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What is the VA Disability Claims Process for Veterans with Mesothelioma?

If you served in the armed forces and you have developed mesothelioma, you may be able to file a claim for VA disability benefits. The VA disability claims for veterans with mesothelioma can even be easier than some other diseases, because the VA accepts that mesothelioma can be a service-related illness. With that being said, the claims process can be a somewhat complicated set of tasks.

Submitting VA disability claims is not as simple as filling out a form. You need to provide documentation about your service and your asbestos exposure. The thought of wrestling with the VA to get benefits may seem like too much for you to handle. You’re already struggling to manage mesothelioma treatments and the life changes that come with your diagnosis. But the process is worth it.  A successful claim filing can result in monthly benefits of $3000 or more.

You don’t have to file a claim on your own. A VA claims specialist can help you through the VA disability claims process.

How Do Veterans Get Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos. All branches of the military used asbestos products until the 1970s and sometimes well after the 1970s. You are most at risk if you served between the 1930s and the 1970s. However, the military didn’t remediate asbestos on its bases and some Navy ships until the 1990s and used brakes and other products containing asbestos well after the seventies, so you might have worked around asbestos in the military during later years as well. Veterans have a higher rate of mesothelioma than the general population.

Mesothelioma is a cancer of an organ lining. It is very slow to develop. Even though you were discharged from the armed forces decades ago, mesothelioma diagnosed much later could be due to your military service.

The Veterans Administration suggests that you get checked for mesothelioma if you worked in the military in any of these areas:

  • Mining
  • Milling
  • Shipyards
  • Construction
  • Carpentry
  • Demolition (knocking down old buildings)

You might also have been exposed to asbestos, according to the VA, if you worked with products that contained asbestos. These include flooring, roofing, cement sheet, pipes, insulation, and friction products (such as clutch facings and brake linings).

If your military service didn’t involve any of the possible exposures listed above, you might still have mesothelioma because of your military service. If you served in the Navy, for example, you could have come into contact with asbestos on your ship. Naval veterans have a particularly high risk of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

Who Can File VA Disability Claims?

VA Disability Claims

To apply for VA benefits for mesothelioma, you have to document that you are eligible. You will need to show the VA that:

  • You have a verified mesothelioma diagnosis. Mesothelioma can be difficult to diagnose. You’ll need thorough testing to determine that is what’s making you sick before you go to the VA.
  • You were honorably discharged. Only veterans with honorable discharges are eligible for VA mesothelioma benefits.
  • You were exposed to asbestos during your military service. Your VA claims specialist can help you gather the information you need to prove that you worked around asbestos during your service.
  • It is determined that your asbestos exposure in the military was 50% or more of your lifetime exposure to asbestos. If you held a job after you left the military where you worked with asbestos, the VA will factor this into its consideration. This additional asbestos exposure doesn’t necessarily disqualify you for VA benefits. But, to file a successful VA disability claim, you’ll need to document that 50% or more of your asbestos exposure happened during your time in the armed forces.

If you have pleural (lungs) or peritoneal (abdomen) mesothelioma, you are eligible to receive full disability benefits from the VA, as long as you meet the other requirements. The VA may not give full disability to veterans with pericardial (heart) or testicular (testes) mesothelioma.

VA benefits can include tax-free monthly compensation. You can also get free healthcare through a VA medical center. As a mesothelioma patient, you have the right to get treatment from one of the mesothelioma specialists at the VA.

If you were not in the military but you are the surviving spouse, child, or parent of a veteran who died from mesothelioma, you could qualify for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). You can apply for tax-free monthly compensation from the VA.

Steps of the VA Disability Claims Process

In addition to VA disability claims forms, you’ll need to gather evidence for your disability claim. This will include documentation of your condition from your doctor and your DD-214 separation paperwork from the military. You might need to request a copy of your official military personnel file, to show where your military service brought you into contact with asbestos.

The VA may also ask for information about your jobs after your service, to determine if you had other asbestos exposure that could have caused or contributed to your mesothelioma. You can also provide statements from family, fellow service members, and others to support your claim.

If you’re applying for DIC benefits, you will need to provide much of the same evidence that the veteran would need to gather. You’ll have to show that your loved one was diagnosed with mesothelioma, was honorably discharged, and was exposed to asbestos during military service. In addition, the VA has specific forms for each type of surviving family member.

To qualify for DIC as a surviving spouse, you cannot remarry until you are 57 years old or older. Surviving children can receive DIC if they aren’t included in the DIC benefits for their surviving parent. To be eligible for DIC, the surviving child must be unmarried and under 18, or under 23 and enrolled in school.

Once your VA disability claim is granted, your monetary benefits will be retroactive. You’ll receive checks for your benefits, going back to the month you filed your claim.

VA Disability Appeals

Sometimes valid VA disability claims are denied, due to mistakes on the part of the VA. If your claim for VA disability or DIC benefits is denied, you have the right to appeal.

Like the initial paperwork, an appeal can feel overwhelming. You have too much stress in your life already. But the appeals process is also worthwhile, because the VA does sometimes reverse its decisions. If you win your appeal, you’ll get your VA benefits starting from the month you first filed. These funds can go a long way to reducing your stress when you’re dealing with mesothelioma.

And, like the initial claims process, you don’t have to file a VA disability appeal on your own. A VA claims specialist can help you navigate the process. MRHFM provides VA claims help to qualified veterans with mesothelioma at no charge. It’s our way of thanking you for your service and giving something back to our community.




The Most Frequently Asked Mesothelioma Prognosis Questions

mesothelioma prognosisIf you have just received a mesothelioma diagnosis, you and your family are probably trying to process your mesothelioma prognosis. As you get over the initial shock, you and your family will begin to ask important questions. You will need to know what type of mesothelioma you have, where the tumor is located in your body, and what your lab report (pathology reports) reveal about your mesothelioma stage. All this information will help you understand your mesothelioma prognosis.

What is a Mesothelioma Prognosis?

A prognosis is a guess about the likely course of your mesothelioma disease and an estimate of your survival time. Understanding what your mesothelioma prognosis means to you and your family can help you prepare for this phase of your life. Because mesothelioma is a terminal disease with no known cure to date, the purpose of your prognosis is to help you understand and evaluate your next steps. In addition, your prognosis helps your doctors advise you on available treatment options. Your doctor will help you choose the combination of treatment that has the best chance to prolong your life and keep you healthy for as long as possible.

After you get your mesothelioma prognosis, you may want to consider these important questions:

  • Do I want to undergo mesothelioma treatment?
  • What are the best treatment options for my mesothelioma prognosis?
  • How will I care for myself and manage my treatment or surgery side effects?
  • Are mesothelioma treatments expensive? Will insurance cover them? How will my family afford to pay for my treatment and other expenses related to my mesothelioma care?

What Conditions Impact My Prognosis?

A number of factors can directly impact your mesothelioma prognosis. These factors are individual to you making your situation unique. No single statistic or set of statistics can completely or accurately predict your life expectancy. But, based on experience from other mesothelioma patients combined with your unique factors, your doctor may be able to provide a range of life expectancy. Many factors that affect your prognosis are not within your control. There are some things you can do, however, that will improve your mesothelioma prognosis.

Several conditions and factors, that you have and can’t control, could impact your mesothelioma prognosis, including:

  • Mesothelioma Cancer Stage: One of the most important factors is where you are in the development of the disease. If you are diagnosed at Stage 1, your tumors are probably small and localized in one area of the body. If your mesothelioma has progressed to Stage 4, your mesothelioma tumors have probably spread to multiple places within your body and your tumors will be larger in size. As with other forms of cancer, mesothelioma is more treatable if it is diagnosed at an earlier cancer stage.
  • Type of Mesothelioma: The type of mesothelioma you have is classified through the location of the disease within the body. The most prominent locations are the lungs, abdomen, and heart. The rarest mesothelioma type, testicular, is the most treatable. Pleural mesothelioma, which grows in the lining around your lungs, is the most common type. You may have a wider range of treatment options available if you have pleural mesothelioma.
  • Mesothelioma Cell Type: There are three mesothelioma cell types: epithelioid, sarcomatoid, and biphasic. Epithelioid, which is the most common cell type, is slower growing and easier to treat than the more aggressive sarcomatoid cells. Biphasic tumors contain both types of mesothelioma cells.
  • Age: Mesothelioma usually takes many years to develop after asbestos exposure. The average age at diagnosis is 69. The older you are when you discover you have this disease, the poorer your mesothelioma prognosis. In addition, older patients have a greater chance of having other health issues that may complicate treatment or affect survival time.
  • Genetics: Scientists are studying the BAP-1 mutation as a possible factor in improved prognosis for mesothelioma patients. Patients who carry a certain mutation of the BRCA1-associated protein-1 (BAP1) gene tend to have better mesothelioma survival rates.

How Do I Improve My Prognosis?

There is no cure for mesothelioma, but that doesn’t mean you should give up. There are positive actions you can take to improve your mesothelioma prognosis. Your actions to take care of your health could add years to your life.

  • Physical Health: The better your physical condition, the better your chances of being able to fight mesothelioma. If you have maintained a healthy diet and exercise regimen, your body has a better opportunity to withstand aggressive mesothelioma treatments that could help you get better. Your level of health also impacts your recovery time from treatment or surgery. It’s not too late to improve your health after your mesothelioma diagnosis. Gentle exercise and healthy eating can increase your stamina and improve your mesothelioma prognosis.
  • Mental Health: Anxiety and depression are common among cancer patients. Studies have shown that your mental health can affect your mesothelioma prognosis, too. Support from friends, a counselor, or a mesothelioma support group can help you stay positive during your treatment. Some mesothelioma patients find solace in meditation, religious practices, or spending time in nature.
  • Smoking: Exposure to asbestos dust is the main cause of mesothelioma. Quitting smoking is probably one of the best things you can do to increase your survival time and improve your health. Smoking does not cause mesothelioma but it is very hard on the lungs and your body.
  • Specialists: One of the best things you can do to increase your survival time is to seek out treatment from the best available mesothelioma specialists and hospitals. Several top-notch research hospitals in the US have mesothelioma centers that provide the latest treatments. If you’re a veteran, the VA also employs mesothelioma specialists.
  • Mesothelioma Clinical Trials: The number of clinical trials available to mesothelioma patients has increased recently. You no longer have to wade through the complicated process of finding the right trial for you and your family. A Mesothelioma Clinical Trial Matching Service will help you understand the best trial for you. They can help you find a trial near your home when possible and ensure that you have the qualifications to participate in trial.
  • Second Opinion: Just like with any other serious health condition, you are entitled to a second opinion on your diagnosis and recommended treatments. You and your family should feel comfortable with your doctors and specialists and trust their advice.

What Are Mesothelioma Survival Rates?

Age is the biggest factor affecting mesothelioma prognosis. After one year, more than 50% of patients diagnosed between ages 50 and 64 are still alive. Fewer than 30% of mesothelioma patients over 75 survive for more than a year.

Gender affects survival rates as well. Though women make up only 25% of mesothelioma patients, they have higher survival rates than men. Women are much more likely than men to be long-term mesothelioma survivors. Only about 6% of men survive five years or more with mesothelioma. Women are almost three times as likely (16%) to survive that long.

Statistics on survival rates  are based on data from all mesothelioma patients. Individuals may have survival rates that defy the odds. Many of the factors above can affect your individual mesothelioma prognosis. In addition, some patients have had success with newly-developed immunotherapy treatments that have increased their survival time.

Your mesothelioma prognosis is not written in stone. You can choose to fight this deadly disease with everything you’ve got and make the most of every day.



First New Mesothelioma Treatment Approved by FDA in 15 Years

mesothelioma treatment

Mesothelioma is considered an incurable form of cancer. Only a very small number of mesothelioma patients survive long-term with the disease. So, it’s big news when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announces a new approved mesothelioma treatment.

The newly FDA-approved mesothelioma treatment protocol is a combination of a tumor treating fields device with the chemotherapy drug pemetrexed plus one of the platinum-based chemotherapy drugs. This new mesothelioma treatment option is one of many exciting recent developments in mesothelioma care and in cancer treatment more generally.

What Is a Tumor Treating Fields Device?

The tumor treating fields device (also referred to as TTF or TTFields) approved by the FDA is made by the Israeli firm Novocure. The device is called Optune or NovoTTF-100A. It was previously approved for the treatment of a form of aggressive brain cancer called glioblastoma.

TTF sends an electrical current through the area around your tumor. The treatment is also called alternating electric field therapy because it uses alternating electrical fields to target cancer cells. The current generated by the device is low intensity, so you won’t get a shock. The electrical current leaves normal cells unharmed. At the same time, it kills fast-growing cells, like cancer cells, and stops them from growing and dividing.

During treatment, you’ll have electrodes attached to your skin in the area of your tumor. If you have a medical device implanted near the location of your tumor, TTF might not be appropriate for you.

The side effects from TTF treatment appear to be relatively mild. Some patients had skin irritation where the electrodes were attached. There were also reports of aches and twitching muscles.

Patients in the mesothelioma clinical trial who received TTF treatment in combination with pemetrexed and a platinum-based drug showed impressive results. The patients in the trial had a survival rate that was 50% longer than the expected survival rate for patients with advanced mesothelioma who receive chemotherapy without TTF.

Who Will Benefit from the New Mesothelioma Treatment?

TTFields mesothelioma treatment is approved for a specific set of patients: people with malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) that is unresectable , locally advanced, or metastatic.

Pleural mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelium (lining) around the lungs. It is the most common form of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos, most often by inhaling microscopic asbestos fibers.

Before this announcement, there was only one FDA-approved treatment for patients with unresectable, locally advanced, or metastasized mesothelioma: pemetrexed combined with cisplatin, a platinum-based drug.

If you were diagnosed with MPM at an early mesothelioma stage, you have additional treatment options available, including surgery and radiation. Combination treatments, such as surgery with radiation or two chemotherapy drugs together, have been found to be the most effective.

Because mesothelioma can be difficult to detect and diagnose, many patients don’t start receiving treatment until their cancer has moved beyond the early phases. TTF treatment, therefore, has the potential to benefit many mesothelioma patients.

Defining Advanced Mesothelioma

The mesothelioma treatment that uses TTF is for patients whose mesothelioma is unresectable, locally advanced, or metastatic. It’s helpful to define these medical terms to understand if this would be a helpful mesothelioma treatment for your tumor.

Unresectable tumor. Unresectable is doctor-speak for a tumor that can’t be surgically removed. There can be several reasons for this. If your tumor is in a location that can’t be safely operated on, the risks might outweigh the benefits of surgery. Or your tumor could be unresectable because it is not a solid tumor growing in a single location but many tiny and diffuse clumps of cancer cells. Sometimes, doctors can remove part but not all of a tumor through surgery. This also fits the definition of unresectable.

Locally advanced mesothelioma. When a doctor describes your cancer as locally advanced, this means your tumor has spread to nearby organs but not to other parts of your body. In the case of pleural mesothelioma, cancer cells could have spread to one of your lungs or to your spleen.

Metastatic cancer. When cancer metastasizes, it spreads to other parts of your body. Cancer can metastasize to organs that aren’t close to your original tumor. Metastatic cancer cells look the same as the cells of your original tumor. A secondary tumor that forms as the result of metastasis is still called pleural mesothelioma, even when it attacks a different organ.

The new treatment protocol just approved by the FDA is a first-line treatment for MPM patients whose cancer fits one or more of these descriptions.

First-line and Second-line Cancer Treatments

The TTF protocol was approved by the FDA as a first-line treatment for certain patients with MPM. A first-line cancer treatment is one that is most likely to be effective for most patients. First-line treatments for mesothelioma include surgery and chemotherapy. The TTF treatment adds another tool for mesothelioma doctors and patients to battle this deadly form of cancer.

A second-line cancer treatment is one that your doctor might turn to if the first-line treatment stops working. Your doctor might also try a second-line treatment if you can’t tolerate a first-line mesothelioma treatment such as chemotherapy. If first- and second-line treatments stop working, your doctor may try third- or fourth-line treatments as well.

Can I Get TTF Mesothelioma Treatment?

If you are interested in trying TTF mesothelioma treatment, you still have a few hurdles to jump. Optune machines are relatively new and not every treatment center will have one. The Optune device can only be operated by trained personnel, which could be another limiting factor. In addition, you should check with your insurance carrier or Medicare to find out if this treatment is covered.

TTF treatment is not a cure, but it offers new hope for patients with advanced or inoperable mesothelioma. Your doctor will be able to help you understand whether TTF could help treat your mesothelioma. If you meet the criteria for TTF, it could be worthwhile to find a medical center where you can receive this ground-breaking mesothelioma treatment. After a mesothelioma diagnosis, every moment you have with your loved ones is precious. TTF offers the promise of more of those precious moments.






What is Immunotherapy, How Does it Help?

immunotherapyImmunotherapy is the leading edge of a revolution in cancer treatment. These drugs give new hope to Stage IV cancer patients who were out of treatment options. Some patients with forms of cancer that are particularly hard to treat, such as pancreatic cancer and even mesothelioma, have benefited from immunotherapy treatments.

Still, immunotherapy is not a magic bullet. While these cutting-edge treatments have produced some astounding results, researchers haven’t been able to repeat these successes with large groups of cancer patients. Immunotherapy may be the key, but scientists still haven’t figured out how to unlock the door.

Immunotherapy is now an accepted treatment for many forms of cancer, including mesothelioma. Your doctor may offer you the option of trying immunotherapy drugs such as Keytruda or Opdivo. Understanding mesothelioma immunotherapy can help you decide whether this treatment is right for you.

What is Immunotherapy?

Standard of care mesothelioma treatments include surgery to remove the cancerous tumor, chemotherapy to kill cancer cells, and radiation to shrink the tumor. Immunotherapy is a type of chemotherapy, but it works differently from traditional chemotherapy drugs.

Cancer cells tend to grow faster than healthy, normal cells in your body. Chemotherapy drugs seek out fast-growing cells and kill them. Chemotherapy treatment is a systemic cancer treatment. It attacks cancer cells anywhere in your body, including cells that have metastasized or travelled away from your original tumor.

Immunotherapy drugs operate on a different principle. Rather than trying to directly kill cancer cells, these drugs target your immune system. This type of cancer treatment aims to strengthen your immune response to fight back against your mesothelioma cancer.

How Does Mesothelioma Immunotherapy Work?

Immunotherapy treatments are possible because scientists have learned more about how cancer cells grow. Your immune system is designed to detect and kill abnormal or damaged cells quickly. It has robust mechanisms to keep your body free from intruders and harmful mutations.

These mechanisms are triggered by an intricate system of proteins that act as checkpoints for your immune system. The checkpoints regulate your immune system to protect you from overactive immune responses. One example is a mechanism that turns on when a woman is pregnant. The immune regulation prevents her body from sensing the fetus as a foreign body and attacking it. Cancer cells hijack these natural mechanisms to grow unchecked.

The hallmark of cancer is cells that grow unchecked and invade surrounding tissues. To do this, cancer cells have to ignore signals from the body that would tell them to shut down and die off. They have to find ways to evade your immune system’s T cells that would otherwise kill them off before they could reproduce. Some cancer cells have evolved ways to use immune system checkpoints to hide from T cells or avoid programmed cell death. Immunotherapy treatments turn these checkpoints back on. This allows your immune system to attack these mutant cells and kill them.

Scientists are also working to develop personalized cancer treatments that work with your immune system. One type of personalized cancer treatment involves removing some of your T cells and altering them to specifically target your cancer cells. Scientists then grow these edited immune cells in the lab. They inject this immune cell army back into your body, where they hope it will attack your cancer cells. This approach is time-consuming and it’s still in the experimental stage. It has only been tried on a small number of patients, but the early results show promise.

Your immune system is more powerful than the most powerful chemotherapy drug. Every day, your body kills off problem cells and ejects invaders. If researchers can figure out how to harness this power, it will be a powerful tool in the fight against mesothelioma and other deadly cancers.

Side Effects of Treatment

Chemotherapy often has distressing side effects. Because the drugs also kill fast-growing cells that aren’t cancerous, many patients lose their hair. Our stomachs are lined with fast-growing cells, so digestion is often disrupted. Your sense of taste can also be affected and you may have a hard time eating spicy foods during chemo treatment.

Not everyone has severe side effects from chemotherapy. Your doctor may prescribe other medications to manage your chemotherapy side effects.

One of the promises of immunotherapy is that it may have fewer side effects than chemo because it is more targeted. This isn’t always the case, however.

These treatments can send your immune system into overdrive. In some cases, this may cause your immune system to attack healthy cells in your body. This can make you feel sick.

Common side effects include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing
  • Stuffy sinuses
  • Tiredness
  • Headaches
  • Achy muscles
  • Swollen legs
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Hormonal changes

If you experience side effects during a course of mesothelioma immunotherapy, let your doctor know right away. If the side effects are severe or life-threatening, you may need to stop the medication.

Can Immunotherapy Cure Mesothelioma?

At the moment, there is no cure for mesothelioma. Treatment options are increasing as research continues. A small number of patients have had remarkable results through clinical trials of drugs such as Keytruda. At least one mesothelioma patient has been declared in remission after immunotherapy treatment. It is too soon to determine if she is cured or whether her mesothelioma cancer will return.

For every patient with advanced cancer who achieves a miracle cure, there are currently many more for whom immunotherapy does little or nothing. Researchers don’t know why these treatments help one patient and not another. The answer to that question could be the key to developing more effective treatments.

For now, immunotherapy is a beacon of hope for mesothelioma patients. If your doctor feels that this kind of mesothelioma therapy is appropriate for you, there’s no reason not to try it. You might be one of the ones who responds well to this type of treatment.

As the field matures, researchers are coming up with new and more effective treatments, even though they haven’t found a mesothelioma cure. Cocktails with two or more immunotherapy drugs or combinations with traditional chemotherapy drugs may be more effective than single-drug immunotherapy treatment.

Researchers continue to search for more answers to unlock the mysteries of cancer cell development and immune response. There are numerous studies underway that seek to find the key to more effective immunotherapy. Ask your doctor if you might qualify for a clinical trial. If you have the opportunity to join a study, you could be at the forefront of a revolution in cancer treatment.

Mesothelioma immunotherapy offers the promise of hope for mesothelioma patients and their families. Hope is precious when you are diagnosed with a disease that has no cure. Scientific breakthroughs about the mechanisms that drive tumors to form may be the first steps towards cancer treatments that help patients with more advanced cancer.



The Most Common Mesothelioma Causes

mesothelioma causesMesothelioma is a rare form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, your life may suddenly be filled with doctor visits and medical treatments. Understanding what causes mesothelioma can help you understand your illness. Information about what caused you to get mesothelioma can also help you obtain compensation. Knowing more about mesothelioma causes is important.

Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to toxic asbestos fibers. There are different ways that asbestos can enter your body and lead to disease. To understand what causes mesothelioma, it’s important to start with information about the disease of mesothelioma.

What is Mesothelioma?

What is mesothelioma? Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer. It attacks the lining around one or more of your internal organs. These linings are called mesothelium. The disease is most common in the lining around the lungs.

Every year, about 3,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with mesothelioma. In most cases, this cancer appears many years after your exposure. The average age to receive a mesothelioma diagnosis is 69. While this lapse in time can obscure mesothelioma causes, an experienced mesothelioma investigator will know where to look for asbestos exposure in your employment or life history.

Mesothelioma is often difficult to diagnose. The symptoms, in many instances, are similar to other, more common, illnesses. Your doctor may have to rule out diseases such as pneumonia and lung cancer before you can get a clear-cut mesothelioma diagnosis. Often, the only way to know if you have mesothelioma is to have your specialist perform a tissue biopsy or drain fluid. The doctor can examine the cancerous tissue under a microscope or examine cancerous cells in the fluid to make the correct diagnosis.

If you know you have been exposed to asbestos and you are ill, tell your doctor. This can help you get a mesothelioma diagnosis more quickly.

There are four main types of mesothelioma: pleural (lungs), peritoneal (abdomen), pericardial (heart) and testicular (testes). Each mesothelioma type has different symptoms and different treatments. Here’s what you need to know about each of these mesothelioma types.

Pleural Mesothelioma

Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of the disease. About three quarters of mesothelioma patients have pleural mesothelioma. It affects the lining around your lungs. This lining is called the pleura. Pleural mesothelioma can cause fluid buildup in the sac around the lungs or pleural cavity. It often spreads to the lungs and it may, in time, spread to other parts of your body. Surgery and chemotherapy are the most common treatments for pleural mesothelioma. Some pleural mesothelioma patients have also responded well to immunotherapy drugs.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Peritoneal mesothelioma is the second most common type of mesothelioma, though it is much rarer than pleural mesothelioma. It affects the peritoneum, which is the lining around the organs of the abdomen. This form of mesothelioma can lead to bloating of the abdomen. A special type of chemotherapy called hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy or HIPEC or “heated chemo wash” is often used to treat peritoneal mesothelioma.

Pericardial Mesothelioma

Pericardial mesothelioma is very rare, accounting for less than 2% of mesothelioma cases. It affects the lining around your heart, which is called the pericardium. Fluid can build up in the sac that protects the heart. Treatment is very similar to pleural mesothelioma.

Testicular Mesothelioma

Testicular mesothelioma is very rare, accounting for about 1% of mesothelioma cases. It affects the lining around the testes.  Fluid can build up around the testes just like fluid can build up around the lungs, heart and abdomen.  Surgery is often an option with testicular mesothelioma to, in some cases, be followed by chemotherapy.

What Causes Mesothelioma?

Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral that humans have used for centuries. It was considered valuable because it’s a good heat insulator and binding agent. In the past century, asbestos was commonly used in insulation around boilers and pipes, brake linings, insulation, drywall joint compound, roofing tiles, electrical and plumbing products, and on ships, particularly naval vessels. In addition, some buildings and ships still contain asbestos that was installed many years ago.  Evidence has now shown that many talc products may have contained asbestos.

When this mineral is left undisturbed, it is usually less harmful. During manufacturing processes, construction, or remodeling, asbestos fibers can be released and become airborne. This is when asbestos is more dangerous and can be more easily inhaled or ingested.

In the early 1900s, some factory workers began to get mysterious lung diseases. Over time, the source became clear: asbestos was making the workers sick. By the 1970s, it was widely recognized that asbestos was a health hazard, especially for those who worked closely with products that contain the mineral.

Asbestos forms in long, thin fibers or hairs. When it is disturbed, microscopic tiny pieces can float through the air. Inhalation or ingestion of asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma. Because they often enter your body by being inhaled, these spiky fibers are most likely to cause mesothelioma in the lining around your lungs.

Your lungs are designed to get rid of foreign objects like asbestos fibers. What makes asbestos particularly dangerous is that the tiny fibers have sharp points that can embed in your tissue. These fibers can invade your body many years prior to being diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Many people were exposed to asbestos in their workplace, but work is not the only place where you may come into contact with asbestos.

Where Could I Have Been Exposed to Asbestos?

If you worked in shipbuilding or on the crew of a ship, particularly if you worked in a boiler or engine room, you may have been exposed to asbestos. Other professions that may have a higher risk of mesothelioma include construction workers, pipefitters, plumbers, or car mechanics. Military veterans, especially those who served in Korea or Vietnam, also have a higher incidence of mesothelioma than the general population.

Could I Have Been Exposed to Asbestos Without Working Around It?

People who worked around asbestos aren’t the only ones who have been exposed to this dangerous mineral. Before companies began to take safety precautions for workers who handle asbestos, men often came home with work clothes covered asbestos dust. When their wives washed those clothes, asbestos particles could again be released into the air. This secondary asbestos exposure is also one of the mesothelioma causes.

In addition, some people are exposed to asbestos by performing repair projects around the home.  Others are exposed from changing brakes or other car parts. While others may have been exposed from using talc or baby powder which may have contained asbestos.

Can I Prevent Asbestos Exposure?

People who were exposed to asbestos are at risk for contracting mesothelioma. Yet not everyone exposed to asbestos will get mesothelioma. If you know that you or a family member worked with asbestos, get regular checkups. Early diagnosis is the best way to live longer with any type of cancer including mesothelioma.

In addition, you can increase your awareness of asbestos in your environment. For example, make sure that flooring and ceiling tiles in your home don’t contain asbestos before you start a remodeling project.

What You Can Do After a Mesothelioma Diagnosis

You can’t change your past asbestos exposure. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, however, you can change your future. You may be eligible to receive compensation for the asbestos exposure that led to your illness.

If you’re a veteran who was exposed to asbestos in the military, there are V.A. disability benefits for mesothelioma patients. Or, you could be eligible for compensation from a former employer that exposed you to asbestos. These funds can help you pay for your treatments and any out-of-pocket expenses you may have. This compensation is important support for your family in the face of the financial and emotional pressures caused by mesothelioma. Contact an experienced mesothelioma lawyer to find out if you are entitled to compensation.




What Does a Mesothelioma Diagnosis Mean?

mesothelioma diagnosisAfter you or someone you love receives a mesothelioma diagnosis, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Your normal routine is turned on its head. Your life is suddenly filled with doctor visits and treatments. You don’t know if you’ll be able to do the things you planned for your future. You may feel angry, hopeless, stressed, or depressed.

But you can take charge of your life after a mesothelioma diagnosis. You can reach out for the help and support you need to get through treatment with a positive attitude. You don’t have to surrender to mesothelioma.

The first step in your fight against this deadly form of cancer is to understand your diagnosis. Informing yourself about mesothelioma will help you fight back.

Steps to Get a Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Mesothelioma is an uncommon type of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma tumors form in the linings around your organs, most commonly the lungs or pleura and abdominal or peritoneal cavity. Because this cancer is so rare, it can be a challenge to get a mesothelioma diagnosis. Most doctors simply don’t see enough cases of mesothelioma to know to look for it.  If you know or suspect you were exposed to asbestos, make sure to tell your doctor. If your doctor begins by looking for this rare cancer, you may be able to get a mesothelioma diagnosis more quickly.

There are several common illnesses with symptoms similar to mesothelioma. Before taking the steps needed to reach a mesothelioma diagnosis, your doctor may need to rule out conditions such as these:

    • Lung cancer
    • Bronchitis
    • Pneumonia
    • Inflammatory bowel disease
    • Congestive heart failure

Part of your mesothelioma diagnosis is often an X-ray or CT scan. However, these tests are just a first step. Even if a scan detects a mass that appears cancerous, your doctor will usually want to test fluid or test tissue that has been removed from the body.

Mesothelioma Biopsy/Cytology

The least invasive form of biopsy is a fine-needle aspiration.  A needle can be used to withdraw fluid or tissue for analysis.  The fluid is referred to as cytology and cells in the fluid can be tested. Patients with mesothelioma often have a buildup of fluid in the lining around the lungs or other organs. After fluid is drawn by a needle, a pathologist examines the fluid under a microscope looking for mesothelioma cancer cells. If this fluid doesn’t contain enough cancerous cells to give a firm mesothelioma diagnosis, your doctor may want to follow up with an endoscopic or surgical biopsy.

Endoscopic biopsies require only a small incision. A tube is inserted to take a tissue sample from the site of your tumor. This tissue sample is examined under a microscope by a pathologist to determine whether you have mesothelioma. The pathologist may also determine what type of mesothelioma cancer cells are present in your tumor. Mesothelioma cell type can help determine the type of treatment your doctor prescribes for you.

If your doctor can’t perform the biopsy endoscopically, and depending on the circumstances, you may need a surgical biopsy. Surgical biopsies can range from an outpatient operation with a small incision to a full surgical procedure. If your tumor is pressing on your lungs, your doctor may decide to remove the entire tumor during the biopsy procedure.

Cancer Staging With Your Mesothelioma Diagnosis

When you get a confirmed mesothelioma diagnosis, your doctor may evaluate the stage of your cancer. The stage represents how far your mesothelioma has progressed before it was discovered and you started treatment.

You have probably heard of cancers being referred to using Stages 1 through 4, such as “Stage 4 breast cancer” or “Stage 2 lung cancer.” When you get a mesothelioma diagnosis, your doctor might use these stages, beginning with Stage 1,  or a slightly different staging terminology. Mesothelioma cancers are often staged with the Tumor Node Metastasis or TNM system.

The TNM system breaks down your mesothelioma diagnosis into three categories, then uses numbers to indicate the tumor’s progression in that category. If you get a mesothelioma diagnosis in the T stage that means the cancer has not spread beyond the original tumor and the area immediately surrounding it. There are six T stages from TX (tumor can’t be found) and T0 (tumor is too small to locate) to T4 (tumor has spread to other parts of the chest immediately around the original tumor).

In the N mesothelioma stage, mesothelioma has spread to the lymph nodes. This stage has four sub-stages starting from NX and N0 (no spread detected) up to N3 (mesothelioma has spread to lymph nodes on the opposite side of your body).

The M stage has only two sub-stages. In M0, the mesothelioma tumor has spread, but only to the region near the original tumor. In the M1 stage, cancer has metastasized to the opposite side of your body from the original tumor.

When you get your mesothelioma diagnosis, ask your doctor to explain your mesothelioma stage. In addition, make sure your doctor explains the recommended treatments based on the stage of your cancer. While there are more treatments options available at the early stages, an N or M stage mesothelioma diagnosis can still come with good treatment options to slow the progression of your disease.

Mesothelioma Cell Types

Part of your mesothelioma diagnosis may be the cell type of your tumor. Mesothelioma tumors are classified into three different cell types: epitheliod, sarcomatoid, and biphasic (or mixed). Tumors with different cell types have different growth patterns.

The epitheliod cell type is the most common. Epitheliod mesothelioma cells grow faster than the other two types, but they are sticky, so they tend to stay in one place. A mesothelioma tumor with this cell type may be easier to treat and to contain.

The sarcomatoid cell type is rarer. This cell type doesn’t grow into an organized tumor, so it’s more likely to break free and metastasize. Metastatic cancer is often much more life threatening than the original tumor.

A mesothelioma tumor with the biphasic cell type has both epitheliod and sarcomatoid cells. If this is your mesothelioma diagnosis, your doctor may want to do additional tests to determine the percentage of each type of cell in your tumor. That will help predict the progression of your cancer, as well as the most effective treatments.

Living Well With Mesothelioma

A mesothelioma diagnosis can leave you feeling anxious and stressed. As important as it is to take care of your physical health at this time, it’s also important to take care of your mental and emotional health.

Financial worries can be a significant source of stress after a mesothelioma diagnosis. You or a spouse may have had to leave a job because of your illness. You can get help with your medical bills and financial security for your family’s future from an experienced asbestos attorney.  As with most forms of cancer, it is helpful to maintain a positive frame of mind.

Good Mesothelioma Law Firm Characteristics

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, there is a good chance that you have the right to file a claim or claims for compensation.  It’s important to choose the right mesothelioma law firm that has the experience to advise you to make the best decisions for you.

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is caused by asbestos exposure. Many companies negligently exposed their employees and others to deadly asbestos fibers for years after they knew about the health risks posed by asbestos.

The better mesothelioma law firms are experienced in getting the best results for people who have been injured by these corporations.  Here’s what you should consider when picking the right firm to represent you in your mesothelioma claims.

Why Is It Important to Choose the Best Mesothelioma Law Firm I Can Find?

There is a big difference between the better mesothelioma law firms and other firms that don’t handle a larger number of mesothelioma claims.  The bottom line is experience.  The better firms have years of experience in asbestos litigation and often make mesothelioma claims their sole or most common area of practice. These firms typically attract accomplished asbestos lawyers and investigators to their practice and can provide a unique level of overall support to their clients. 

Most importantly, the better mesothelioma law firms, in most instances, should have the experience to guide you through the process.  Hiring a top mesothelioma firm could make a difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars or more in the compensation you receive. That’s money you can use to pay the high cost of medical expenses, replace lost wages, and secure your family’s future.  Oftentimes, more importantly, an experienced mesothelioma attorney can provide the guidance necessary to put your mind at ease so you can focus on what is truly important.

Maybe you think you can’t afford a very good and experienced mesothelioma law firm. In fact, you should be able to afford the best because most mesothelioma lawyers won’t charge you any fees up front. Your lawyers will only get paid if they obtain compensation on your behalf.  There’s no reason not to choose the best legal representation for a case that could make a huge financial difference for you and your family.

6 Qualities of a Good Mesothelioma Law Firm

The better mesothelioma law firms share some common characteristics. Here are some things to look for – and look out for – when you choose the law firm to represent you in your mesothelioma claims.

1. A Record of Successful Mesothelioma Claims

Choose a firm with a track record of getting settlements for clients with mesothelioma. Settlements usually aren’t made public, but the lawyer you meet should be able to give you general information about some of the settlements the firm has obtained for other clients.

Find out how many years the firm has been in business and how much experience the firm’s lawyers have. A legal team with years of experience successfully bringing mesothelioma claims is more likely to help you get the financial compensation you deserve.

2. Focus on Mesothelioma Litigation

Ask about the firm’s practice areas.  Mesothelioma litigation is a very specialized field of law. The better mesothelioma law firms do nothing but handle mesothelioma cases or representing mesothelioma victims is a substantial and core part of their practice.

Lawyers who focus their professional lives on the legal issues of people with mesothelioma will know the latest developments in mesothelioma claims and exposures to asbestos.  An experienced mesothelioma law firm is likely to have experience in prior litigation against the corporations named in your own claims.  An experienced mesothelioma lawyer will also know which asbestos trust funds to apply to on your behalf.

3. Practicing Mesothelioma Law Firm vs. a Lead Generation Law Firm

Some of the law firms that advertise most heavily on the internet aren’t actually practicing mesothelioma or asbestos law.  Instead these law firms generate cases and then send the client to the firm of their choosing instead of what may be best for you.  A practicing mesothelioma law firm will represent you from start to finish.  Non-practicing firms simply attract clients then, for a fee, transfer cases to other attorneys. 

As stated, the non-practicing firm will send the client to the firm of their choosing.  You might end up with a lawyer without enough experience, a generalist who doesn’t know much about mesotheliom claims, or a small law firm without enough resources to thoroughly investigate and build a strong case for you.

The firms that serve as “facilitators” to attract clients benefit from this arrangement, but you could lose out. When you have a good mesothelioma law firm on your side, you are more likely to be fully compensated for your mesothelioma.

Beware of mesothelioma law firms that do not represent their clients all through the process.  Don’t be afraid to ask if the law firm will directly handle your lawsuit or pass your case on to another firm.

4. Works on Contingency Fee

In a contingency fee arrangement, your law firm takes a risk on your case. The firm invests time and money up front, because it believes you have a strong chance of winning your asbestos lawsuit.

If your claims are successful, a portion of your settlement will go to your law firm as payment.  If you lose, you pay nothing.  There is no financial risk to you.

If a mesothelioma law firm asks you for a retainer or bills you for time by the hour, say no thank you. The better mesothelioma law firms represent clients with contingency fee arrangements.

5. Effective Investigations

The top mesothelioma law firms don’t just have experienced, high quality mesothelioma lawyers – they have experienced, effective investigators.  Investigators play a crucial role by uncovering facts about where you were exposed to asbestos. The quality of that investigation can make or break your mesothelioma claims.

Skilled investigators know how to find union records, sales records of asbestos-containing products, employment records and other information you need to build your case. Make sure your legal team includes an experienced investigator or team of investigators.

6. Good Communication with Clients

There’s no worse feeling than putting your trust in a law firm that’s not responsive to your needs.  If your calls go unreturned or your lawyer can’t be bothered to answer your questions, choose a different law firm.

Ask for client references before you choose the law firm. Find out about the experience that other families had working with the firm. That can help you determine if you’ve found a good mesothelioma lawyer.

How to Find the Better Mesothelioma Law Firms

You can choose the best mesothelioma law firms from among all the law firms in the country. You don’t have to work with a lawyer near where you live and it’s usually better if you don’t.  The companies that sold asbestos-containing products are not going to use a small, local law firm.  These companies will choose an experienced and large law firm to represent them. You need to find a law firm that has the size and experience necessary to stand toe-to-toe with the large corporate law firms.  A good plaintiff’s mesothelioma law firm should have the resources and experience to bring claims against some of the largest corporations across the country. 

Your lawyer should come to your home to meet you wherever you live in the United States.  Your claims are important for you and your family.  The choice you make could be the difference between providing a sound financial future for your family unencumbered by medical debts or a future of uncertainty.  Don’t be afraid to search for the best mesothelioma law firm you can find.

Veterans’ Rights to File Mesothelioma Claims

veterans mesothelioma guide

Every year, thousands of Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.  Because it can take many years for mesothelioma to develop, many veterans don’t discover their asbestos exposure until decades after their service has ended.  If you are one of these veterans, you have a right to file a mesothelioma claim.

In addition to your right as a veteran to file mesothelioma claims, you also have the right to apply for benefits from the VA.  The benefits available to veterans with mesothelioma include help with medical care and living expenses as you battle this serious cancer.  The benefits include a payment of about $3,000 a month (from the date a claim is filed until death) for a determination of 100% disability by the VA.

Asbestos Exposure in the Military

Like many civilian industries, the various branches of the U.S. Armed Forces used materials containing asbestos for many decades, even after the dangers became well-known.  Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral that forms tiny, sharp crystals.  These bits of asbestos dust can easily become airborne.  People who inhaled or ingested asbestos dust may become ill with mesothelioma, often much later in life.  The latency period, the time from exposure to asbestos until one is diagnosed with mesothelioma, can be many decades.  Many experts say the latency period is a minimum of 20 years and can be 60 years or longer.

In the 1970s, the military stopped using asbestos.  Though some asbestos remains in older Naval vessels and military structures, those currently serving no longer have a high risk of military asbestos exposure because of preventive measures currently being used.

Service members who worked closely with materials containing asbestos are more likely to develop mesothelioma.  Asbestos is useful as an insulator, so it was commonly used in boiler rooms on Navy ships.  It was also used in brakes on military vehicles and in roofing and building materials, among other places.

Here are some of the military service positions most likely to result in asbestos exposure:

  • Boiler operator
  • Pipefitter
  • Auto or truck mechanic
  • Construction or demolition crew
  • Ship builder
  • Pilot
  • Airplane mechanic

Veterans of the Navy have the highest rates of mesothelioma because of the wide-spread use of asbestos on ships.  Those who sailed with the U.S. Coast Guard also have a higher risk of developing mesothelioma.  In addition, veterans who served in Korea have an elevated risk for asbestos-caused diseases.  Mesothelioma was not limited to fleet veterans.  Veterans have been exposed to asbestos in all branches of the military.

If you or someone you love has developed mesothelioma after serving in the military, even if that service ended 60 years ago or more, you or they could have the right to file mesothelioma claims.

What Rights Do Veterans Have to File Mesothelioma Claims?

Veterans cannot sue the military for injuries they received while on active duty.  Veterans do have the right to bring claims against the corporations who made and sold asbestos-containing products that led to their exposure and eventual mesothelioma diagnosis.  In the U.S., military veterans account for nearly 30 percent of all new mesothelioma cases. This is astounding when you consider that veterans represent 7 percent of the total population.

You and your family have obviously been harmed by your mesothelioma diagnosis.  Manufacturers knew for decades that asbestos made people sick, but they were negligent because they continued to use it while downplaying or completely ignoring the danger. 

Mesothelioma claims filed on behalf of a veteran can be lodged against one or more corporations.  Because there are so many claims for mesothelioma compensation filed by veterans, the names of most military suppliers that used asbestos are known to experienced mesothelioma attorneys.

When you file your claims, it’s important to choose a law firm with experience bringing claims for military exposure.  A mesothelioma lawyer who works with veterans will know how to bring claims for damages from these corporations.  That knowledge can help you receive the compensation you and your family deserve.  Quite simply, you don’t want an inexperienced attorney trying to “learn” how to practice in this area on your case.

VA Benefits for Veterans Diagnosed with Mesothelioma

In addition to filing claims against companies, an experienced mesothelioma attorney can also help you apply for VA benefits. The VA offers monthly payments and healthcare benefits to veterans who have developed mesothelioma because of their military service. Veterans who have been dishonorably discharged are not eligible for benefits.

If you’ve ever worked with the VA, you know that the paperwork required to receive benefits can be complex and time-consuming to prepare.  A lawyer who has VA accreditation is authorized to file a claim on your behalf.  In a worst case scenario, your lawyer can also file an appeal if the VA rejects your initial application.

Because so many mesothelioma patients are veterans, some VA health care systems include clinics that specialize in mesothelioma treatment. Your medical benefits could include travel to one of these centers for care.

Filing Mesothelioma Claims for a Veteran

The costs of mesothelioma care are high, both on your finances and on your time and energy.  It can seem overwhelming to add one more thing to your life at this time. It’s important to meet with an experienced mesothelioma lawyer so that you can understand the compensation you may receive from filing mesothelioma claims.  Many veterans feel that the filing of claims gives them peace of mind as they know their family will be protected and they won’t leave their family with extensive medical bills.

You won’t have to pay any money up front to file claims.  A good mesothelioma lawyer will represent you on a contingency fee basis. This means if you are successful, the lawyer’s fee is paid from the money awarded to you through a winning verdict or settlement.

You pay a fee only if your lawyer obtains compensation for you and it comes out of the compensation.  There is not risk for you.  Your attorney will be paid a percentage of your settlement or award.

Much of the work and energy it takes to file mesothelioma claims will not be your responsibility.  The experienced investigators and lawyers at a mesothelioma law firm will do almost all of the work of researching, filing, and pursuing your case.

Before you file your mesothelioma claims, your attorney or the investigator will ask you questions to create a complete record of your military service. Your attorney will also try to determine any other ways you might have been exposed to asbestos. Your claims may include companies responsible for your asbestos exposure as a civilian.

Some manufacturers have filed for bankruptcy because of asbestos-related claims filed against the company.  Many of these companies set up asbestos trust funds to compensate victims. Your mesothelioma attorney may apply for compensation from one or more trust funds, if appropriate.  While compensation from these funds is often less than what you would get from other types of claims, you are likely to receive payment more quickly.

In almost all instances, claims brought do not go “to trial.”  An experienced attorney who assists veterans in their mesothelioma lawsuits will work to negotiate fair compensation for you.

To protect your rights, consider getting help to apply for VA benefits and file the claims to get the compensation you deserve.  In seeking compensation, you can protect your family’s financial future and limit the hardship of substantial medical expenses for mesothelioma treatment.  You may also choose to hold those people and companies accountable for their negligence.  Whatever your choice, ensure you get the information you need to make these decisions by meeting with an experienced mesothelioma law firm attorney that can guide you through this decision-making process.