Malignant mesothelioma is a type of rare cancer that usually develops after exposure to asbestos, a product commonly used as a building material prior to the 1970s. It affects about 3,000 people per year in the United States.
Mesothelioma is cancer that develops around various organs. The most common organ that might develop mesothelioma is the lung, where pleural mesothelioma will form around the pleura (lining) around the outside of the lung. If someone is exposed to asbestos fibers, these materials are small enough to be inhaled into the lung, which eventually causes a problem. Other types of cancer will affect the lining of the abdomen, and in incredibly rare cases, the heart or testicles.
Those who develop the disease will experience symptoms similar to those who develop lung cancer. In later stages, they develop shortness of breath, pain in the chest region, fatigue, muscle weakness, fever or night sweats, and coughing. Early diagnoses happen by accident, through routine X-rays or blood tests. If people are displaying these symptoms, the cancer has spread, making it hard for doctors to treat.
Malignant mesothelioma is more common in men because they typically hold jobs in occupations where they are exposed to more asbestos, such as construction, mining, and shipbuilding. While no new residential buildings are allowed to use asbestos anymore, in older buildings, it is still present. Any building constructed from the early 1900s to the 1970s likely has asbestos as insulation. If you’re exposed to asbestos, you have a 5% to 10% likelihood of developing cancer. In rarer cases, radiation exposure to the chest can also cause the disease.
Mesothelioma mostly remains confined in the chest area, pleural space, and lymph nodes. However, unlike other cancers, the tumor state doesn’t tell doctors how well a patient is likely to respond to treatment. Most cases of malignant mesothelioma are fatal, more often than not because it went unnoticed until an advanced stage. However, it will still be treated by chemotherapy, and patients might also receive surgery and radiation.
If you live in an older home, you’re unlikely to develop mesothelioma unless you disturb the asbestos in the house. Contact a professional about changes you’d like to make that may involve working around the insulation of the house.
If you or a loved one have been injured by mesothelioma exposure, don’t hesitate to call us. Many workers are exposed to dangerous amounts of asbestos on the job. You may be entitled to compensation for your injury.