Prolonged asbestos exposure can lead to several different diseases, including deadly cancers like mesothelioma. Since it typically takes 20-50 years for symptoms to develop after initial exposure, asbestos-related diseases are often not detected until they are in advanced stages.
Asbestos Exposure and Health Hazards
Asbestos was prominently used in many industries due to its natural fire resistance, sound absorption, and insulation properties.
For example, most buildings in America constructed from the 19030s to the 1980s contained asbestos fibers. Asbestos was also used in everything from construction materials to household products like cookware and even children’s pajamas.
When stray asbestos fibers enter the air, they can enter the body and get lodged in major body parts like the lungs. These fibers remain in the body forever once inside and slowly irritate healthy cells until asbestos diseases develop.
Hundreds of thousands of people have developed diseases caused by occupational exposure according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
This is because the general public didn’t know how dangerous the material was — the manufacturers of asbestos-containing products hid the dangers to keep making money.
Today, many innocent people get sick and die from asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma each year.
Asbestos Disease Groups
There are two main asbestos disease groups:
Benign (Non-Cancerous) Diseases
These are abnormal cell growths that don’t spread to affect other body parts like cancer does. While these diseases — including asbestosis and pleural plaques — can be managed with treatment, they’re rarely curable and some can even be fatal.
Malignant (Cancerous) Diseases
These cancers can be temporarily managed but are usually very aggressive and deadly. This category includes lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other cancers.
Benign Asbestos-Related Diseases
The medical definition of a “benign” tumor means that it isn’t cancerous. But, so-called “benign” asbestos diseases are still dangerous to human health. Find a breakdown of each benign asbestos disease below.
Asbestosis is a common asbestos disease in which the inner lung tissue gets severely scarred after exposure to the mineral. This causes pain and severe difficulty in breathing.
When tiny asbestos fibers impale the lung surface, the body’s immune system naturally forms scar tissue in an attempt to heal these foreign invaders.
Asbestosis is not fatal like cancerous tumors, but it can lead to respiratory or cardiac failure since the condition worsens over time.
Pleural plaques are calcified forms of collagen (the body’s most common protein). When a foreign substance — such as asbestos fibers — enters a person’s body, a natural immune response may take place and cause pleural plaques to accumulate.
Pleural plaques occur when the membranes of the lungs and the inside of the ribcage thicken, causing a build-up of calcified collagen (plaque). Pleural plaques are usually not dangerous and often there are no symptoms.
In rare cases, pleural plaques become widespread and thick. This usually indicates a more serious asbestos-related pleural disease, such as some form of cancer.
Pleural effusion is an excess fluid build-up in the lungs. Pleural effusions occur between pleural layers, such as between the lung tissue and the mesothelium (outer layer of the lungs).
It causes symptoms such as a dry cough, difficulty breathing, and chest pain, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Doctors can surgically drain pleural effusions to ease these symptoms.
Pleural effusions are sometimes a symptom of mesothelioma.
Other Benign Asbestos Diseases
Several other benign diseases and conditions are associated with asbestos exposure, although they’re not common.
Other benign asbestos diseases include:
- Diffuse pleural thickening: This condition occurs when scarring thickens the lining of the lungs and chest wall, according to the British Lung Foundation (BLF).
- Atelectasis: This is the medical term for a partially deflated or collapsed lung, according to the Mayo Clinic. This condition causes coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.
- Peritoneal or pericardial effusions: Much like pleural effusions, these conditions occur when fluid builds up in the lining of the abdomen or heart, respectively.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): This progressive disease causes difficulty breathing and may lead to even worse illnesses like lung cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic. It is often caused by smoking, but inhaling asbestos fibers can also trigger this disease.
Malignant Asbestos-Related Diseases
The link between asbestos exposure and cancer risk is significant. Malignant (cancerous) diseases caused by asbestos exposure have a limited prognosis for long-term survival.
The best hope for dealing with cancer is catching it early and taking immediate action to remove or destroy the tumors. Unfortunately, malignant asbestos diseases take such a long time for the symptoms to present that they usually have spread throughout the body, making treatments difficult.
Malignant tumor cells spread or metastasize to other areas. Often, they invade a neighboring organ or travel through the lymphatic system to distant parts of the body, including other major organs like the brain.
Asbestos-related Lung Cancer
Asbestos-related lung cancer is a common and highly deadly disease. Lung cancer tumors form in the inner pleural tissue. Left unchecked, this cancer significantly impairs lung function and can be fatal.
Treatment for this asbestos disease includes a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.
Malignant mesothelioma does not just affect one part of the body. It can appear in several different areas and spread widely via the lymph nodes. This aggressive cancer is extremely deadly.
Pleural mesothelioma: This is the most common type of mesothelioma, developing in the lining of the lungs (the pleura). It can cause pain in the chest, ribs, shoulders, and upper back. Other symptoms include coughing up blood, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, and weight loss.
Peritoneal mesothelioma: This type of mesothelioma forms in the lining of the abdominal cavity (the peritoneum). Common symptoms include abdominal pain, constipation, swelling due to fluid buildup, nausea, blood in stool (feces), and vomiting. Less common symptoms include pain in the upper back and ribs.
Pericardial mesothelioma: With this type of mesothelioma, tumors first develop in the lining of the heart (the pericardium). It can cause an irregular heartbeat or heart murmurs, chest pain, and shortness of breath.
Testicular mesothelioma: This rare form of mesothelioma starts in the tunica vaginalis (testicle lining). It often causes swelling or masses of tissues to form around the testicles, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Because mesothelioma can develop in different parts of the body — and the symptoms can mimic more common, less deadly illnesses — it’s important for patients to tell their doctor about any exposure to asbestos in the past. This can help doctors make a proper diagnosis.
Ovarian cancer accounts for only 3% of female cancer cases, but it’s the most deadly. Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other form of women’s reproductive cancers. Asbestos occurs naturally with talc and therefore when talc is mined it’s often contaminated with asbestos. Trace amounts of asbestos have been found in talc-based person hygiene and cosmetic products and has been linked to ovarian cancer cases.
This cancer is rare but often attributed to asbestos exposure. Inhaled asbestos fibers become trapped in the larynx (voice box). Like in other organs, scar tissue forms and eventually turns into a tumor. Surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiation is the typical course of treatment for this asbestos disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that asbestos exposure may increase the risk of other types of cancers.
These cancers include:
- Colorectal cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Pharyngeal (throat) cancer
- Stomach cancer
More information is needed to definitively link these cancers to asbestos exposure, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).
Prognosis for Asbestos Diseases
Benign asbestos diseases are not generally fatal unless left untreated or only discovered late in their advancement stage. The exception to this is asbestosis, which is the leading cause of death in all asbestos diseases.
Cancerous asbestos diseases usually have a poor prognosis since they are hard to treat and spread aggressively without notice. Many people with cancer do not realize they are sick until the cancer has spread throughout the body.
The key to handling every asbestos disease is early detection and intervention. Anyone who has experienced significant asbestos exposure should discuss this with their doctor, regardless if symptoms are absent.
Simple physical exams, chest X-rays, and blood work can help diagnose asbestos diseases so treatments can start.
Compensation for Asbestos-Related Diseases
Those diagnosed with an asbestos disease such as mesothelioma may be eligible for financial compensation from the manufacturers of asbestos-containing products.
These manufacturers knew that their products could harm people but didn’t care — instead, they put profits over human life.
For more information on asbestos-related diseases and receiving compensation, get a free case review today.
- World Health Organization, “Elimination of Asbestos-Related Diseases” Retrieved from http://www.who.int/occupational_health/publications/asbestosrelateddiseases.pdf Accessed on 16 December 2017
- Health & Safety Executive, “Asbestos-Related Diseases” Retrieved from http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/asbestosis/asbestos-related-disease.pdf Accessed on 16 December 2017
- International Commission on Health, “Global Asbestos Ban and the Elimination of Asbestos-Related Diseases” Retrieved from http://www.icohweb.org/site_new/multimedia/news/pdf/ICOH%20Statement%20on%20global%20asbestos%20ban.pdf Accessed on 16 December 2017
- National Cancer Institute, “Asbestos Exposure and Cancer Risk” Retrieved from https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/substances/asbestos/asbestos-fact-sheet Accessed on 16 December 2017
- U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration, “Asbestos Risks” Retrieved from https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/asbestos/index.html Accessed on 16 December 2017
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Health Effects from Exposure to Asbestos” Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/asbestos/learn-about-asbestos#effects Accessed on 16 December 2017
- National Center for Biotechnology Information, “Investigating Cancer Risks Related to Asbestos and Other Occupational Carcinogens” Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2078489/ Accessed on 16 December 2017
- American Cancer Society, “Asbestos and Cancer Risk” Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/asbestos.html Accessed on 16 December 2017
- National Institute of Health, “Early Diagnosis of Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma in Prior Asbestos Workers” Retrieved from https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00188890 Accessed on 16 December 2017
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. (2016, November 3). Health Effects of Asbestos. Retrieved March 30, 2020, from https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/asbestos/health_effects_asbestos.html
- American Cancer Society. (n.d.). Signs and Symptoms of Mesothelioma. Retrieved March 30, 2020, from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/malignant-mesothelioma/detection-diagnosis-staging/signs-symptoms.html
- British Lung Foundation. (2018, August 29). Diffuse pleural thickening. Retrieved March 30, 2020, from https://www.blf.org.uk/support-for-you/asbestos-related-conditions/diffuse-pleural-thickening
- British Lung Foundation. (2018, August 29). Pleural plaques. Retrieved March 30, 2020, from https://www.blf.org.uk/support-for-you/asbestos-related-conditions/pleural-plaques
- Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Pleural Effusion: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments. Retrieved March 30, 2020, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17373-pleural-effusion-causes-signs–treatment
- Mayo Clinic. (2018, September 5). Atelectasis. Retrieved March 30, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/atelectasis/symptoms-causes/syc-20369684
- National Cancer Institute. (n.d.). Asbestos Exposure and Cancer Risk Fact Sheet. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/substances/asbestos/asbestos-fact-sheet
- World Health Organization. (2017, November 27). Asbestos. Retrieved March 30, 2020, from https://www.who.int/ipcs/assessment/public_health/asbestos/en/
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.)