Researchers have linked asbestos to deadly types of cancer despite its former status as a “miracle mineral.” The aggressive and fatal cancer mesothelioma may develop if asbestos fibers get lodged in the linings of the lungs, abdomen, heart, or testes. Other asbestos-related cancers may form in the lungs, ovaries, larynx (voice box), and more.
Asbestos Exposure and Cancer Risk
Asbestos has been shown to increase the risk of some cancers, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).
Inhaling asbestos fibers causes mineral particles to enter the body, and once inside they never leave. Asbestos fibers are so strong that they cannot decompose as organic foreign objects do. Over time, asbestos fibers burrow deeper into healthy tissue, causing the formation of scar tissue and ultimately cancerous tumors.
Unfortunately, asbestos is still not completely banned in the United States and can be found in millions of homes, factories, and mechanical equipment.
Types of Cancer Caused by Asbestos
Asbestos has been linked to various types of cancer, but some are more clearly linked than others. In all cases of asbestos-related cancer, the greater the exposure to asbestos, the greater the individual’s risk of cancer.
Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma, and once asbestos has triggered this cancer, it may take years for symptoms to develop.
Approximately 3,000 people are diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma each year in the United States. Mesothelioma rates are even higher in other nations that don’t have as much awareness about asbestos health hazards.
There are 4 types of mesothelioma:
- Pleural Mesothelioma: Pleural refers to the lungs and respiratory system. The lungs are relatively large organs with a significant mesothelium membrane area. They’re also the first stop for asbestos fibers entering the body. Approximately 80% of asbestos cancer cases are pleural mesothelioma.
- Peritoneal Mesothelioma: This type of cancer attacks the abdominal area and neighboring organs. The stomach, liver, kidneys, and spleen are targets for peritoneal mesothelioma. It accounts for roughly 20% of asbestos-caused cancers.
- Pericardial Mesothelioma: The heart lining is called the pericardium, and it’s also a mesothelium-type membrane. Often misdiagnosed as another cardiac ailment, pericardial mesothelioma is quite rare, making up about 1% of all cases.
- Testicular Mesothelioma: This is a very rare type of mesothelioma that develops in the lining of the testes (tunica vaginalis). There are less than 1,000 confirmed testicular mesothelioma cases recorded in medical literature. Scientists know little about how asbestos fibers reach the testicular lining.
Regardless of type, mesothelioma often has a poor outlook for recovery and life expectancy. However, the companies that exposed millions of Americans to asbestos and caused them to develop this terrible disease were forced to set aside asbestos trust funds to compensate their victims.
Victims of mesothelioma are encouraged to seek asbestos trust fund compensation to hold these companies accountable.
Asbestos-related lung cancer is caused by inhalation or ingestion of the fibrous asbestos particles. Inhalation can occur from asbestos mining, the manufacturing of asbestos-containing products, or disturbing/breaking down asbestos products.
Asbestos exposure can lead to lung cancer in a two-part process. First, asbestos fibers embed themselves in the soft inner tissues of the lungs. The asbestos fibers then travel over the soft tissue and make their way into the lung lining.
Once these fibers have been inhaled and taken into the lungs, there is no way for them to be forced out, so they start to create small incisions. The body’s natural reaction is to then begin the healing process by trying to cover these small incisions with scar tissue.
This can create small or large build-ups over time (tumors). In some instances, the tumors will become malignant, meaning they have the ability to spread. This process can take anywhere from 20 to 50 years, depending on the individual.
Non-Cancerous Asbestos Diseases
Non-cancerous (benign) diseases may also result from asbestos exposure. Although they are non-cancerous, benign asbestos diseases are still hazardous to an individual’s health and, in some cases, can lead to and be early signs of cancer.
Asbestosis involves the scarring of the lung tissue due to asbestos fibers. This scarring causes discomfort, pain, and difficulty in breathing.
Similar to other asbestos-related diseases, asbestosis causes the body to try to heal the scars in the lining of the lungs. Though this condition is not fatal, it can lead to more serious health effects such as cardiac or respiratory dysfunction and potentially failure, especially over time.
Pleural plaques are another type of non-cancerous disease associated with exposure to asbestos. These are hardened (calcified) build-ups of collagen, which is a protein naturally produced within the body.
Though not overly deadly on its own, pleural plaques can lead to more aggressive and deadly forms of diseases.
Pleural effusion is another non-cancerous disease caused by asbestos exposure. This disease is a build-up of liquid between layers of lung tissue and the outer layer of the lungs.
Symptoms of these liquid build-ups are difficulty breathing, chest pain, and dry cough, but they can be alleviated by having a doctor drain the effusions from the lungs.
Symptoms of Asbestos Cancer
Symptoms of asbestos cancer can vary depending on where the tumors first form. Get a breakdown of the symptoms of asbestos cancer below.
Symptoms are similar to COPD, which causes difficulty breathing and swallowing, shortness of breath, low oxygen level, fatigue, hoarseness, and pain in the chest, shoulders, upper back, and ribs.
Symptoms include abdominal cramping, blood in feces (stool), sharp lower torso pain, weight loss, fever, nausea, vomiting blood, and bowel irregularities. Some patients may also feel pain in their ribs and upper back.
Cancer in the pericardium can cause sudden chest pain, difficulty breathing, dizziness, and dry mouth.
We know little about testicular cancer, and symptoms aren’t well recorded. Pain and testicle malfunction are likely symptoms.
Symptoms may include a new cough that doesn’t go away, coughing up blood (even a small amount), shortness of breath, chest pain, hoarseness, excess weight loss, bone pain, and headache.
In particular, symptoms of mesothelioma have a very long latency period — it’s often not until 20-50 years after someone is first exposed that symptoms appear. Usually, by the time symptoms become severe enough to warrant alarm, mesothelioma is well advanced and difficult to treat.
How Asbestos Cancer Is Diagnosed
Doctors typically follow a step-by-step process to diagnose asbestos cancers, that goes from non-invasive to invasive procedures.
The diagnostic process for asbestos cancers includes:
- Imaging Scans: These are usually the first detection step. Non-invasive images look for tell-tale mesothelioma evidence like tumor shadows. X-rays, CT-scans, MRIs and PET scans are common image tests.
- Blood Tests and Biomarkers: Diagnostic blood tests sometimes accurately isolate cancer cells that are microscopically confirmed by pathologists. More often, blood indicators called biomarkers suggest mesothelioma but warrant further invasive exploration.
- Biopsies: The only way to diagnose mesothelioma and lung cancer is through a biopsy, a test that takes cell samples from a suspected cancer-infected organ. Biopsies can be conducted using needle insertion or surgery.
Mesothelioma is hard asbestos cancer to detect unless the doctors and medical team are familiar with the disease, its symptoms, and if the patient was exposed to asbestos.
Detection usually happens when a mesothelioma victim is in a later stage and experiencing severe symptoms. However, mesothelioma is often misdiagnosed as other diseases — including other types of cancer.
The team at the Mesothelioma Cancer Network is available to help victims connect with mesothelioma doctors who have experience treating this type of cancer.
Treating Asbestos Cancers
Multiple treatment options exist, depending on the type of asbestos-related disease or cancer an individual has been diagnosed with.
Mesothelioma treatments can vary depending on the area in which the disease is affecting. The goal of these treatments is to soothe the patient’s symptoms and, in some cases, prolong their life.
The most common treatments for mesothelioma include:
- Mesothelioma surgery: Physical removal of visible cancer tumors
- Mesothelioma chemotherapy: Medicine designed to shrink or kill the cancer
- Mesothelioma radiation: High energy rays used to kill cancer
Lung cancer patients also have the option of surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy. Another treatment option is targeted therapy, which involves taking pills or intravenous medicines that are directed to a specific area to block the growth and spread of the cancerous cells.
Next Steps for Asbestos Cancer Victims
Victims of mesothelioma or any type of asbestos-related cancer should seek medical treatment from specialists. Asbestos disease specialists will do everything in their power to ensure that the right medical treatment is chosen for you to prolong your survival and improve your quality of life.
Cancer treatments can be expensive, but there are financial options available to you and your loved ones if you qualify. If you have any questions about your options, contact us today.
- American Cancer Society, “Asbestos and Cancer Risk” https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/asbestos.html Accessed on 16 December, 2017
- National Center for Biotechnology Information, “Investigating Cancer Risks Related to Asbestos and Other Occupational Carcinogens” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2078489/ Accessed on 16 December, 2017
- National Cancer Institute, “Asbestos Exposure and Cancer Risk” https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/substances/asbestos/asbestos-fact-sheet Accessed on 16 December, 2017
- National Institute of Health, “Early Diagnosis of Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma in Prior Asbestos Workers” https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00188890 Accessed on 16 December, 2017
- U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration, “Asbestos Risks” https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/asbestos/index.html Accessed on 16 December, 2017
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Health Effects from Exposure to Asbestos” https://www.epa.gov/asbestos/learn-about-asbestos#effects Accessed on 16 December, 2017
- ATDSR: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, “Health Effects of Asbestos”
https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/asbestos/health_effects_asbestos.html Accessed on April 16, 2020
- American Association for Cancer Research, “Does Exposure to Asbestos Cause Ovarian Cancer? A Systematic Literature Review and Meta-analysis”
https://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/20/7/1287 Accessed on April 16, 2020
- ATDSR: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry,“Asbestos Toxicity How Should Patients Exposed to Asbestos Be Treated and Managed?” https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/csem/csem.asp?csem=29&po;=15 Accessed on April 16, 2020
- Mayo Clinic, “Lung Cancer” https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lung-cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20374620 Accessed on April 16, 2020
- Mayo Clinic, “Kidney Cancer” https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/kidney-cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20352664
Accessed on April 16, 2020
- Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, “Genetic Damage During Cell Division” https://www.curemeso.org/understanding-mesothelioma/mesothelioma-development/mesothelioma-causes-genetic-damage-mesothelioma-development-cell/ Accessed on April 16, 2020
- Centers for Disease control and Prevention, “How is Lung Cancer Diagnosed and Treated?” https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/lung/basic_info/diagnosis_treatment.htm Accessed on April 16, 2020
- National Cancer Institute, “Immunotherapy to Treat Cancer” https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/mesothelioma-treatment/types/immunotherapy Accessed on April 16, 2020
Easier Than It May Seem
Your individual situation may merit an actual lawsuit. However, it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Trusts have been set up to benefit victims of mesothelioma in such a way that lawsuits and court appearances aren’t needed. Contact us today and you’ll see how easy it can be to get the compensation you deserve.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who can file a mesothelioma claim?
A person who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma – as well as their spouse, child, or family member – may be able to file a claim to recover compensation from manufacturers of asbestos products. If the mesothelioma patient passes away, a family member or estate representative may also be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
How much money is in the asbestos trust fund?
An estimated $30 billion has been set aside in asbestos trust funds to compensate mesothelioma patients. Many companies that made asbestos products later filed for bankruptcy, so they created these trust funds to pay out future mesothelioma claims. If the company responsible for your asbestos exposure no longer exists, you may be entitled to money from their trust fund.
How do I file a mesothelioma claim?
To file a mesothelioma claim, contact an attorney who is experienced with these types of lawsuits. They will know where and when to file your claim, how to build the strongest case possible, and the best way to maximize compensation on your behalf.
What is the statute of limitations on mesothelioma claims?
The statute of limitations (deadline to file) for mesothelioma claims will vary depending on the state in which you file. In many states, it’s 2-3 years from the date of the mesothelioma diagnosis – though it may be longer if the mesothelioma patient has passed away. A mesothelioma lawyer can make sure your claim is filed within the required time frame.
How long do mesothelioma claims take?
Every mesothelioma claim is different, with circumstances and factors that are unique to that mesothelioma patient’s story. Though there’s no way to predict exactly how long a claim will take, an experienced mesothelioma attorney will ensure the process is handled as efficiently as possible.
Many claimants start to receive compensation in as few as 90 days after settling their mesothelioma claims.
What is the average payout for mesothelioma?
There is no guarantee of compensation when you file a mesothelioma claim, and countless factors affect how much money you might be able to recover (assuming your case settles). That said, 95% of these lawsuits are settled out of court, and the average settlement amount is $1-1.4 million.
How much is my mesothelioma claim worth?
Your mesothelioma case value depends on the specifics of your situation, such as the duration of your asbestos exposure, and the total cost of your mesothelioma treatment (as well as travel expenses and other related losses). The best way to figure out how much your claim is worth is to speak with a mesothelioma lawyer.
What type of mesothelioma claim do I have?
Most mesothelioma claims fall under one of four categories:
- Personal injury: You were exposed to asbestos (often through your job, or your loved one’s), so you file a lawsuit against the company that made the asbestos products.
- Asbestos trust fund: Similar to a personal injury claim, only the company in question went bankrupt, so you can’t sue them – but you may be able to access a trust fund they set aside for mesothelioma victims.
- Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits: U.S. military veterans who were exposed to asbestos during their service may qualify for related health care benefits through the VA.
- Wrongful death: When a mesothelioma patient passes away, their family member or estate representative may be able to file a lawsuit on their behalf, seeking money to pay for past medical expenses, pain and suffering, funeral expenses, etc.
A mesothelioma attorney can determine which type of claim makes the most sense for you and your family. (Some clients qualify for more than one.)