What is Mesothelioma and the Causes?

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What is Mesothelioma?

Malignant mesothelioma, commonly referred to simply as “mesothelioma,” is an extremely rare form of cancer that starts in the cells that line the outside of the organs including the heart, lungs, and abdomen.  Most often, mesothelioma initially develops in the thin layer of cells’ lining that serves as the outer lining of the lungs, called the pleura.  When mesothelioma starts in this part of the lungs it is referred to as pleural mesothelioma which accounts for about 75% of all mesothelioma cases.  The other two types of mesothelioma are peritoneal mesothelioma which affects the lining of the abdominal cavity, and pericardial mesothelioma which affects the lining of the heart.  Mesothelioma is a deadly form of cancer, and while treatments are available, there is no cure at any stage.


What are the Causes of Mesothelioma?

Doctors believe that the most prevalent cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos or asbestos particles through inhalation. Asbestos is a mineral composed of thin fibrous crystals.  The prolonged inhalation of these fibrous crystals is the leading cause of mesothelioma.  Asbestos was used by many companies in buildings and factories during the 19th century.  It was used in the manufacture of plaster, drywall, vinyl floor tiles, bricks, ceiling insulation, roofing, siding, fireproof materials, pipe insulation, and much more.  However, its use was not regulated in the United States until the late 1970s.  Through litigation, it has been determined that many of the companies using materials made with asbestos had known about the dangers of asbestos since the 1930s, but had attempted to conceal those dangers.

An individual may be at risk to develop mesothelioma if he or she was exposed to asbestos in the workplace or at home. Mesothelioma can result from primary (occupational) or secondary (para-occupational) exposure to asbestos.  Primary exposure occurs when a worker is directly exposed to asbestos fibers. Furthermore, secondary exposure to asbestos is also a cause of Mesothelioma.  Family members of those who work in buildings or areas where they are exposed to asbestos may experience secondary exposure to asbestos.  This secondary exposure can occur if family members handle clothing that is covered in asbestos dust or if the worker has asbestos dust in his hair or on his body.  Asbestos workers should shower and change clothes after working in areas where asbestos is present in order to prevent secondary exposure to others.  Courts have held that victims of secondary exposure to mesothelioma are entitled to recover damages from employers whose use of asbestos materials is causally related to their disease.


The following are types of occupations that are often exposed to asbestos are:

  • Miners;
  • Carpenters;
  • Mechanics;
  • Boilermakers;
  • Machinists;
  • Insulators; 
  • Plumbers; 
  • Electricians;
  • Pipe builders;
  • Factory workers;
  • Homebuilders and remodelers; 
  • Construction and demolition workers; and
  • Naval veterans. *This list is not exhaustive.


What are the types of mesothelioma?

As previously mentioned, there are three main types of malignant mesothelioma: pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma, and pericardial mesothelioma.  There are also two other forms of mesothelioma which are testicular mesothelioma and benign mesothelioma.


Pleural Mesothelioma

Pleural mesothelioma is a type of cancer that affects the lining and wall of the lungs called the pleura and is the most common type of mesothelioma, representing 75% of the total mesothelioma cases.  This type of mesothelioma is caused by the thickening or calcification of the lung lining.  These calcifications and areas of thickening lining are called pleural plaques.  In many cases, these plaques develop into mesothelioma.  This type of mesothelioma often spreads quickly from the lining of the lungs to the outer chest wall, heart, and even abdomen in some situations.  Most cases of pleural mesothelioma are fatal.  There is no cure for pleural mesothelioma, but some treatment options are available such as chemotherapy and surgery in the early stages.


Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Peritoneal mesothelioma is the second most common type of Mesothelioma and it affects the abdominal area.  It occurs when the thin membrane of the abdomen becomes hardened normally due to ingestion of asbestos fibers.  The fibers affect the digestion systems in the body.  Peritoneal mesothelioma can also occur when pleural mesothelioma metastasizes from the lungs to the abdomen.  Like pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma is fatal.  There are some treatments available including chemotherapy and radiation therapy.


Pericardial Mesothelioma

Pericardial mesothelioma is a more rare form of the disease.  It affects the lining of the heart and is most often diagnosed in men.  It occurs when asbestos fibers are lodged in the pericardial membranes which line the heart.  This leads to the thickening of the pericardial membrane, similar to the thickening of the membranes that occur in pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma.  This thickening causes a buildup of fluid in the pericardial membranes and puts pressure on the heart.  Like the other forms of mesothelioma, pericardial mesothelioma is hard to treat, and often the prognosis for patients diagnosed with this disease is not a good one.  


Other Types of Mesothelioma

Testicular mesothelioma is the rarest form of the disease, affecting the tissue around the testicles.  Because it is so rare, little is known about this type of mesothelioma, and treatment is not well developed. Benign mesothelioma is different from malignant mesothelioma because it does not invade the nearby tissues or spread to other parts of the body.  It is much more easily treated than malignant mesothelioma.  However, patients who are diagnosed with benign mesothelioma may exhibit the same symptoms as a patient with malignant mesothelioma. Benign mesothelioma is usually treated through surgery.  The most common surgical procedure used to treat benign mesothelioma is called a thoracotomy.  


These forms of mesothelioma can all be caused by asbestos exposure, and they are all deadly.  It is very important to be aware of the symptoms of these diseases so that a diagnosis can be made in the early stage of the disease.  Treatment in the early stages of the disease is normally much more successful than treatment in the late stages.  


What are the symptoms of mesothelioma?

Many people who have been exposed to asbestos often do not know that they have been.  Symptoms of mesothelioma will not appear in individuals exposed to asbestos until long after the exposure took place; sometimes years and even decades. Additionally, there are many different signs and symptoms associated with each of the three main types of mesothelioma: pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma, and pericardial mesothelioma.  Mesothelioma symptoms and signs are often associated with many other illnesses and conditions, so it may be difficult to differentiate. It is vitally important to see a doctor if you develop any worrisome symptoms, if symptoms persist, or if you know you’ve been exposed to asbestos.  The earlier mesothelioma is detected, the more likely it is that the disease will be in the early stages and therefore more easily treatable. 


Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms

Pleural mesothelioma, the most common form of mesothelioma, which affects the outer linings of the lungs, can lead to the following signs and symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Chest pain
  • Pleural effusion (the buildup of fluid surrounding the lungs)
  • Fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Wheezing or hoarseness
  • Blood in the sputum

In extremely severe cases that are left undiagnosed, pleural mesothelioma can lead to tumors on the lungs or pneumothorax, which is collapsing of the lung.  Like all forms of cancer, pleural mesothelioma can metastasize and spread to other parts of the body including the heart and the abdomen.  Pleural mesothelioma is a fatal cancer, and most prognoses for patients diagnosed with the disease are not good.  The majority of patients diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma do not survive for more than a year.


Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms

Peritoneal mesothelioma, the type of mesothelioma that forms in the lining of the abdominal cavity can lead to the following signs and symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Blood clotting abnormalities
  • Anemia
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Ascites (the buildup of fluid in the abdomen)
  • Fatigue


Pericardial Mesothelioma Symptoms

Pericardial mesothelioma, the type of mesothelioma that forms in the lining surrounding the heart known as the pericardium can lead to the following signs and symptoms:

  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Heart murmurs
  • Heart palpitations


Like pleural mesothelioma, pericardial mesothelioma is a potentially fatal disease.  

If you or a family member has been diagnosed with mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure, you should immediately contact an attorney who is experienced in handling these types of cases.  Mesothelioma litigation is complicated, and you need an attorney you trust to help you navigate your case. Contact Cueria Law Firm L.L.C. today.

Our attorneys have helped hundreds of injury victims get the fair compensation they deserve so they can get back to their lives and their families.  Call Cueria Law Firm at (504)-525-5211 today!


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