Mesothelioma 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 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 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 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 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.