because you were exposed to asbestos doesn’t mean that you will get mesothelioma. It is not known why some people who are exposed to asbestos get mesothelioma, while others do not. It can take 40 years, maybe longer, for the mesothelioma to occur after exposure to asbestos. Exposure to asbestos is more common in certain jobs than others. Here are some examples of higher risk jobs:

  • Military veterans, especially Navy
  • Manufacturing
  • Construction
  • Firefighters
  • Shipyard workers
  • Utility and power plant workers
  • Auto mechanics

Mesothelioma is most common in men between the ages of 45 and 85. Veterans account for approximately 30% of all mesothelioma cases.

Are there different stages of mesothelioma?

The only type of mesothelioma that is described using various stages is pleural mesothelioma. This is the kind of mesothelioma that affects the lining of your lungs. This is the most common area affected by mesothelioma. The purpose of the stages is to help describe how far the cancer has spread throughout the body. In other words, how advanced the cancer is.

Stage I

Limited to the lining of only one side of the chest.

Stage II

Spread into areas of the lung and diaphragm.

Stage III

Moved deeper into the chest area, for example into the lymph nodes or lung muscles.

Stage IV

It has spread throughout the chest or to other areas of the body.

What are the treatments for mesothelioma?

Treatments include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Surgey

Surgery is the most common treatment for mesothelioma. The purpose of the surgery, if possible, is to remove the cancer. This depends on how soon the cancer was diagnosed among other factors. Even if all the cancer cannot be removed, the surgery may provide some relief from symptoms such as difficulty breathing and pain.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the use of certain drugs to try to kill cancer. It is sometimes used as an alternative to surgery when the patient is either too sick to undergo surgery. Alternatively, when the cancer has spread so widely in the body that surgery isn’t a viable option. Chemotherapy may be used before surgery in an attempt to shrink the cancer. It may also be used after surgery in an attempt to keep the cancer from reoccurring. The chemotherapy drugs are very powerful and, unfortunately, can be very difficult to tolerate. Nausea, vomiting and mouth sores are some of the side effects.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is the use of beams of energy to kill the cancer. A doctor may use it in an attempt, after surgery, to kill of any cancer cells that that the surgery may have missed. Radiation therapy, like surgery, may also be used in an attempt to ease the symptoms of mesothelioma. Radiation therapy has its own set of side effects. The side effects include fatigue, difficulty taking bull breaths and stomach discomfort.

Are there hospitals that specialize in treating mesothelioma?

There are certain hospitals that have programs that specialize in the treatment of mesothelioma. Here are some examples:

  • Abramson Cancer Center (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
  • Dana Farber / Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (Boston, Massachusetts)
  • Fox Chase Cancer Center (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
  • Indiana University Simon Cancer Center (Indianapolis, Indiana)
  • Markey Cancer Center at the University of Kentucky (Lexington, Kentucky)
  • MD Anderson Cancer Center (Texas)
  • Moffitt Cancer Center (Tampa, Florida)
  • Ochsner Medical Center (New Orleans, Louisiana)
  • Siteman Cancer Center (St. Louis, Missouri)
  • UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center (Los Angeles, California)
  • UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center (Chapel Hill, North Carolina)
  • University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
  • University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center (Chicago, Illinois)
  • UPMC Hillman Cancer Center (Pittsburg, Pennsylvania)

Are there other treatments for mesothelioma being tested?

Medical researchers continue to search for new and better treatments for mesothelioma. New treatments are often tested through the use of clinical trials. Clinical trials are structured tests of potential new treatments involving actual patients. Your doctor may be able to tell you what clinical trials are available that you might be a candidate for.

Some of the new treatments currently being tested include:

  • The use of drugs that are light activated to destroy cancer cells. This is called photodynamic therapy.
  • The use of drugs that disrupt how cancer cells operate. This is called targeted therapy.
  • Altering the cancer cell genes in a way that kills them. This is called gene therapy.
  • Triggering the body’s immune system in such a way that it destroys the cancer cells. This is called immunotherapy.

Are there treatments available to ease the symptoms of mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is often incurable, so easing the symptoms of the disease is often a large focus of treatment. In addition to the use of surgery and radiation therapy, doctors and other caregivers may suggest acupuncture, mediation and other relaxation techniques and breathing exercises.

How can an attorney help?

A diagnosis of mesothelioma is devastating emotionally. It is also often financially devastating. The medical bills and other expenses can be an enormous, insurmountable, burden without help. An experienced mesothelioma attorney may be able to help you get the compensation you need and deserve. An experienced mesothelioma lawyer will also often be able to help provide you with information on the medical and other resources available to mesothelioma victims and their families.

Will I have to file a lawsuit?

Often no. Many times mesothelioma victims receive compensation without ever having to file a lawsuit. This is in part because there are bankruptcy trusts, with billions of dollars in assets, set up specifically to compensate mesothelioma and other cancer victims injured by exposure to asbestos. Even if a lawsuit is necessary to hold those responsible accountable, an experienced mesothelioma lawyer will be able to guide you through the process.

Asbestos Bankruptcy Trusts

Over $30 billion was put into bankruptcy trusts by the sellers of asbestos. The purpose of the funds was to compensate mesothelioma and other victims injured by exposure to asbestos. The process for filing a claim against one or more of these trusts can be explained by a lawyer with experience in this area.

Am I going to have to sue the military?

No, you are not going to have to sue the military. Mesothelioma claims are generally against the manufacturers and suppliers of asbestos containing products. If you are a proud veteran, it is understandable that you might not want to sue the service you served under.

How do I choose the right attorney and law firm?

As with any serious and complex injury requiring legal assistance, choosing the right attorney and law firm is critically important. You want to make sure that the attorney and firm handling your case has the experience and resources necessary to get you the compensation you need and deserve. For many victims of asbestos exposure it is not only about receiving the financial assistance they and their families need, it is about holding those responsible accountable.

What other support is available for me and my family?

You and your family might also benefit from the emotional support that trained therapists, clergy, support groups can provide. Ask your doctor for information on the resources available in your area.