Mesothelioma is a deadly cancer caused by inhaled asbestos fibers. Most cases develop in the lining of the lungs or abdomen, and has a poor prognosis. However, treatments may help improve prognosis.
Types of Mesothelioma
Malignant mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that develops in the mesothelium, the protective lining that covers various organs.
There are 4 types of mesothelioma, each affecting a different area in the body.
Pleural mesothelioma affects the protective lining that covers the chest cavity and lungs (pleura). It is the most common type of mesothelioma, accounting for roughly 80% of all cases, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).
There are 4 stages of pleural mesothelioma under the Tumor Node Metastasis (TNM) staging system.
Peritoneal mesothelioma develops in the lining of the abdomen (peritoneum). It is the second most common form of mesothelioma, affecting around 10% of all patients.
Peritoneal mesothelioma has one of the highest survival rates of any type, with roughly 65% of patients living at least 5 years after diagnosis if they receive curative treatment.
Pericardial mesothelioma forms in the lining surrounding the heart (pericardium) and accounts for less than 1% of all cases of mesothelioma. It has an incredibly low life expectancy, with patients living a median of only 6 months after diagnosis.
Testicular mesothelioma develops in the lining of the testes (tunica vaginalis). This cancer is extremely rare, with only around 100 cases ever reported. The median survival time of testicular mesothelioma patients after diagnosis is 23 months.
How Asbestos Causes Mesothelioma
The only proven cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. From the 1930s to the early 1980s, asbestos was widely used in blue-collar industries and the military. Corporations knew working with this mineral could harm employees, but they hid the truth, knowing they could make a huge profit selling asbestos products during World War II.
When asbestos products are disturbed, the fibers may be inhaled or ingested.
The asbestos fibers may then become lodged into various organ linings.
Once the fibers become stuck, they damage healthy tissue.
In some cases, this tissue damage causes cancerous tumors to form.
The different types of mesothelioma have unique symptoms depending on where in the body the cancer first develops. That said, some mesothelioma symptoms are common among most patients.Common symptoms of mesothelioma include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of appetite
- Night sweats
- Fluid in the lungs or abdomen
- Rib pain
- Shortness of breath
- Shoulder pain
- Upper back pain
Getting an accurate mesothelioma diagnosis from a mesothelioma specialist is essential to receiving effective treatment. Doctors usually take multiple steps to diagnose mesothelioma, however, a biopsy is needed to confirm a diagnosis.
Patients who display symptoms of mesothelioma are encouraged to see their doctor to get a physical examination. During this initial visit, patients should tell their doctor about their history of asbestos exposure, if any.
Imaging scans allow physicians to determine whether there are any abnormalities in a patient’s body. Doctors often require several scans — including X-rays, CT scans, and MRI to rule out other illnesses.
During a biopsy, doctors remove a tissue sample from the tumor, either through surgery or by inserting a special needle into the affected area. This sample is studied under a microscope to see if cancer cells are present.
Mesothelioma prognosis describes the expected progression of a patient’s cancer, affecting their treatment options and median survival. Because mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer often diagnosed in later stages, most patients receive a poor prognosis. A patient’s prognosis can be influenced by several factors including their mesothelioma type, cell type, cancer stage, and overall health.
That said, it is important to remember that a mesothelioma prognosis is not set in stone. The most effective way to extend patient survival is through early detection and prompt treatment.
|Type of Mesothelioma
|Avg. Life Expectancy
Mesothelioma Cell Types
Mesothelioma tumors are made up of 3 main types of cells. Doctors use mesothelioma cell types to help determine a patient’s overall disease outlook and treatment plan.
The most common mesothelioma cell type, making up around 60% of tumors, is epithelioid mesothelioma. Epithelial cells divide at a slower rate than the other cell types, making them easier to treat.
Sarcomatoid mesothelioma accounts for around 20% of mesothelioma tumors. These cells grow and spread much faster than epithelioid cells, making them harder to treat.
Biphasic mesothelioma consists of both epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells. This happens in about 20%-30% of cases. Treatment depends on which cell type occurs more within a tumor.
The standard treatment options for mesothelioma are surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of the three (multimodal treatment). Although there is no true cure for mesothelioma, patients can work with their health care team to develop an effective, personalized treatment plan to help reduce symptoms and increase their survival time.
Surgery for mesothelioma involves removing tumors and the surrounding tissue and organs (either partially or fully) to stop the spread of cancer.
Common mesothelioma surgeries are:
- Extrapleural pneumonectomy
- Pleurectomy with decortication
- Cytoreduction with hyperthermic
- intraperitoneal chemotherapy
Chemotherapy is commonly used alongside surgery to kill remaining cancer cells and achieve the best curative results.
Standard chemotherapy is administered to mesothelioma patients in cycles over the course of several weeks or months.
During radiation therapy, doctors use high-energy radiation beams to shrink the cancerous tumors. Radiation has few side effects compared to chemotherapy and is often used as palliative treatment for late-stage mesothelioma patients.
The spread of mesothelioma tumors throughout a patient’s body can gravely decrease their quality of life during the advanced stages of their cancer.
Doctors prescribe palliative treatments as a form of end-of-life care to help reduce pain and discomfort.
One type of palliative care is low-risk surgery, such as a thoracentesis for pleural mesothelioma or a paracentesis for peritoneal mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma clinical trials offer hope to patients without standard treatment options and contribute vital information to future mesothelioma treatment efforts.
Emerging treatments being studied in clinical trials include:
- dynamic therapy
Patients with mesothelioma may be able to access these novel treatment options by working with a mesothelioma doctor at a specialized cancer center.
Meet Walter, a Mesothelioma Warrior
Walter, a Sokolove Law client and U.S. Navy veteran, talks about why he filed a mesothelioma lawsuit.
He said, “You have all your paperwork in order?” I said, “Yes I do.” He said, “Well, keep it there” Nobody ever said anything, about it being dangerous. The powers at be knew. I said, “Well, heck with this noise. They’re gonna hear from me.” I wasn’t suing the government, I wasn’t suing the U.S. Navy, I was suing the manufacturer. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Mesothelioma, you may be entitled to compensation.
“I’m blown away by their quick response times and amazing customer service. Teresa went above and beyond and I could not appreciate that more. Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
“All of the personnel I’ve spoken with have been courteous and helpful. Thank you for making this experience as stress-free as possible.”
Recognition & Affiliation
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.)