In decades past, one of the most used substances in construction was asbestos due to its flame-retardant and insulating properties. Over the years, however, workers who handled asbestos and others who lived and worked in asbestos-rich environments started to report serious respiratory issues. Eventually, researchers concluded that asbestos particles were to blame.
Asbestos particles or fibers can easily break away and float into the air, making it easy for bystanders to breathe in these particles. Once asbestos has been inhaled, the particles embed themselves in the outer lung tissues (called the mesothelial tissue) and cancer forms. Mesothelioma is the name given to cancer of this type, and over 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the United States each year.
Once people identified asbestos as hazardous, it was no longer used as a staple construction material and many organizations opted to have it removed from buildings. Despite a consistent drop in asbestos usage over the past several decades, mesothelioma can sometimes take 20 to 50 years to manifest in affected individuals. New cases that are reported today could have been originally contracted in the 1960s or 1970s.
Unfortunately, mesothelioma is incurable currently, and most prognoses are poor. Most mesothelioma cases are not detected until the advanced stages of the disease, making treatment difficult. It is important to note that mesothelioma takes three main forms: pleural, which forms in the lungs, and peritoneal, which forms in the abdomen, and pericardial, which forms in the heart. Another factor that makes mesothelioma difficult to diagnose are its symptoms, which mimic those of other, less serious conditions. Most mesothelioma patients experience:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weight loss
- Respiratory difficulty
- Chest pains
- Effusion (fluid accumulation) in the abdomen or lungs
- Anemia (women are at a higher risk for developing anemia)
Once mesothelioma progresses into the later stages of the disease, it becomes increasingly difficult to treat. Patients with advanced cases of the disease are typically treated simply for pain relief rather than attempting to cure the disease. Treatment for mesothelioma usually involves surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. However, there is no cure for mesothelioma, and due to the nature of the disease and how difficult it is to catch at early stages, most people who receive mesothelioma diagnoses are in the advanced stages of the disease.
If you have contracted mesothelioma, it is important to identify the source of your exposure to asbestos. You may work in a building that still contains asbestos or a facility that has had asbestos removed but not entirely. Given the extensive research and widespread knowledge that asbestos causes mesothelioma, if an employer or other organization has neglected to remove harmful asbestos deposits from their buildings, it could very well be putting people in those buildings at risk of contracting mesothelioma. A diagnosis of mesothelioma is essentially a death sentence in many cases, so organizations that put people in harm’s way in this manner must be held accountable.
After you have received your diagnosis, it is imperative to focus on your doctor’s treatment plan. Once you are able, it would be wise to consult with a reliable and experienced attorney who can investigate the origin of your mesothelioma and help you determine whether another party is to blame. If so, you could secure compensation for your medical expenses and treatment costs, pain and suffering, lost income, and diminished quality of life.