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Pleural Mesothelioma Attorneys
The most common form of mesothelioma, affecting around three-fourths of those diagnosed with the cancer, is pleural mesothelioma. As hinted in its name, pleural mesothelioma attacks the pleura—a protective lining that covers the lungs—and respiratory areas of the body. The condition affects more than 3,000 Americans each year.
The leading cause of this malignant mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. In fact, between 70 and 80% of those diagnosed with this type of cancer have been exposed to asbestos.
There are six types of asbestos that may be divided into two forms, serpentine and amphibole. The only form of serpentine asbestos—chrysotile—is known as white asbestos and consists of curled fibers. It is this form that accounts for 95% of the asbestos used around the world.
The amphibole group consists of crocidolite, amosite, anthophyllite, and tremolite. These forms of asbestos are straight, needle-like fibers and are easy to distinguish.
Amosite is brown asbestos while crocidolite is blue asbestos and was used the most in industrial settings.
There have been many studies of the epidemiology that yield conflicting reports associated with malignant pleural mesothelioma and the potential of chrysotile. Regardless of the type of asbestos, the World Health Organization (WHO) has concluded that all categories of asbestos cause mesothelioma cancer in humans.
Uses for and Exposure to Asbestos
Asbestos was once a popular choice for manufacturing many consumer products—from roofing shingles to children’s toys. Touted for its strength and its ability to resist heat and flames, asbestos was in widespread use until the latter part of the 20th century, when it was identified as a highly toxic carcinogen and ultimately banned by the EPA. The EPA banned its use in 1989, but only after millions of people had been exposed to the dangerous carcinogen.
People who have been exposed to asbestos—especially on a frequent and continual basis—are at risk for developing asbestosis, malignant mesothelioma, and other types of cancer. Most mesothelioma victims came into contact with asbestos at work, making it one of the most prominent occupational hazards of the 20th century.
All are the result of damage caused to the internal organs after asbestos is inhaled or swallowed. Illness does not typically onset until 20 to 50 years post-exposure. Toxic contact occurs when materials made from asbestos are broken up, causing the fibers to be released into the air.
Although there is currently no cure for mesothelioma, patients diagnosed with the pleural variety often have a better chance at extended survival. Depending on the stage at which a patient is diagnosed, they may survive for 3 or more years post-diagnosis. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and other treatments can add months or even years to one’s life expectancy.
Approximately 2,000 people are diagnosed with this disease in the United States each year. Unfortunately, almost all of them could have been prevented had companies stopped using dangerous asbestos.
Presentation and Classifications of Pleural Mesothelioma
Pleural mesothelioma appears as a firm, grayish tumor that settles on the pleural surfaces that cover the lung and line the inner surface of the chest wall. It also develops hidden nodules and a buildup of fibrous tissue. It may completely blanket the lung with a rind of tumor that can be as thick as five centimeters even though the tumor has only slightly penetrated the bulk of the lung.
During the early stages, the tumor invades the chest wall and the diaphragm. There can also be involvement of the lymph nodes in the area between the lungs. Or, it may spread to the pericardium, the sac lining the heart.
A pleural tumor can be classified by the type of cells it is made of:
- Epithelioid cells are the most common, making up 50 to 60 percent of all cases. These cell types present as elongated nipple-like structures that are uniform in shape. They are less aggressive, meaning this type of pleural mesothelioma has the best prognosis.
- Sarcomatoid cells are the least common. They present as elongated spindle-shaped cells that are irregularly shaped and overlap one another. These growths are the most aggressive, resulting in a poor prognosis.
- Biphasic or mixed cells have both epithelioid and sarcomatoid features.
Who Does Pleural Mesothelioma Affect?
The disease typically affects men, who are 4-5 times more likely to develop it than women, according to the Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) database, part of the National Cancer Institute. This database also shows most patients are between 50 and 80 years of age. Because mesothelioma typically develops between 20 and 60 years after the initial asbestos exposure, it is rare in younger populations.
Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms and Diagnosis
Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms and Diagnosis
Pleural mesothelioma is often hard to diagnose because its symptoms may be very general; they are often attributed to the flu or another common sickness. Malignant pleural mesothelioma may not be diagnosed for up to and longer than 30 years after asbestos exposure.
There are studies that show an average latency period of about 42 years for some cases diagnosed between 1972 and 2004. Other studies have demonstrated that there is an inverse relationship between mesothelioma and the duration of exposure to asbestos. That is, there has been a proven link between occupational exposure and degree of illness and latency period with non-occupational exposure victims. This is dose-dependence – where the degree of the illness is directly related to how long the victim was directly exposed.
Most victims are finally tested for this disease when they show the mesothelioma symptom of dyspnoea, a pain in the chest wall caused by pleural effusion. Devastatingly, this diagnosis is made when the disease is in an advanced stage. Without treatment, statistically, patients only survive less than one year.
The symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include:
- Shortness of breath
- Pain under the ribs
- Fluid buildup around the lung (pleural effusion)
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal bloating
- Persistent coughing
- Coughing up blood
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- Unexplained weight loss
- Abnormalities in blood clotting
Most cases are identified via chest X-rays, which can reveal pleural abnormalities in one lung or show pleural effusions, a common comorbidity. Approximately 60% of patients will have a tumor on their right lung; 35% will have a tumor on the left; and 5% present with damage to both lungs.
Imaging tests may catch a pleural mass or widespread thickening of the pleura. Fibrous scar tissue is likely to build up on the pleura and may accompany calcifications and loss of long volume. If the disease has advanced sufficiently, the lung may be encased by a tumorous rind.
Patients who believe they may have pleural mesothelioma should know pleural effusions may occur on their own without the cancer. Only by biopsying—removing and analyzing microscopically—affected tissue or fluid, can a conclusive mesothelioma diagnosis be made.
Handling a Mesothelioma Diagnosis
After receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis, the best next steps to undertake are planning the most effective treatment and therapy plans for each individual analysis to help prolong life with the most quality. Treatments and therapies for current patients are what medical professionals use for data to help find a cure.
Stages of Pleural Mesothelioma
The American Joint Committee on Cancer has a three-step staging system to evaluate the advancement of pleural mesothelioma, called the TNM System. There are three staging systems for pleural mesothelioma, but the most familiar to the majority of cancer patients is the TNM system. The acronym breaks down as follows:
- T: Tumor (describes the degree of the tumor to what extent it has spread)
- N: Nodes (describes whether or not the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, an important step in the advancement of the disease)
- M: Metastasized (describes whether or not the cancer has spread to other organs inside the body)
According to TNM classifications: stage 1 affects only one layer of the pleura; stage 2 affects both layers; stage 3 also affects the nearby esophagus, lymph nodes or chest wall; and stage 4 affects other parts of the body.
Causes of Pleural Mesothelioma
Almost all pleural mesothelioma patients develop the disease as a result of exposure to asbestos at some point in their life. Most of this exposure happened in the workplace, either in an asbestos mine, a factory that used asbestos to manufacture goods or a job that required employees to work with materials that used asbestos. Microscopic asbestos fibers can easily become airborne, where workers inhale them more. They could also land on a worker’s clothing resulting in the secondhand exposure of their family.
Today, asbestos is heavily regulated in the U.S., and the country has spent millions on remodeling buildings to remove floor and ceiling tiles, insulation, and other items that contained asbestos. However, many buildings—including old schools or apartments—may still have dangerous asbestos sources.
Construction and manufacturing companies used asbestos commercially because the silicate minerals found in the material made it heat-resistant, impervious to many kinds of acid damage, and an ideal electrical insulator. Asbestos has been used in various types of insulation for walls and pipes. It was ideal for making bricks and used in mixing cement. Asbestos was also once a key ingredient in making drywall, flooring, roofing, ceiling, and many other uses. Because of its widespread use, many different types of workers were exposed on the job, and others were exposed simply by being in facilities with many asbestos-made materials.
Other Causes of Pleural Mesothelioma
Pleural mesothelioma may also be linked with:
- Exposure to zeolites, a class of fibrous minerals similar to asbestos that can be found in various locations around the world.
- Previous radiation treatment that targeted the chest area.
- SV-40, or simian virus 40, has been linked with mesothelioma. However, more information is needed on how the virus might cause cancer to develop.
- A germline (inherited) mutation in the BAP1 gene.
Treating Pleural Mesothelioma
What type of treatment is selected depends on a few different factors, such as the stage of the cancer and overall health of the patient.
Like most cancers, many options are available to help mesothelioma patients. Though there is no cure for the cancer, intervention can help improve a patient’s prognosis. Certain palliative techniques are often employed to help decrease symptoms as well. Treatment may involve:
- Surgery to remove mesothelioma tumors (pleurectomy)
- Radiation treatment
These options may be combined or used separately depending on factors such as the cancer’s location and stage and the patient’s health. Or, a patient may be able to enroll in a clinical study to help test potential new treatments. The process is individual to each patient.
The pleural lining is shielded by the rib cage and when surgery, pleurectomy, is chosen as a mesothelioma treatment, it could require substantial cutting through bone. It is important to note that this form of surgery does not cure mesothelioma. It only eliminates any direct issues that may cause the patient substantial pain or advanced cancer spread moving forward.
Another treatment for pleural mesothelioma includes chemotherapy. Its benefits in treating cancer are widely known and recommended by many medical professionals. This is because it can be used to reduce the size of tumors and extend the life of the patient. Chemotherapy has also proven to palliate mesothelioma symptoms by reducing effusions, ascites, pain, and shortness of breath. This all lends to a better quality of life for the patient while fighting the cancer.
Radiation is another form of treatment for pleural mesothelioma. As of late, for patients with mesothelioma, IMRT (intensity-modulated radiation therapy), adjuvant hem thoracic radiotherapy, and photodynamic therapy are all being used as treatment methods.
Diagnostic procedures for pleural mesothelioma are mostly highly invasive. Because of this, patients will need to pass through periods of time for recovery from various procedures used to either extend their lives or improve the quality of the time they have remaining. Beyond radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery, a patient will have many blood chemistry tests that can reveal what is happening internally with the disease. Tendencies for white or red blood cell decline will require other treatments such as blood transfusions or injections to help increase cell production. These should actually be proactive treatments to ensure that your immune system is not left vulnerable to infection due to reduced white cell counts while the body is recovering from more invasive therapies.
Because mesothelioma is an exceedingly rare cancer, patients are usually encouraged to seek treatment from specialists. If you are having difficulty finding an appropriate specialist, ask our team how we may be able to help.
Even with treatment, there is no known cure for pleural mesothelioma. Life expectancy can vary, depending on how early treatment is begun and the age of the victim, among other specifics.
Sadly, the mesothelioma life expectancy rate is notoriously poor. In fact, even “survivors” of the disease are not considered to be “cured,” as there is no known cure for mesothelioma. Those rare few who experience remission from this extremely aggressive form of cancer are both extremely fortunate and few. A mere ten percent of those affected by the disease survive past the second year after diagnosis.
Again, the poor prognosis of this particularly deadly type of cancer has much to do with the diagnostic difficulties that fail to detect it while still in its earliest stage. Once the disease has progressed into the later stages, it is no longer localized to a single or even multiple tumors contained within one affected organ. Though mesothelioma starts in the region of the chest and lungs, once it has progressed into stages two and three, it has spread beyond that initially afflicted area—thus, making it much more difficult to treat. Stage-Three Mesothelioma—which has metastasized, or spread to other organs within the body—is virtually impossible to treat with any lasting effectiveness, leaving the victim with an expected lifespan of only a few months.
We Can Help You After a Pleural Mesothelioma Diagnosis
Our dedicated mesothelioma attorneys at Shrader & Associates, L.L.P. are here for you if you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with this cancer. We’ve worked with thousands of patients across the U.S., helping them file claims and take care of other legal needs that may arise during this time.
We understand what you’re going through is difficult, and our goal is to do everything we can to take some of the stress off your shoulders. It’s important to file a claim for compensation if you are eligible, but you need a law team who will do everything they can for you so you’re free to spend time with your family and on your health. Our team is dedicated to helping mesothelioma patients find justice against careless companies that exposed them to asbestos in the past. If you are in this situation, please reach out to us. We want to know how we can help.
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