You go to the doctor and hear news you weren’t expecting — you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma. Many questions may run through your mind — how did this happen? Why did this happen? What can be done to treat it? Depending on how the cancer has progressed will usually determine the next steps for your treatment.
If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma at no fault of your own, contact the lawyers at Shrader & Associates L.L.P.. We’ve recovered more than $1 billion for our clients in cases like this and will work our hardest for you.
How Does Someone Get Mesothelioma?
A majority of mesothelioma cases are caused by previous asbestos exposure. There are other risk factors, too, that can lead to a mesothelioma diagnosis.
Certain occupations put individuals at a higher risk to develop mesothelioma. This includes workers who are:
Demolition crews (especially if they are working in a building that was constructed before the 1980s)
Firefighters (could be exposed while fighting flames in a home that contains asbestos)
Power plant workers
Asbestos can naturally be found in minerals that form large deposits in hilly or mountainous areas. Therefore, those living in these types of environments could naturally be at risk for asbestos as it’s released from the Earth.
Additionally, if the deposits containing asbestos are located near a water source, residential wells and drinking supplies could also be contaminated. If asbestos enters a water source, and that water evaporates, the asbestos will be airborne and can travel populated areas that are several miles away.
Other Factors of Developing Mesothelioma
Gender and Age
While research shows that men are more prone to have mesothelioma, it’s unclear if that’s a factor of the disease. One thought behind this statistic is because of the male-dominated fields usually associated with occupations that have the highest asbestos exposure.
Additionally, the age of someone being diagnosed with mesothelioma is most commonly older because of how long it takes for mesothelioma to develop. Some mesothelioma cases can take up to 50 years after an initial exposure to be fully developed. Doctors do not believe someone’s age in general, though, is an actual risk factor for developing the cancer.
Simian Virus 40 (SV40)
Researchers have found a potential link between SV40 and mesothelioma. This is because SV40 was found in some contaminated polio vaccines in the 1950s and 60s, estimated to have impacted between 10-30 million people. Additional research has identified that SV40 alone was not able to cause mesothelioma however, it may have contributed to an elevated risk of mesothelioma in people who had asbestos exposure.
Types of Mesothelioma
There are four different types of mesothelioma cases.
This type of mesothelioma impacts a person’s lungs. This is the most common, and most aggressive, form of the cancer. It’s estimated as much as 90% of mesothelioma cases are pleural.
Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include:
Shortness of breath
While those symptoms alone represent what someone with mesothelioma is experiencing, they can also be symptoms of other problems, such as lung cancer. That’s why it can be difficult for doctors to sometimes accurately diagnose pleural mesothelioma.
On average, those diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma are given an 18-month life expectancy. The one-year survival rate of pleural mesothelioma is around 70% and the five-year survival rate is around 10%.
Around 15-20% of all mesothelioma cases are diagnosed as peritoneal, or in the abdomen.
Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include:
Fluid in the abdomen
Abdominal swelling and pain
Just like pleural mesothelioma, the above symptoms can mean a variety of different complications with a person and are not unique to only peritoneal mesothelioma.
Because of research and advancements in treatments of peritoneal mesothelioma, those diagnosed with this type of cancer have a better outlook. One of the most successful treatments is hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy combined with surgery. It’s believed that about 50% of patients who undergo this type of treatment have a life expectancy of five years or more. Doctors also say the one-year survival rate of peritoneal mesothelioma is 92% no matter if a person receives treatment or not.
This type of mesothelioma forms tumors around the lining of a person’s heart. This cancer is extremely rare with less than 50 people being diagnosed with it in the United States each year and it accounting for around 1% of the total number of mesothelioma cases.
Those who believe they may have pericardial mesothelioma should watch out for symptoms including:
Arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat
Fluid backup in the heart
Because of the location of this type of mesothelioma, those diagnosed are more likely to experience symptoms sooner than other types of mesothelioma. Additionally, because of the rarity of this cancer, the prognosis is not considered favorable. Patients with pericardial mesothelioma have a life expectancy of around six months with only about half living for a year after the diagnosis.
The final type of mesothelioma is in the lining of the testicles and is named testicular mesothelioma. This is also not a common form of mesothelioma and accounts for less than 1% of all cases.
Those with this type of cancer usually present symptoms such as:
Fluid buildup which can lead to scrotal swelling
A previously unidentified mass on the testicle
While being a rare type of cancer, those diagnosed do have a favorable life expectancy. Patients with this type of mesothelioma live for about two years on average. However, nearly all patients who become in remission with this cancer may not be that way for long — about 93% of patients will have the cancer return within five years of their initial diagnosis.
Progression of Mesothelioma
As asbestos is inhaled, it can be difficult for the body to get rid of the fibers. Those fibers can become stuck in tissues and pile up with repeated exposure. The accumulation of the asbestos fibers can cause cancer to surrounding cells.
Mesothelioma in particular begins in the mesothelial cells which is the layer of mesothelium that protects the lungs, heart, and abdomen. Cells can become inflamed which can lead to scarring, cell damage, and cancer.
Genetic changes can also happen when fibers intrude into the mesothelial cells. These genetic changes disrupt a cell’s typical life cycle and can also lead to cancer. Additionally, cells can mutate because of asbestos exposure causing healthy cells to be infected. Cancer also can occur because of the development of oncoproteins which block important genes that protect cells and can lead to the formation of tumors.
Similar to other cancers, when focusing on the most common form of mesothelioma, pleural, there are four stages of the disease patients should know about:
Stage 1 – this is when the cancer is found in the mesothelial lining of the lung and has not spread to other parts of the body.
Stage 2 – this is when the cancer is detected in other parts of the body close to the lungs, such as lymph nodes.
Stage 3 – this stage is when the cancer is not only in the lungs but also in nearby organs and distant lymph nodes.
Stage 4 – this is when the cancer is not only localized in the lung lining but the entire chest cavity and other organs.
If someone is diagnosed with mesothelioma, doctors hope to find the cancer when it’s in stage 1 as that has the lowest spread across the body. Depending on how long someone was undiagnosed, though, can make a difference in how quickly doctors detect the disease.
If you or a loved one is facing a mesothelioma diagnosis, don’t give up hope. The lawyers at Shrader & Associates L.L.P. are here for you to investigate where the asbestos exposure may have occurred and if you can be compensated for the trials you are facing. During your time of need, turn to our attorneys — contact us today at (713) 787-3733.