What Causes Mesothelioma?


Mesothelioma is an extremely aggressive and devastating disease. Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos fibers.

The prognosis for patients diagnosed with any form of this disease is very poor. Life expectancies for people diagnosed with mesothelioma range between six weeks and five years, depending on the type and stage of the disease.

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, it’s important for you to understand that you have options. There are many different forms of compensation available for mesothelioma patients. This compensation can help with your medical expenses, lost income, and more.

A Boston mesothelioma attorney at The Law Offices of Michael P. Joyce, P.C., can help determine which types of compensation you qualify for and handle all aspects of your claim while you focus on getting the treatment you need. Contact us now for a free consultation.

What Is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that develops in the thin layer of tissue that covers the internal organs, also known as the mesothelium. This type of cancer is most commonly found in the lungs and chest wall, although it can also affect the heart, abdomen, and testicles as well.

The vast majority of mesothelioma cases are caused by asbestos exposure. The more a person is exposed to this deadly mineral, the greater their risk for contracting mesothelioma.

Higher rates of the disease are found in people who mined asbestos, produced products from asbestos, worked with asbestos products or were regularly in environments that contained asbestos, and lived with asbestos workers.

Cause of Mesothelioma

The majority of mesothelioma cases are caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is used in many products, including insulation and textiles. In the 1970s, the dangers of asbestos became widely known, and the United States government began to implement much tighter regulations on the substance.

The most common ways people contract mesothelioma after asbestos exposure include:

  • Occupational exposure – There are certain jobs that require workers to work with asbestos more than others. These include contractors who work on buildings, industrial trades, and even firefighters who rush into burning buildings to save lives.
  • Environmental exposure – Asbestos is a mineral that is typically found in mines. In the past, individuals worked in these mines, which released fibers into the air. People who lived around these mines were at high risk for developing mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure.
  • Military exposure – Veterans who served in the military are at particular risk for developing mesothelioma. This is because asbestos was extensively used in the construction of tanks, ships, living quarters, and many other areas where troops regularly lived and worked.
  • Secondhand exposure – When someone is exposed to asbestos, those fibers can cling to their skin, clothes, shoes, and even their hair. When they come home with those fibers still on them, their family can experience secondhand exposure and become sick from it.

Steps have been taken to reduce the amount of asbestos exposure people experience, although it can still be found in certain areas.

Types of Mesothelioma

There are four main types of mesothelioma, depending on where the cancer develops in the body. The prognosis for people diagnosed with mesothelioma will also depend on where the cancerous tumors are located.

  • Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type of this disease. This type of mesothelioma develops in the lining around the lungs known as the pleura. These cases make up 70 to 75 percent of all mesothelioma cases, which is why this type of tumor has had more research done on it than any other type of mesothelioma.
  • Peritoneal disease is a form of mesothelioma that is found in the lining of the abdomen. The prognosis for this form of the disease is better than other forms of the disease, but these cases are much rarer. They make up only 10 to 20 percent of all mesothelioma diagnoses.
  • Pericardial mesothelioma is an extremely rare form of the disease. This type of mesothelioma is documented in medical journals and other literature only 200 times. Pericardial tumors are found in the lining around the heart. The prognosis for patients diagnosed with this type of cancer is extremely poor, although surgery can extend life expectancies in some situations.
  • Testicular mesothelioma is an even rarer form of the disease than pericardial mesothelioma. These tumors develop in the lining of the testes. Surgery is typically recommended to help extend life expectancies for up to two years after diagnosis.

Symptoms of Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma typically doesn’t present any symptoms until 20 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos, and after the disease has spread. Certain symptoms, such as chest pain, sudden weight loss, and fatigue usually do not appear until the tumors begin pressing on internal organs. Most often, the disease has already progressed to stage 3 or stage 4 when these symptoms present themselves.

Some of the most common symptoms associated with mesothelioma include:

  • Dry cough or wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Respiratory complications
  • Pain in the chest or abdomen
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Fluid collecting around the lungs
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness

If you have experienced any of these symptoms, particularly after you have been exposed to asbestos, it’s important to seek treatment right away.

How Is Mesothelioma Diagnosed?

A mesothelioma diagnosis begins with seeing your doctor because you are suffering from certain symptoms associated with the disease. Once at your doctor’s office, they will then examine you for certain health problems. They will start by eliminating other health conditions that present the same symptoms, such as asthma and pneumonia.

Your doctor may also ask if you have been exposed to asbestos. Even if they do not, it’s important you tell them of any exposure you experienced, as this can form the beginning of a mesothelioma diagnosis.

When your doctor begins to suspect mesothelioma, they will order a number of other tests and procedures. These may include:

  • X-rays – These are often the first test your doctor will order, as they allow them to look for problems in the lungs and other areas. X-rays can show thickening of the pleura, calcium deposits on the pleura, fluid between the lungs and the chest wall, and other changes in the lungs and other organs.
  • CT scan – A computed tomography (CT) scan uses x-rays to take detailed cross-sectional images of the body. These scans can help determine the exact location of the cancer, as well as the stage of the cancer.
  • Echocardiogram – When pericardial mesothelioma is suspected, a doctor may order an echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound of the heart. This can help detect fluid around the heart, and provide an indication of how well the heart is working.
  • PET scans – Positron emission tomography (PET) scans place a radioactive sugar into the blood. If there are cancer cells in the body, they will absorb more sugar than other cells. Using a special camera, a doctor can then determine if certain areas of the body are tumors or scar tissue.
  • MRI scans – Magnetic resonance imagining (MRI) scans work similarly to CT scans, showing detailed images of the soft tissue in the body.
  • Blood tests – Patients suffering from mesothelioma typically have higher levels of Fibulin-3 and soluble mesothelioma-related peptides in their blood. A blood test can detect these higher levels and help a doctor form a mesothelioma diagnosis.
  • Biopsies – There are a number of different types of biopsies that can be done to diagnose mesothelioma. It’s important to understand that no case of mesothelioma can be diagnosed without a proper biopsy being done.

Treatment for Mesothelioma

In 2018 the American Society of Clinical Oncology published its updated treatment guidelines for mesothelioma. The treatment provided for the disease will depend on the type of mesothelioma a person is suffering from.

The best treatments for pleural mesothelioma include:

  • Surgery – Surgery can remove a cancerous lung and any other surrounding areas the cancer has spread to. Sometimes, the lung is able to be spared with just the lining removed.
  • Chemotherapy – When surgery is not an option, doctors will likely recommend chemotherapy. This therapy uses substances that target and destroy cancerous tumors to rid the body of them and give patients a much better prognosis. Oftentimes, chemotherapy is used in conjunction with surgery.
  • Radiation – This treatment uses radiation to target cancer cells and destroy them. It can also be combined with surgery, but it is also used when surgery is not an option.

The best treatments for peritoneal mesothelioma include:

  • Cytoreductive surgery – This surgery is done to remove cancerous growths from the lining of the abdomen.
  • Heated chemotherapy – This is the most effective treatment when fighting peritoneal mesothelioma. After surgery is done to remove the cancerous tumor, heated chemotherapy drugs are then delivered to the abdominal cavity. This procedure can kill any remaining cancer cells.

When patients are not eligible for surgery or chemotherapy, treatment will often focus on palliative care. This can include removing fluid buildup from around the lungs and eliminating space where fluid can develop. Palliative care can make patients more comfortable by relieving symptoms and improving their quality of life.

Financial Help for Mesothelioma Victims and Families

Mesothelioma isn’t only emotionally and physically devastating for patients and their families, it’s also very costly to treat. If you or a loved one is suffering from mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure, it’s important you understand there is help.

There are a number of avenues you can pursue to seek compensation for your medical expenses and other costs associated with the disease. A Boston mesothelioma attorney at The Law Offices of Michael P. Joyce, P.C., can help people suffering from mesothelioma pursue the compensation they deserve.

Our attorneys can fully explain all the options that may be available, such as:

  • Asbestos trust funds – Many of the companies responsible for exposing individuals to asbestos have gone bankrupt and are immune from lawsuits. However, as part of their Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, the courts have required these companies to set up trust funds. Today, there are over 60 trust funds people suffering from mesothelioma can file a claim with in order to seek compensation.
  • Personal injury lawsuits – Not every company that is responsible for exposing people to asbestos has gone bankrupt. When a company is still solvent, individuals suffering from mesothelioma can file a personal injury lawsuit against that company to seek compensation. When family members have lost a loved one to mesothelioma, they can file a wrongful death claim against liable companies. Most of these lawsuits end in a settlement that your attorney can negotiate for you. When an agreement cannot be reached, your attorney can take the case to trial and argue it in front of a jury.
  • Veterans’ benefits – Many individuals who have served in the military develop mesothelioma. When veterans can prove that they contracted mesothelioma during their time in service, and they were not dishonorably discharged from the military, they can usually receive veterans’ benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). An attorney can help pinpoint how you contracted the disease to help you prove it was during your time in service.
  • Workers’ compensation benefits – Due to the fact that many people developed mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos at work, workers’ compensation benefits are often available. These claims are often denied, particularly when they involve the large payouts associated with many mesothelioma cases. An attorney can help you file your claim properly to give you the best chance of success with your claim, and will help you file an appeal if your claim is denied.

No matter which route you choose to claim compensation, an attorney can handle all aspects of your claim while you focus on receiving the treatment you need.

Talk to a Mesothelioma Lawyer Now

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, it’s important to understand that you have options. There are many potential avenues available for compensation, but they all have their own complexities associated with them.

At The Law Offices of Michael P. Joyce, P.C., our Boston mesothelioma attorneys know how to overcome the challenges associated with filing these various claims to pursue the compensation you need. Call us today to learn more about how we can help with your case.