A Deadly Form of Cancer Caused by Asbestos Exposure
Pleural mesothelioma, more commonly known as fluid in the chest, is the most common type of mesothelioma, occurring in approximately 75% of all mesothelioma cases. This form of cancer affects the pleura, which is a thin, transparent membrane that surrounds the lungs and lines the chest cavity. The pleural membrane lubricates the space between the lungs and chest cavity, allowing the lungs to easily expand and contract as a person breathes. When tumors develop in the pleura, this will lead to fluid in the lungs, chest pain, chronic cough, shortness of breath, fatigue and other symptoms of decreased lung function. Pleural mesothelioma is typically not diagnosed until it is in the advanced stages of disease, making treatment options limited.
Occupational asbestos exposure is the leading cause of pleural mesothelioma, and most patients (approximately 80%) diagnosed with this form of cancer are male. When asbestos fibers are inhaled, they may migrate to and become lodged in the pleural membrane, where they may remain for years or even decades. Over a period of 20, 30, 40 or 50 years, the fine needle-like or curled asbestos fibers may remain embedded in the pleura, causing irritation and scar tissue. In some cases, the pleural cells undergo genetic changes and may become cancerous, dividing uncontrollably and creating tumors that limit lung function and create an excess of fluid in the pleural cavity.
What are the symptoms of pleural mesothelioma?
Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma often do not present for 20 to 50 years after initial exposure to asbestos. They also may mimic symptoms of common and less serious medical conditions. The long latency period and seemingly minor symptoms often lead to a diagnosis when the disease is already in its advanced stages. This limits treatment options and may make a patient’s prognosis unfavorable. In fact, only about 5-10% of patients diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma live five years beyond their diagnoses.
The following are symptoms of pleural mesothelioma:
- Breathlessness (dyspnea)
- Chronic cough
- Coughing up blood (hemoptysis)
- Chest pain
- Unexplained weight loss
- Pleural effusions
- Fever, chills and night sweats
A person who has a history of asbestos exposure should be diligent in maintaining regular medical check-ups and should inform his or her physician of this history. The physician will then know to look for certain symptoms of mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer, pleural disorders and other asbestos-related diseases.
Involving a Mesothelioma Attorney
Those who are diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma should consider talking to an attorney about their legal options. Because asbestos exposure is known as the cause of this form of cancer, it is possible that the party responsible for a patient’s exposure can be held liable. Medical care and benefits may also be available under government programs, such as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs or workers’ compensation. A mesothelioma lawyer at our firm can talk to you about where and how your exposure occurred and can advise you of the options available to you based on this information.
It may be the shape and size of asbestos fibers or a chemical reaction they cause in the pleural cells that leads to mesothelioma. Though researchers have not yet been able to pinpoint the precise cause of this deadly form of cancer, it is evident that exposure to asbestos is to blame. If you would like to learn more about pleural mesothelioma, your rights in filing a lawsuit for primary or secondary asbestos exposure and how an attorney can help you, please contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC to schedule a free consultation. We represent pleural mesothelioma patients across the U.S. from offices in seven states and are standing by to see how we can help you.