Mesothelioma is a slow-growing cancer that forms in a thin layer of tissue surrounding certain internal organs, including the lungs, chest wall, and abdomen. Unfortunately, mesothelioma is often so advanced when discovered that long-term prognoses are rarely good. In fact, of the 50,000 people diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2013, approximately 34,000 succumbed to the disease. A skilled MA personal injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma.
Causes of Mesothelioma
Prolonged exposure to asbestos is the number one cause of mesothelioma. Asbestos is a carcinogenic substance that was used as a type of insulation for years until a link to cancer and other respiratory illnesses was discovered in the late 1970s. That does not mean, however, that asbestos is no longer a concern. For starters, people who haven’t worked with asbestos in decades are still being diagnosed with mesothelioma annually. And asbestos remains a hazard of many occupations. The most common causes of mesothelioma include:
- Occupational: Coal miners and construction workers have a significantly-higher risk of developing mesothelioma than other workers.
- Environmental: Asbestos is a naturally-occurring substance. If you happen to live near a high concentration of asbestos, you have an increased risk of developing mesothelioma.
- Exposure to asbestos in buildings: If you live, work, or attend school in a building that was built before 1980, asbestos may be present.
Symptoms of Mesothelioma
This particularly virulent form of cancer can grow for decades before being discovered. According to the Mesothelioma Center, there are four recognized stages of the disease.
- Stage 1: Tiny tumors may develop within the lining of a lung. The disease hasn’t yet spread, so symptoms are generally non-existent at this stage.
- Stage 2: As the tumors continue to grow, they may begin to spread to other parts of the chest cavity. Although symptoms may still be minor, or even non-existent, some symptoms may include chest pain, coughing, and difficulty breathing.
- Stage 3: At this point, tumors may have reached the chest wall, diaphragm and heart lining. Cancer cells may have also spread to some, but not all, lymph nodes. Symptoms may still not be apparent. However, minor symptoms are likely to begin at this stage, and may include fever, difficulty breathing, coughing, weight loss, and chest pain.
- Stage 4: By this stage, cancer cells have spread throughout the body. This is the most advanced stage of the disease and symptoms may include fever and night sweats, severe chest pain, difficulty breathing, weight loss, fatigue, abdominal pain, and a buildup of fluid in the abdomen or chest.