Mesothelioma - An Overview

Mesothelioma is a rare, yet aggressive, form of cancer that attacks the tissue surrounding the body's internal organs. This tissue, mesothelium, provides fluid to the organs in order to facilitate smooth movement, just as the lungs do during breathing. While there are three types of mesothelioma, the pleural (which begins in the chest cavity) form is the most common, averaging 75 percent of all cases. The only known cause of mesothelioma is long-term or large amounts of asbestos exposure. Asbestos fibers cause scarring and damage cells in the tissue which leads to cancerous cells. Then, the cancerous cells rapidly reproduce creating tumors, building up fluid, and thickens membranes.

On average 2,000 to 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with this form of cancer every year. Sadly, the warning signs lay dormant for many years before surfacing, leaving patients typically in the later stages of cancer when an official diagnoses is made. The latency period can occur anywhere from 20 to 50 years, depending on the severity of exposure. In addition, because the symptoms are so similar to that of more common illnesses such as the flu, a cold, bronchitis, or pneumonia, oftentimes patients dismiss the severity of the signs. Typical signs are dry coughs, coughing up blood, and painful coughing. Also, fever, loss of appetite, and weight loss are other symptoms. In addition, a shortness of breath, and a difficulty breathing are commonly associated with mesothelioma. Since these signs are often overlooked, patients are not likely to link them with cancer. Thus, the average mesothelioma patients is 65 years old. A diagnoses at this stage of life can change the form of treatment that one selects.

Therapies and treatments can be dependent on the age and physical health of each patient. Choosing a treatment is a very personal choice, and how you would like to spend your time with loved ones should be considered. Some treatments are more invasive than others, and the side effects all differ. While there is no known cure for mesothelioma currently, there are many conventional treatments, such as surgery, radiation, drug therapy, and chemotherapy. Alternatives methods are gaining popularity, however there is not much research that can support the their claims. Some examples are immunotherapy, gene therapy, photodynamic therapy, and angiogenesis inhibition therapy. Holistic treatments, like acupuncture, massage, and vitamin supplements are also options. The majority of patients chose a combination of treatments, both to ease the symptoms of cancer, and in hopes of reaching remission.

Asbestos is considered to be the almost exclusive known cause of mesothelioma. Around 80 percent of all cases are patients that were exposed directly to asbestos in the work place. Approximately 700,000 buildings today still have asbestos within them, including many schools. Throughout the 20th century, asbestos was used in many industries, because it was found to be resilient to heat, fire, and electricity conduction. For many years, it has been proven, the dangers of asbestos were hidden from workers while they spent years working with the hazardous material. It wasn't until the mid-1970s that the United States government decided to regulate the use and exposure of asbestos. Unfortunately, the damage was done, and as the latency period ends for many Americans, cases of mesothelioma are constantly arising.

It is for this reason, that many mesothelioma patients have decided to take legal action against their former employers and the asbestos manufacturers. Medical bills, loss of income, pain, and the emotional suffering cause to you and your loved ones take a toll on an individual and their family. If your cancer was caused by a occupational asbestos exposure, you may be entitled to compensation. Consider the financial strain that your family will endure during this already emotional time. Your physician and your lawyer can handle the specifics of both your medical case, and legal case. Mesothelioma may have been avoidable, however your energy should now be focused on getting healthy.

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