- Types of mesothelioma
- Mesothelioma treatment
- Other types of asbestos diseases
- Smoking and mesothelioma
- Occupations with high mesothelioma rates
- Mesothelioma litigation
- The cost of mesothelioma litigation
- Is your mesothelioma case viable?
- Going to trial vs. settling out of court
- What about asbestos trusts?
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer for which the only definitive cause is exposure to asbestos. It’s a very aggressive disease that often results in death within a year of diagnosis.
Generally, victims of mesothelioma are men over the age of
60. Most who are diagnosed with the disease are individuals who worked in
industries were asbestos use was prevalent until rules governing its use were
passed in the late 1970s.
Women and young people can also develop the disease, often due to secondhand exposure to an individual who worked directly with the toxic material.
More than 3,000 individuals in the U.S. and thousands more in other countries die of mesothelioma each year, even though asbestos use was essentially halted here nearly 40 years ago.
That’s because mesothelioma takes decades to appear. That means that someone who was exposed to asbestos in the 1970s may just be finding out that they have mesothelioma.
As a result of that long latency period, many victims of the disease are not diagnosed until their cancer has reached its late stages and has become difficult to treat.
Types of mesothelioma
Then are three types of mesothelioma that can be caused by exposure to asbestos.
- Pleural mesothelioma – This form of cancer develops in the pleura, the thin lining around the lungs. It accounts for about 80 percent of all cases of mesothelioma diagnosed in the United States each year. Individuals with pleural mesothelioma have the most options for treatment, simply because it is the most common form of the disease and more research has been conducted in regards to its treatment. Symptoms include chest pain, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, and fatigue.
- Peritoneal mesothelioma – Accounting for about 15 percent of diagnosed cases, peritoneal mesothelioma occurs in the peritoneum, the lining of the abdomen. Symptoms can be the same as for pleural mesothelioma but will likely also including stomach pain and bloating.
- Pericardial mesothelioma – The rarest form of the disease, pericardial mesothelioma occurs in the lining around the heart. It is very aggressive and victims rarely last more than a few months after diagnosis due to the location of tumors near the heart. Most pericardial meso patients are not offered standard cancer treatment but, rather, are given palliative treatments that keep them comfortable at the end of life.
- In addition, doctors around the world have seen about 100 cases of testicular mesothelioma, which is not as deadly as the other types but which does seem to have a high rate of re-occurrence. These patients have been treated with standard therapies such as radiation and chemotherapy.
The methods by which a patient with mesothelioma is treated will depend on the type of disease with which they are diagnosed.
Pleural mesothelioma patients who are diagnosed early enough might be candidates for resection surgery to remove tumors or could have their entire diseased lung removed along with the pleura and other parts of the body connected to their disease.
In addition, pleural meso patients are often treated with Alimta®, the only chemotherapy drug ever approved by the FDA (2004) specifically for the treatment of mesothelioma. Radiation may also be part of the treatment regimen. In addition, clinical trials have showed some success in using immunotherapy drugs like Opdivo® to treat the disease.
Peritoneal mesothelioma patients are often treated with intra-peritoneal chemotherapy, a type of chemo that is delivered directly to the peritoneum.
Some patients have seen moderate success with this treatment method. Surgery might be used in rare cases and radiation therapy might be offered as well.
As was indicated previously, patients with pericardial mesothelioma really do not have any treatment options that will lessen the disease or tumors, but will be given palliative care so as to keep them as pain-free as possible during their final days.
Other types of asbestos-related diseases
Not everyone who is exposed to asbestos develops mesothelioma. Some don’t get sick at all and others develop less-serious diseases from consistent exposure to the toxin.
One of the most common is asbestosis, which can be just as debilitating as mesothelioma though it carries a better prognosis and victims can often live with the disease for years.
That’s not to say, however, that those stricken with asbestosis won’t have a tough road ahead of them.
Just like mesothelioma, asbestosis is caused by exposure to and inhalation of asbestos fibers. The disease is commonly linked with the amphibole form of the mineral, which is made up of thin, straight fibers rather than the curly ones associated with the more toxic serpentine variety.
Inhalation of these sharp fibers scars the lungs, causing thickening and hardening of lung tissue and making breathing difficult.
Others might develop pleural plaques, which are deposits of hyalinized collagen in the pleural space around the lungs. Like mesothelioma, theses often take more than 20 years to develop but usually do not become cancerous.
Having them doesn’t mean the patient will develop anything more serious. Nonetheless, they can still cause pain and make breathing difficult.
Smoking and Mesothelioma
If you are/were a smoker who was regularly exposed to asbestos and have developed asbestosis, there is a greater chance that your asbestosis will progress into lung cancer but likely not mesothelioma.
In general, however, smoking and asbestos are a nasty pair. When asbestos exposure and smoking are combined, the chance of developing lung cancer is 28 times higher than it is for those who are exposed but do not smoke. Quitting, even after being exposed to asbestos, will lessen the chances of developing lung cancer.
Occupations with high mesothelioma rates
It goes without saying that the more a person is exposed to asbestos, the greater chance they have of developing mesothelioma.
During much of the 20th century, scores of workers were exposed to asbestos at their workplace simply because some industries used abundant amounts of asbestos-containing materials.
Asbestos was generally used for dozens of applications because it was fire- and heat-resistant…but it was also inexpensive and much cheaper than safer alternatives.
As a result, those who worked in industries where asbestos use was rampant have become the individuals most likely to develop mesothelioma cancer because of their constant exposure to the toxin.
Some of those occupations include:
- Construction worker
- Steel mill employee
- Textile mill worker
- Auto mechanics
Many in these occupations had no idea they were being exposed to something that was going to make them sick.
However, company executives often knew of the dangers of asbestos exposure but did nothing to warn employees about the hazards they faced.
As a result, many mesothelioma victims have decided to file suit against the companies they worked for and/or the manufacturers of the asbestos-containing products to which they were exposed. And rightfully so.
A lawsuit filed by an individual who has developed mesothelioma due to someone else’s negligence usually names a number of different corporations or individuals, known as defendants.
These defendants will likely include manufacturers, distributors, and suppliers of the asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) that were used in the victim’s workplace or anywhere else where the victim was exposed.
Lawsuits are subject to Statute of Limitations laws, which are different from state to state. Usually, the time period during which the case must be filed begins at the time the plaintiff is diagnosed with mesothelioma.
An experienced mesothelioma/asbestos attorney will be familiar with the laws in various states.
The Costs of Mesothelioma Litigation
A number of different costs are involved in filing suit in a mesothelioma case. There will be expenses involved in the actual filing as well as costs that occur during preparation for trial and in the trying of the case, if it makes it to court.
While plaintiffs rarely have to incur out-of-pocket expenses during the process, they are ultimately responsible for these expenses, which will be deducted from any monies awarded, along with the attorney’s portion of the settlement.
Fees vary from case to case, but an experienced mesothelioma attorney can provide a fairly good idea of what some of the costs may be.
Is Your Mesothelioma Case Viable?
Before making that first phone call or heading to the office of an asbestos attorney, it’s a good idea to have your proverbial “ducks in a row” and to have information such as this available to the attorney who is considering accepting your case.
- The type of asbestos disease (mesothelioma or lung cancer)
- The stage of the cancer and/or severity of the disease
- Other non-asbestos-related diseases from whichthe plaintiff suffers
- Whether the plaintiff smokes and how much/for how long
- The duration of asbestos exposure and the time period of the exposure
- The location(s) of asbestos exposure
- The type of asbestos products to which the plaintiff was exposed
- Age of the victim
- Current disabilities caused by the presence of the asbestos disease
- Unpaid medical expenses related to the mesothelioma cancer
After discussing these facts, your attorney can determine the viability of your case and if or how to proceed.
Going to trial vs. settling out-of-court
A lot of facts will be determined from the information above, and once analyzed, your lawyer will have a better idea of whether to accept any settlement that might be offered from the defendants in your case or whether to proceed to trial.
A particularly strong case could potentially go to trial, though your lawyer will discuss with you the expenses involved in bringing a case to court as well as the time commitment and the uncertainty of a jury finding in favor of you, the plaintiff.
Together, you can decide which direction will be best for your case, especially when time is of the essence.
What about asbestos trusts?
Dozens of U.S. companies that were responsible for thousands upon thousands of diagnoses of mesothelioma have declared bankruptcy over the past 20 years, burdened by the onslaught of lawsuits filed by those who were harmed by their actions or products.
More than 60 of them have been ordered by the bankruptcy courts to set up asbestos trusts. These trusts include funds that will compensate mesothelioma patients for their injuries and expenses.
Asbestos trusts offer a similar amount to each claimant, regardless of the extent of exposure and the seriousness of their disease.
However, the money can be obtained fairly quickly, so some mesothelioma victims opt to go this road rather than that of filing a lawsuit.
But, the plaintiff must be able to document the existence of their asbestos disease as well as proof that they were exposed to the company’s asbestos-containing products.
Some of the companies that have set up trusts include: Johns-Manville, Eagle-Pitcher, Celotex, Pittsburgh Corning, Raybestos-Manhattan, Unarco, Keene Corporation, Babcock & Wilcox, Forty-Eight Insulation, Owens Corning, Fibreboard Corporation, W.R. Grace, GAF Corporation, Armstrong World Industries, H.K. Porter, Harbison-Walker Refractories, North American Refractories, U.S. Gypsum, National Gypsum, A.P. Green, Federal Mogul, Chicago Firebrick, Kaiser, U.S. Minerals Products and many others.