A large number of Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma and lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. These diseases have no known cure at this time, but many patients file lawsuits to obtain compensation from the companies responsible for their illnesses. Here’s what you need to know about mesothelioma and lung cancer to make an informed decision about your case.
How Common is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that can affect many parts of your body, but it is most common in your lungs. The disease affects just over 3,000 people each year in the United States, with around 80% of all cases occurring among men. Although there is no cure for mesothelioma, treatment options are available. It's important to know that victims of asbestos exposure do not have an increased risk for other cancers; however, other conditions such as pleural plaques or pneumoconiosis can be a precursor for mesothelioma.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos refers to a group of naturally occurring fibrous minerals. The most common types include chrysolite, crocidolite, amosite, tremolite, anthophyllite, actinolite and tremble; these minerals are all considered forms of asbestos. It was used as insulation in many industrial settings for decades—resulting in massive health problems for those exposed over long periods of time. Asbestos was once widely used in construction materials such as drywall, cement pipes, ceiling tiles, flooring, fireproofing material and even clothing. It has been banned in many countries but is still legal in many states. Despite being highly regulated, it is not uncommon for someone to be exposed; according to several sources, asbestos exposure could lead to mesothelioma (lung cancer), lung disease or asbestosis. Asbestos comes in two forms: one type of asbestos is referred to as chrysotile which accounts for 95% of all asbestos-related diseases today. The other form of asbestos contains crocidolite or amosite which is far more dangerous than chrysotile.
Who Gets It?
While cases of mesothelioma are on the rise, it is still very rare. According to data compiled by The Ohio State University, roughly 1 in every 100,000 people will develop malignant pleural mesothelioma in their lifetime. This means that more than 200 cases occur each year in America, making it slightly more common than brain cancer or leukemia. That said, if you’re not a member of a high-risk group (more on those below), your chances of developing mesothelioma aren’t nearly as high. Even if your risk is low, however, it’s important that you know what causes cancer and how best to protect yourself from life-threatening diseases like lung cancer.
Where Does It Show Up?
Mesothelioma is primarily associated with asbestos exposure. It can show up in almost any organ of your body, including your lungs, abdomen or heart. This makes it hard to diagnose, as it often appears different from other cancers on imaging scans like CTs and MRIs. Mesothelioma is also usually a slow-growing cancer; however, there are cases of aggressive mesotheliomas that can make diagnosis even more difficult because they do not present as typical forms of cancer.
Most people with mesothelioma don’t have any symptoms until very late in their disease. By then, it’s usually too late for treatment. When symptoms do show up, they tend to be vague. Some of these include a cough that won’t go away, shortness of breath, fatigue, weight loss, fever and night sweats. You might even notice a pain in your chest or back from where your tumor is growing inside your lung or on top of other organs. If you or someone you love has been exposed to asbestos in the past—such as through military service or as an industrial worker—or if someone in your family has had mesothelioma, talk with your doctor about whether regular exams are recommended.
A word that is often tossed around when it comes to cancer is prognosis. The prognosis refers to how a patient's cancer will be treated and their overall outlook for recovery. A doctor usually gives a prognosis based on factors such as where the cancer originated, how much of it there is, whether or not it has spread, etc. For mesothelioma patients specifically, a lung cancer specialist may have an opinion about your prognosis; however, you'll probably want to get a second opinion before making any decisions or committing to any long-term treatment plans.
Is mesothelioma always fatal?
Unfortunately, not everyone diagnosed with mesothelioma survives. You should know that it’s common for people with mesothelioma to live anywhere from 6 months to 2 years after diagnosis. Even if an initial round of chemotherapy or radiation doesn’t work, there are second options that may extend life and improve quality of life. There are also some alternative therapies that can be used in conjunction with traditional treatments or as a primary course of treatment for people who don’t want chemotherapy. In addition, all mesothelioma patients have legal rights, which includes compensation for pain and suffering through a trust fund funded by asbestos manufacturers.
Support Groups & Legal Cases
If you’re a victim of mesothelioma, legal cases can help provide financial security for your family, but they can also be a source of emotional support. Support groups give patients and their families a chance to connect with people who are going through similar experiences. These connections can make a big difference for everyone in your life; just talking about what’s going on can do wonders for your mental health. If you or someone close to you has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, make sure that these resources are available to them.
Statute of Limitations on Mesothelioma Claims
Statutes of limitations are important for mesothelioma patients and their families. It sets a time limit on when legal claims may be filed, which means victims who file after that date can have their cases thrown out of court. Because mesothelioma has such a long latency period, it’s imperative that cancer patients understand these laws so they can file within time limits. Mesothelioma patients have 15 years from diagnosis to file claims for compensation in most states; however, as each state is different, it’s vital that victims work with lawyers who know what applies in their region.
How much compensation is paid?
When your or a loved one has been diagnosed with lung cancer or mesothelioma, selecting a lawyer who specializes in these cancers is critical. However, before deciding on an attorney it’s important to know how lawyers get paid. Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis, which means they only get paid if they win a settlement or verdict for their client. Contingency-based fee arrangements are not always easy for patients and families because there is typically no way of knowing upfront how much it will cost to pursue your case until after some initial time has passed; however, every state has caps on attorney fees that prevent lawyers from getting rich off of clients’ pain.
What is an asbestos attorney?
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer, it’s likely that your first call was to an asbestos attorney. After all, these types of cancer are often caused by exposure to asbestos on construction sites or at factories. But not every personal injury attorney is an expert in handling these cases. So what makes a good asbestos lawyer? Here are some of his/her qualities: He/she is experienced: Ask how many cases he/she has handled and ensure they have experience working with both companies who were using asbestos products as well as victims.
Selecting a Lawyer
A trusted legal professional is a must-have for victims of mesothelioma, especially when you’re seeking financial compensation. At that point, it’s necessary to know what makes one attorney different from another. Having worked with countless mesothelioma victims and their families for more than two decades, we can tell you that most law firms are going to tell you just about anything to get your business. Don’t get us wrong—there are good lawyers out there, but they’re not all created equal. It is best to do a little research before making your final selection because no one wants heartbreak at such an emotional time in their life.