What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a cancer that affects the membrane or lining of the lungs, abdominal cavity, and heart.  This membrane surrounding the chest, abdomen, and heart is known as the mesothelium.  It is from this term that mesothelioma takes its name.

A study conducted by the Department of Thoracic Surgery at the University of Witswater in South Africa first established the causal link between exposure to asbestos and cancer.

Asbestos fibers inhaled through the nose and mouth embed in the lining of the lungs, abdomen or even heart.  These fibers inflame the membrane lining and develop scar tissue, known as asbestosis.  Malignant scar tissue plaques are known as mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is dangerous because it has been known to take up to 50 years before symptoms become known.  This is commonly referred to as the latency period, or the amount of time from the initial exposure to asbestos to the onset of symptoms.  The average latency period is 35 years from the first date of exposure.

Symptoms of Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is particularly difficult to diagnose because its symptoms initially appear to mirror common ailments, such as:

  • lower back pain
  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • difficulty swallowing
  • persistent cough
  • fever
  • weight loss
  • fatigue

These misleading symptoms often can result in misdiagnosis, as they appear much like the flu or pneumonia.

Diagnosis of Mesothelioma

If mesothelioma is suspected, the first step in the diagnosis process is to record whether a patient has ever knowingly been exposed to asbestos, including where the exposure occurred, the length of exposure, and the amount of asbestos involved.  If a patient is deemed to be at risk for mesothelioma, doctors will run a variety of tests to investigate if mesothelioma is present.  X-rays, CT scans and MRIs give doctors valuable information about the presence or absence of tell-tale tumors in the mesotheluim.  If these tests reveal tumors in the membrane, a biopsy is often the next step.  Biopsies can be conducted surgically or using a needle.  Either way, the purpose is to extract fluid from the membrane lining of the lungs and test it for malignancy.

In part because of the lengthy amount of time before symptoms appear and the prevalence of misdiagnoses when they do, mesothelioma is often not diagnosed until it is well-advanced.  For this very reason, mesothelioma is quite deadly.  The 5 year survival rate is just 10%, and over half of all victims pass away within the first year of their diagnosis.  There are a number of mesothelioma treatment options, some curative, some palliative.  Click here to learn more about mesothelioma treatments.

Allen & Allen is Here To Help

You need a mesothelioma attorney who can walk you through these complex legal issues and help to maximize your recovery.  Our lawyers understand that it is important to minimize the stress to you and your family after you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma.  Let Allen & Allen handle your case with compassion and dedication.

Initial consultations are free of charge, and you do not owe us a fee unless we win your case. Allen & Allen has eight offices throughout Virginia in Richmond, Chesterfield, Mechanicsville, Short Pump, Petersburg, Charlottesville, Fredericksburg and Garrisonville.

Contact a mesothelioma lawyer today. Call 866-388-1307 for a free consultation.

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