Mesothelioma is a deadly type of cancer that forms when cancer cells develop in the mesothelium, a lining of tissue that surrounds and protects many of the vital organs in the thoracic and abdominal cavities of the body. To date, the leading cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure. Those who work or have worked with asbestos are at the greatest risk of developing mesothelioma. This can include miners, those who work in construction, manufacturing or other jobs that use products that contain asbestos.
How Does Asbestos Cause Mesothelioma?
Asbestos is a natural mineral that is mined from the earth. In the past, asbestos has been used as an inexpensive form of insulation as it is resistant to heat and electricity. It was commonly used in construction sites, shipyards and other places that required insulation from heat. Asbestos has also been used in a variety of building materials, including adhesives, tiles and concrete.
When asbestos fibers are broken apart, they turn into a dust. However, due to the fact that the fibers are quite large, when inhaled, they cannot be processed by the body. As a result, the fibers become lodged in the lungs, irritating the surrounding tissue, often causing inflammation and scarring.
What are the Symptoms of Mesothelioma?
The main reason that mesothelioma lawsuits are so complex is due to the fact that a patient may not experience any symptoms of the cancer for many years after the initial asbestos exposure. In fact, a patient will not experience symptoms until the cancer has developed in the body, which can take anywhere from 15 to 50 years. The specific symptoms a person can experience will depend on the type of cancer they are diagnosed with. There are three main types of mesothelioma – pleural, peritoneal and pericardial.
Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type of mesothelioma. This affects the lining of the lungs, so patients will generally notice problems pertaining to their respiratory system at first. Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma usually start with chest pains or shortness of breath. Additional symptoms may include:
• Coughing up Blood
• Fluid in the Lungs
• Chronic Cough
Peritoneal mesothelioma affects approximately 10 to 20 percent of patients. This type of cancer attacks the lining of the abdominal cavity and organs. Symptoms may first appear as extreme weight loss or severe muscle loss. Additional symptoms can include the following:
• Abdominal Pain and Swelling
• Night Sweats
• Bowel Changes
• Lumps or Fluid Buildup in the Abdomen
Pericardial mesothelioma, the rarest form of mesothelioma, affects the lining of the heart. The symptoms of this cancer may include chest pains, heart murmurs, difficulty breathing, irregular heartbeat and fatigue.
It is important to note that as the cancer spreads, no matter the type, additional symptoms can arise. Late-stage mesothelioma symptoms can include:
• Low Blood Sugar
• Pulmonary Embolism
• Blood Clots
What is the Life Expectancy of a Patient Diagnosed with Mesothelioma?
A specific prognosis is contingent upon several conditions, but the typical life expectancy following a diagnosis of mesothelioma ranges from 8 to 14 months. This can vary based on age, sex, history of asbestos exposure and the specific cells involved. The number of patients that survive the disease for at least one year is currently around 40 percent. According to the American Cancer Society, a recent study involving 2,959 patients showed that approximately 37 percent of patients diagnosed with mesothelioma under the age of 45 survived for more than five years following diagnosis. Another 20 percent of patients between the ages of 45 and 54 survived for longer than five years.
Following a mesothelioma diagnosis, many patients may wish to undergo treatments to fight the cancer and improve their prognosis. Common treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and immunotherapy.