When it comes to cancers, asbestos and mesothelioma are joined at the hip. It is safe to say without asbestos contamination, mesothelioma as a disease would hardly make a blip on the medical charts, much less be the tragic killer we see today.
When it comes to asbestos and mesothelioma, it seems there is only bad news and worse news.
First the bad news:
Almost 80% of all mesothelioma cancers originate from worksite asbestos exposure. The rest can be attributed to unintended home or school exposure. In fact, in the year 2000, The American Cancer Institute recognized that when it came to mesothelioma cancers, asbestos was a factor in almost 100% of all cases reported.
The major work related fields include:
- Oil & Gas Drilling Sites (especially the drilling mud)
- Auto repair shops
Non-industrial exposure include older houses, schools and public buildings.
As a mineral, asbestos has some extremely useful qualities.
- It is highly heat resistant
- It is a natural flame retardant
- It can retain its properties under severe stress conditions
- It is highly resistant to corrosion
- It is relatively cheap and easy to extract and form into industrial applications
For these reasons asbestos seemed a natural choice in protecting both man and machine from fire and extreme heat conditions. But because of its fibrous nature, asbestos has a dark side.
There are actually two main types of asbestos – serpentine and amphibole. As the name implies, serpentine asbestos has curly-shaped fibers. Amphibole asbestos is recognized by its sharp, needle-like fibers.
Of the two, amphibole is considered far more dangerous.
How Asbestos Causes Cancer
Asbestos easily forms into a fine dust. Drilling, cutting, sawing – even sweeping up asbestos off the floor causes these fine particles to remain airborne.
Even though the dusty asbestos particles themselves are too small to be seen by the naked eye, they are large enough to cause grave harm. When breathed in, these particles embed themselves in the lung’s outer tissue. The very properties that made asbestos a top choice for industrial use are now turned against us.
Not breaking down or being eliminated by the body, these asbestos fibers slowly accumulate and increase after each subsequent exposure. The inflammation, scarring (called asbestosis) and genetic damage caused by asbestos build-up can result in the cancer known as mesothelioma.
Here is further bad news about mesothelioma…
- It can take from 20 to 50 years before fully manifesting itself.
(However, in severe asbestos contamination, it may take just a couple of days to cause irreparable harm.)
Four Types of Mesothelioma
- Pleural Mesothelioma – with approximately 75% of the cases reported, this most common type of asbestos-caused cancer attacks the tissue surrounding the lungs.
- Peritoneal mesothelioma – the next most common, peritoneal mesothelioma (approximately 20 – 25% of cases reported) affects the abdominal area lining.
- Pericardial mesothelioma – Much less prevalent and found in about one or two percent of mesothelioma diagnosis, the asbestos has found its way into the heart lining.
- Testicular mesothelioma – extremely rare, this type of mesothelioma is less than one percent of the cases uncovered.
We said with asbestos and mesothelioma there was bad news and worse news. Here is the sad truth about mesothelioma – there is of yet no reliable medical cure. Yes, in some cases surgery, radiation and chemo-therapies can lessen, slow down or even halt the cancer’s advance.
But early detection is vital, and since the symptoms may take decades to develop, this is oftentimes a moot point. By the time a patient is uncomfortable enough to seek medical help, the mesothelioma is almost always fairly well entrenched and established.
In fact, since the symptoms of mesothelioma so closely mimic other diseases, (shortness of breath, unexpected weight loss, exhaustion, chest, side and gut pains, and heart palpitations) it usually takes up to three months from first seeing a physician before a definitive diagnosis can be made.
Frankly, for malignant pleural (lung) mesothelioma the prognosis is pretty discouraging – usually the patient dies within one or two years. The other mesothelioma cancers don’t offer much better odds either.
In Texas, there is even a statute of limitations for bringing a lawsuit against companies if you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma due to poor workplace safety precautions while handing asbestos or working in a high asbestos contaminated area. That time frame for asserting an asbestos-related action is currently two years from date of diagnosis. (Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 16.0031 (2010) )
If you, a loved one or even a deceased relative are or were diagnosed with mesothelioma, it is highly advisable to consult with an attorney specializing in asbestos mesothelioma litigation. Legal firms like Terry Bryant in Houston have been helping victims in Texas for 30 years in achieving just compensation for their asbestos caused mesothelioma.