What is Mesothelioma?

Malignant mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer developing in the mesothelium, the protective lining covering most of the body’s internal organs. It is almost exclusively an occupational illness that is caused by working in fields that involve exposure to asbestos, such as construction work, firefighting, some industrial and electrical jobs, and shipyard work. Asbestos used to be very commonly used as a product for fireproofing and heat shielding, either in sheet form or the far more dangerous spray-in material, and it can still be found in many old buildings and facilities. To further complicate matters, there may be a period of decades between exposure and the eventual development of mesothelioma.

There are three types of mesothelioma, which are classified by the organ the cancer presents in:

  • Pleural Mesothelioma—affecting the lungs. Pleural mesothelioma is the most common variety.
  • Peritoneal Mesothelioma—affecting the abdominal cavity.
  • Pericardial Mesothelioma—affecting the cardiac cavity.

Symptoms of Mesothelioma

Early symptoms of malignant mesothelioma can be mistaken for a number of other illnesses and medical conditions, which can make it difficult to initially diagnose. Symptoms include:

  • Chest or abdominal pain.
  • Pleural effusion (fluid buildup surrounding the lungs) or ascites (fluid buildup in the abdomen)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Weight loss
  • Coughing, wheezing, or hoarseness
  • Low blood sugar
  • Blood clots in the arteries or lungs
  • Jaundice

In pericardial mesothelioma, the rarer variant, patients may develop additional symptoms reminiscent of various cardiac diseases as well.

Diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma involves initial radiograph imaging and biopsies to determine if any apparent abnormalities are cancerous. Blood tests are available that can detect some of the symptoms of cancer, but they do not actually confirm the presence of malignant mesothelioma. However, research is currently being conducted in the hopes of developing a blood test that can act as an early detection aid to use for screening former asbestos workers who may be at risk for developing malignant mesothelioma. The ability to begin diagnosing cases of malignant mesothelioma at a much less advanced stage would in all likelihood greatly increase the survivability of the disease. These potential screening tests are, however, still some years away from being ready to be submitted for FDA approval.

Treatment and Prognosis of Mesothelioma

While malignant mesothelioma is a somewhat manageable condition, there is no cure, and the average survival time for diagnosed cases is around a year from diagnosis. This is due in part to the tendency for cases of mesothelioma to remain undiagnosed until the cancer has progressed significantly and the disease’s tendency to remain dormant for decades after exposure. Mesothelioma is typically resistant to chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and treatment regimens will usually involve surgical options combined with radiation, chemotherapy, and various immunotherapies. One of the reasons why malignant mesothelioma is so difficult to treat, and the reason it can lay dormant for decades, is that the fine particulate dust from the mineral works its way into lung tissue and is very difficult for the body to clear.

Colombo Law: The Mesothelioma Litigation Experts

Even though the manufacture of asbestos based products was banned in 2002, the link between exposure to asbestos and the development of malignant mesothelioma has been known since the 1970s. If you or a loved one has developed mesothelioma the compassionate legal professionals at Colombo Law has the experience you need to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact us today to discuss your potential case and learn about your options.

by Colombo Law
Last updated on - Originally published on