What is Mesothelioma?

Diagnosis Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive type of cancer caused almost exclusively by asbestos exposure. It develops in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, and/or heart. Because the most common type of mesothelioma affects the lining of the lungs, it is often mistakenly referred to as “asbestos lung cancer”.  It typically takes 10 to 30 years after exposure to asbestos for the symptoms of mesothelioma to develop. In most cases, it is not detected until it is already in the late stages, when there is a life expectancy of 18 months or less.

Cancer of the Mesothelium

Mesothelioma is cancer of the mesothelium. The mesothelium is the protective membrane surrounding your internal organs, and is named as follows:

  • Pleura – the lining of the lungs
  • Peritoneum – lines the abdomen and surrounds, supports and lubricates the abdominal organs
  • Pericardium – protects and lubricates the heart

Lung Cancer Confusion

There are two ways in which people typically get mesothelioma confused with lung cancer. Pleural mesothelioma affects the lining of the lungs, causing symptoms that affect the lungs and breathing. It is not cancer of the lung tissue itself, but it can spread to the lung tissue.

When cancer starts in the mesothelium and spreads to the lungs, it is called “secondary” lung cancer and is still mesothelioma. Cancer that initially develops in the lung tissue is called “primary” lung cancer. That may seem like a minor detail when you are facing a cancer diagnosis, but it is very important medically and legally. Mesothelioma that spreads to the lungs is sometimes misdiagnosed as primary lung cancer.

Mesothelioma and primary lung cancer require different types of treatment, so proper diagnosis is important to your health and outcome. On the legal end of things, a mesothelioma diagnosis serves as proof that your cancer was caused by asbestos exposure. This helps you in court with a lawsuit and with other types of claims such as those for Veteran’s benefits.

What Causes Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is caused, almost exclusively, by exposure to asbestos. The sharp, tiny fibers work their way into the mesothelium where they cause irritation and inflammation. Normally, your immune system breaks down and remove foreign substances, but asbestos fibers cannot be broken down, so they remain and continue to cause inflammation and eventually abnormal cells begin to form.

In most cases, asbestos fibers enter the body by inhalation, but they can also be ingested if asbestos contaminates a water supply or when airborne fibers settle in food or beverages.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you need answers now. Please contact us to be connected with an experienced asbestos attorney in your area right away.