Mesothelioma General Information

How a Mesothelioma Lawyer can Help

Our mesothelioma lawyers are dedicated to providing comprehensive support to our patients diagnosed with mesothelioma and their families. This means that, in addition to providing legal counsel, we also take the time to help our clients learn more about potential treatment options such as mesothelioma surgery so that they feel confident and prepared for what lies ahead. To learn more about how a mesothelioma attorney from Arentz Law Group, P.C. may be able to help you, contact us to schedule a complementary consultation.

How Does Asbestos Cause Mesothelioma?

Humans have always associated asbestos with poor health: in Ancient Egypt, slaves who worked in asbestos mines were less valuable because they tended to die from lung disorders. Today, extensive research has led to the conclusion that the cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure. While we do know that asbestos triggers cell changes that lead to cancer, the exact process by which asbestos causes mesothelioma is still subject to debate.

The most prominent theories about how asbestos leads to mesothelioma include:

  • The onset of cancer is triggered when asbestos causes cells to create oncoproteins which triggers the abnormally rapid rate of cell division.
  • Asbestos fibers cause a disruption in cell division, and these cellular changes cause Mesothelioma.
  • Mesothelial cells become irritated and inflamed when exposed to asbestos. This promotes the growth of scar tissue and subsequent cell damage that triggers cancer growth.
  • Molecules known as free radicals are produced as a reaction to asbestos exposure. Free radicals can damage DNA, causing the cell mutation that causes cancer.

After a mesothelioma diagnosis, our attorneys can help victims and their families recover compensation from the party or parties responsible for their asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma is a rare and deadly disease that strikes roughly 3,000 Americans every year and is caused entirely by exposure to asbestos. In many cases, victims may be able to trace the source of their asbestos exposure and hold those responsible fully accountable for their negligence.

Steps in a Mesothelioma Diagnosis

When a patient first visits his or her doctor with mesothelioma symptoms, that doctor is likely to pursue other probable causes before beginning the mesothelioma diagnosis process because mesothelioma is a very rare disease that often mimics the symptoms of more common illnesses such as pneumonia.

If it begins to appear that a patient may have mesothelioma, the following mesothelioma diagnosis steps will be taken:

  • Detailed medical and occupational history from the patient. This will allow the doctor to pinpoint any areas of that patient’s life where asbestos exposure may have occurred so that the doctor can maintain mesothelioma as a potential candidate for a diagnosis.
  • Thorough examination to look for any fluid in the lungs or abdomen, which could be a result of pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma.
  • Certain diagnostic tests will be conducted to rule out other possible diseases. The patient will most likely undergo blood tests to detect cancer cells, X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs. If a specific disease is not identified at this point, a biopsy may be requested.

If a patient has been exposed to asbestos and may be a candidate for a mesothelioma diagnosis, there are a number of biopsies his or her doctor may request. A fine needle aspiration is the least invasive option, but in many cases a surgical procedure is necessary to get proper samples of infected fluids or tissues. These samples will be sent to a laboratory for analysis, and the results will be sent to the doctor.

If a patient is found to have mesothelioma, more tests may be needed to determine the stage to which his or her illness has progressed and to establish a prognosis and treatment plan.

Stages of Mesothelioma

Three Mesothelioma Staging Systems

At this time, there is no formal system for staging types of mesothelioma other than pleural (lung) mesothelioma because of the especially rare nature of peritoneal and pericardial mesothelioma. Still, each of the three main staging systems used to assess mesothelioma patients each use four stages and the definitions of those stages vary only slightly.

The Butchart Staging System

The most common and oldest system used to stage mesothelioma is the Butchart system. This system does not take into account the number of cancer cells present, the size of the tumor(s), or the total level of cancer present in the body. Instead, the Butchart system evaluates a patient’s stage of mesothelioma according to the location of the primary tumor in the patient’s body.

The TNM Staging System

The American Joint Committee on Cancer developed the TNM staging system. This system gets its name from the characteristics of the patient’s cancer it evaluates: the tumor (T), the effect of the cancer on the lymph nodes (N), and the level of metastasis (M) which has caused the cancer to spread to other parts of the body.

The Brigham Staging System

Similar to the TNM staging system, the Brigham system for staging cancer also evaluates a patient’s cancer in terms of the tumor location, whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, and whether the disease has metastasized. In addition to these characteristics, the Brigham system also takes into account whether surgical intervention is possible at each stage, and how successful that surgery is predicted to be.

General Mesothelioma Stages

While the three main staging systems for cancer each evaluate slightly different characteristics of a patient’s cancer, they only vary slightly. In general, the basic stages of mesothelioma are as follows:

Stage 1

This is the first stage of mesothelioma. When a patient’s mesothelioma is at Stage 1, surgical removal of the cancer may be possible because the tumor is localized, the cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes, and the mesothelioma has not metastasized to other parts of the body.

Stage 2

At Stage 2, a patient’s tumor is larger than at Stage 1 and may also have reached the lymph nodes. Though the patient’s mesothelioma has spread at this stage, surgical intervention may still be a viable option.

Stage 3

When a patient’s mesothelioma has reached Stage 3, surgery is likely not an effective treatment option because the cancer has taken over a single area or region of the body, such as the chest wall or diaphragm as well as the lymph nodes.

Stage 4

Stage 4 is the most serious stage of mesothelioma. This means that the cancer has invaded numerous areas of the body, including the lymph nodes and additional organs. At this stage, surgery provides no curative value and palliative treatment to keep the patient comfortable is the focus.

Risk of Mesothelioma Highest for Navy Veterans

While there is a risk that veterans from all branches of the U.S. military may have been occupationally exposed to asbestos, the risk of developing mesothelioma or another asbestos disease is greatest for Navy veterans. Every ship or shipyard built for or by the U.S. Navy between the 1930s and the 1970s was constructed with many materials that contained asbestos. In fact, asbestos was such an affordable and effective material that the Navy actually mandated .its use in the construction of ships for many years, until the material was gradually phased out in the 1970s.

Areas below deck such as engine rooms and boiler rooms on Navy ships posed the greatest threat of asbestos exposure as a result of the heavy use of asbestos for fireproofing and insulation in these areas. Still, asbestos was also commonly used in many other parts of ships, including sleeping quarters, kitchens and mess halls, and navigation rooms as well as pipe coverings, valves, gaskets, flooring, and breaks. Thus, it is more than probable that every crew member on every Navy ship built in this era either ingested or inhaled asbestos.

In addition to the members who served on Navy ships, individuals who built and repaired these ships (veterans and civilians, alike) likely suffered extensive and prolonged exposure to asbestos.

The VA and Mesothelioma Treatment

Veterans who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma are able to enlist the support of Veteran Affairs (VA) benefits to cover the cost of mesothelioma treatment because the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs has recognized mesothelioma as a service-related medical condition. Similarly, veterans with other asbestos diseases such as asbestosis may also apply for VA benefits.

Unfortunately, though the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs has acknowledged mesothelioma as a condition that can result from asbestos exposure during military service, the process of applying for VA benefits can be arduous and the VA has been known to deny disability claims for veterans with mesothelioma for a number of reasons. If this has happened to you or your loved one, a mesothelioma lawyer from our firm would be proud to fight on your behalf until you get the care you deserve.

Read more about mesothelioma with these helpful links:

Mesothelioma General Information  |  Mesothelioma FAQ  |  Malignant Mesothelioma  |  Mesothelioma Treatments

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