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The mesothelium is a membrane that protects many internal organs in the body. It creates a sac that totally encompasses the organ. The membrane is formed from two layers of cells with a fluid between the two.

The mesothelium helps to prevent damage to the protected organs (such as the heart and the lungs) caused by friction from the organ’s natural rhythm adjacent to each other. Visceral mesothelium covers the internal organs and Parietal mesothelium covers the body walls.

Mesothelium is classified as different names depending on the location in the body:

  • Peritoneum: Abdominal Cavity organs
  • Pleura: Lungs and Chest Cavity Wall lining
  • Pericardium: Heart
  • Tunica Vaginalis Testis: Male Internal Reproductive organs
  • Tunica Serosa Uteri: Female Internal Reproductive organs

Malignant Mesothelioma

Malignant Mesothelioma is a cancerous disease that affects the mesothelium. Malignant Mesothelioma is where malignant (cancerous) cells develop on the mesothelium. Most cases of malignant mesothelioma begin in the pleura (lungs and chest cavity wall lining) or peritoneum (abdominal cavity organs). Cancerous cells can spread from their original site to other tissues and organs.

There are two classifications of malignant mesothelioma:

  • Localized (Stage I): Cancer is present only on the original membrane surface.
  • Stage I: Usually located on the chest wall. It may also be found in the lining of the lung, the diaphragm, or the sac that covers the heart on the same side of the chest.
  • Advanced (Stage II, Stage III, and Stage IV): Cancer has spread beyond the original membrane surface to other parts of the body.
  • Stage II: Cancer is also present in the lymph nodes on the same side of the chest.
  • Stage III: Cancer has spread to the chest wall, the mediastinum, the heart, beyond the diaphragm, and/or the peritoneum. Cancer may have also spread to lymph nodes on the other side of the chest or outside the chest.
  • Stage IV: Cancer has spread to distant organs or tissues.

About 2,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the United States each year. Mesothelioma occurs more often in men than in women and risk increases with age, but this disease can appear in either men or women at any age.

Major Causes

Asbestos Exposure: One of the major risk factors for developing mesothelioma is working with and around asbestos. Most mesothelioma cases are linked to a history of asbestos exposure.

Many employees are not aware of the exposure risks they are facing on a day to day basis when working with asbestos containing materials. Some of the more common industrial products include cement, brake linings, roof shingles, flooring products, textiles, and insulation. Asbestos dust particles can be released into the air, and unknowingly inhaled or swallowed. An increased risk of developing Mesothelioma has been found among shipyard workers, mines and mills, manufacturing plants, and the construction industry. To help prevent exposure to asbestos containing materials, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) set limits for acceptable levels of asbestos exposure in the workplace. People who work with asbestos must use protective equipment to lower their risk of exposure.

Although longer exposures to asbestos have been found to have the most increased risk for mesothelioma, short exposures have also been known to cause mesothelioma. Family members of living with asbestos workers also have an increased risk of developing mesothelioma, as the result of exposure to dust on the clothing and hair of asbestos workers.

Symptoms

Symptoms of mesothelioma may occur within a short time after exposure to asbestos or as long as 50 years after exposure. If you have any of the symptoms below and have an increased risk of mesothelioma from current or past exposure to asbestos, contact a qualified physician immediately for a professional diagnosis.

Pleural Mesothelioma

  • Shortness of Breath
  • Chest Pain

Peritoneum Mesothelioma

  • Weight Loss
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Abdominal Swelling
  • Bowel Obstruction
  • Abnormal Blood Clotting
  • Anemia
  • Fever

Symptoms of the cancer having spread beyond the mesothelium to other parts of the body:

  • Pain and/or Trouble Swallowing
  • Neck and Face Swelling

Diagnosis

It is often difficult to diagnose mesothelioma due to the common symptoms shared with other conditions. However, a qualified physician will take the necessary steps in determining the patient’s condition.

Diagnosis may vary from physician to physician, but below is typical for a proper diagnosis:

  • Complete Review of Patient’s Medical History: To determine the patient’s past illnesses and treatments and any known history of asbestos exposure.
  • Complete Physical Examination: To determine the patient’s general health and any signs of disease or other illness.
  • Complete blood count (CBC): To determine the number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets; and the amount of hemoglobin in the red blood cells.
  • Chest x-ray: To determine if abnormalities are present within the chest cavity.
  • CT scan (CAT scan): To determine if abnormalities are present within the chest and abdomen.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): To determine if abnormalities are present within the chest and abdomen.
  • Sedimentation Rate: To determine the rate at which red blood cells settle at the bottom of a test tube.
  • Biopsies/Surgical Procedures: Biopsies and other surgical procedures should be ordered to confirm a diagnosis of mesothelioma. They are also ordered to determine if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. This is important in determining the stage of cancer for necessary treatment. Common types are listed below. Your physician will determine which to order based on the location of the abnormal area.
  • Fine-Needle Aspiration Biopsy: Also called a needle biopsy may be done to remove part of a lump, abnormal tissue, or fluid.
  • Lung biopsy: A lung biopsy is done by inserting a needle through the chest wall and into the abnormal lung tissue to remove a piece of tissue to check for signs of cancer.
  • Thoracoscopy: An incision between two ribs for insertion of a thoracoscope into the chest.
  • Thoracotomy: An incision between two ribs to check inside the chest for signs of disease.
  • Peritoneoscopy: An incision in the abdominal wall for insertion of a peritoneoscope into the abdomen.
  • Laparotomy: An incision in the wall of the abdomen to check the inside of the abdomen for signs of disease.
  • Bronchoscopy: A procedure to look inside the trachea and large airways in the lung for abnormal areas. A bronchoscope is inserted through the nose or mouth into the trachea and lungs.
  • Cytologic Exam: Fluid is taken from around the lungs or abdomen to check the cells in the fluid.

Treatment

There are many different treatment options that you and your physician may decide is right for you. They should be determined on an individual basis, based on the location and stage of the cancer; and the patient’s age and general health. The following are treatments that may be considered.
Treatment of Localized Malignant Mesothelioma (Chest - Stage I) may include the following:
Mesothelioma in One Area Only: Surgery to remove the cancerous part of the mesothelium and surrounding area.
Mesothelioma in More Than One Area:

  • Pleurectomy and Decortication
  • Extrapleural Pneumonectomy
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Anti-Cancer Drugs – Clinical Trial (directly in the chest after surgery to remove the tumor)
  • Combinations of Surgery, Radiation Therapy, and Chemotherapy – Clinical Trial

Treatment of Advanced Malignant Mesothelioma (Stage II, Stage III, and Stage IV) may include the following:

  • Surgery (to drain fluid that has collected in the chest)
  • Pleurodesis (to stop additional fluid from collecting in the chest)
  • Pleurectomy and Decortication
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Chemotherapy (with Anticancer Drug)
  • Combination Chemotherapy - Clinical Trial
  • Combinations of Surgery, Radiation and Chemotherapy - Clinical Trial
  • Chemotherapy – Clinical Trial (directly in the chest or abdominal cavity to reduce tumors and prevent fluid build-up.)

Additional clinical trials may be available from NCI's PDQ Cancer Clinical Trials Registry for patients with advanced malignant mesothelioma.

Treatment of Recurrent Malignant Mesothelioma: may include the following:

  • Biologic Therapy – Clinical Trial
  • Chemotherapy – Clinical Trial
  • Surgery – Clinical Trial

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Legal Information

Deciding to file a lawsuit after being diagnosed with a terminal disease such as mesothelioma, can be a difficult decision. Every person needs to be aware of their rights as an employee especially when it comes to life threatening hazards on the job. In the past, companies have been aware that they were manufacturing and distributing asbestos containing materials and the health risks involved. Even after the discovery that asbestos was the cause of certain lung diseases such as mesothelioma, companies have still produced hazardous materials with terminal impacts to their employees, employee’s families, and consumers. A person diagnosed with an asbestos related disease should seek legal advice from a qualified mesothelioma lawyer.

Questions to consider when deciding whether to file a lawsuit:

  • Why were you not forewarned of the dangers of working with asbestos?
  • Can you financially afford aggressive treatment for your disease?
  • Can you pay large medical bills incurred during diagnosis?
  • Can you provide financial security for your family for years to come?

Points to consider:

  • Personal Disability will not usually cover all medical and personal expenses lost due to inability to work.
  • Life Insurance policies do not usually provide enough for the deceased’s family to maintain a comfortable life style.
  • Companies who are not held accountable will continue to sacrifice innocent workers and their families.

During the first lawsuits filed, companies were found liable for producing asbestos products with no concern given to their employees. Settlements were typically awarded out of court.

However, mesothelioma lawsuits can have a different outcomes based on a number of factors.

  • Statutes of Limitations: Speak with a lawyer as soon as possible after diagnosis, or in the event of death, the executor of the state should contact a lawyer as soon as possible. Most states have a limitation on the amount of time in which a mesothelioma lawsuit can be filed.
  • It is not necessary to know the exact time and source of your exposure, but all the information that you have will certainly help your case. A qualified mesothelioma lawyer can help identify possible unknown sources of asbestos exposure.

Type of Lawsuits

  • Personal Injury: Filed by plaintiff when mesothelioma is diagnosed.
  • Wrongful Death: Filed by the family of person diagnosed on behalf of their descendant.

A successful suit is one of the few ways to ensure financial security for your family and to help offset some of the medical expenses during treatment and diagnosis. A settlement will also provide a means to pay for treatment options that may not be affordable without additional help.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral used in manufacturing products in different industries. Different varieties of asbestos are chrysotile, crocidolite, amosite, anthophyllite, tremolite, and actinolite.

Which materials may contain asbestos?

  • Asbestos-Cement
  • Corrugated Sheet
  • Roof Coatings
  • Asbestos Clothing
  • Clutch Facings
  • Commercial And Industrial Asbestos Friction Products
  • Rollboard
  • Asbestos-Cement Flat Sheet
  • Flooring Felt
  • Non-Roof Coatings
  • Disc Brake Pads
  • Sheet And Beater-Add Gaskets (Except Specialty Industrial)
  • Asbestos-Cement Pipe
  • Pipeline Wrap
  • Vinyl/Asbestos Floor Tile
  • Drum Brake Linings
  • Commercial, Corrugated, And Specialty Paper
  • Asbestos-Cement Shingle
  • Roofing Felt
  • Automatic Transmission Components
  • Brake Blocks
  • Millboard

Are there guidelines for working with asbestos?

To help prevent exposure to asbestos containing materials, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) set limits for acceptable levels of asbestos exposure in the workplace.

What are diseases associated with asbestos?

Asbestosis, Lung Cancer, and Mesothelioma are the most common asbestos related diseases.

Who is at risk for an asbestos related disease?

Any person who works with or around asbestos containing products is at risk for an asbestos related disease. The families of those who work with asbestos products are also at risk if proper care is not taken to remove all fibers from the skin and clothing.

What is mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a cancerous disease that affects the mesothelium. Cancerous cells develop on the mesothelium.

Most cases of malignant mesothelioma begin in the pleura (lungs and chest cavity wall lining) or peritoneum (abdominal cavity organs). Cancerous cells can spread from their original site to other tissues and organs.

What is the mesothelium?

The mesothelium is a membrane that protects many internal organs in the body.

What are the symptoms of mesothelioma?

Shortness of breath and chest pain are the two major symptoms of mesothelioma.

How long after exposure to asbestos do the symptoms occur?

Symptoms can occur within a short period of exposure or up to 50 years after exposure.

Where does mesothelioma usually start?

Mesothelioma usually starts in the lungs and/or chest cavity. It may also originate in the abdomen and heart.

Are there treatments available for mesothelioma?

While the there is no cure for mesothelioma, there are numerous treatments available today with hope for many more in the future.

Why should I file a mesothelioma lawsuit?

Mesothelioma is a disastrous, yet preventable, disease. Asbestos companies have valued profits over human lives by intentionally not disclosing all hazards to their employees. These companies need to be found liable to help prevent others from the same torturous fate.

Is there a limit of how long a person with mesothelioma may file a law suit?

Most states have statues of limitations which limit how much time victims can initiate legal action.

What does the compensation cover?

Medical Bills, Pain and Suffering, Mental Anguish and Grief, and Financial Security for your family after you have gone.

How can I afford a lawyer?

Most mesothelioma lawyers are hired on a contingency basis. They receive their pay out of the settlement amount that a victim is awarded.

Contact Information

To contact us for a free confidential consult, you can call us at (850) 435-7000 (Pensacola) or (800) 277-1193 (toll free). You also can request a free private and confidential evaluation by clicking Free & Confidential Consult, and your inquiry will be immediately reviewed by one of our attorneys who handles your specific type case.