Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is an incurable, asbestos-caused cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs or abdomen. Patients with this cancer have an average life expectancy of 4-18 months, but treatments may extend survival. Since 1979, Sokolove Law has helped patients with mesothelioma navigate life after an unexpected and difficult diagnosis.

What Is Mesothelioma?

Malignant mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer. It originates in the linings (mesothelium) that surround certain organs in the body. This rare cancer affects around 3,000 Americans each year, according to the American Cancer Society.

Types of Mesothelioma

Video Summary: Jim Sokolove, former Chairman and Founder of Sokolove Law, explains what mesothelioma is and who it affects. View Transcript.

What is mesothelioma? Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lungs that primarily caused by exposure to asbestos. That’s the basic thing that people have to understand. It is a cancer to the lining of the lungs that is 99% of the time caused by exposure to asbestos.

Who gets Mesothelioma? We’re talking about people who worked in factories, worked around brake linings, worked in the military and found themselves in an unfortunate situation where the manufactures of asbestos put profits ahead of people, did not inform these workers of the dangers. People went to work, doing the right thing, and wound up catching an environmental disease that came about by the exposure to asbestos, when the manufactures knew about this and refused to inform the workers.

Pleural Mesothelioma

Malignant pleural mesothelioma occurs in the lining of the lungs (pleura). It is the most common type of mesothelioma, accounting for roughly 75% of all cases.

"[Pleural] mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the chest. Many people think it might be lung cancer, but it actually isn’t, and it’s not caused by smoking. It’s caused by asbestos exposure."

– Dr. Robert B. Cameron,
Pleural Mesothelioma Specialist

Pleural mesothelioma is categorized into stages that describe how far a patient’s cancer has progressed. By identifying the mesothelioma stage, doctors can make informed treatment decisions that make the most sense for the patient.

Learn More About Pleural Mesothelioma

Pleural Mesothelioma Stages

Stage 121 MonthsLife Expectancy

Stage 1

Stage 1 of pleural mesothelioma is the earliest stage. Patients with stage 1 mesothelioma are usually eligible for curative surgery, as their tumors are still contained to the pleura.

Stage 219 MonthsLife Expectancy

Stage 2

In stage 2, the cancer begins to spread beyond the pleura. Patients with stage 2 pleural mesothelioma may still qualify for surgery.

Stage 316 MonthsLife Expectancy

Stage 3

The cancer remains on one side of the chest but is continuing to spread in stage 3. Stage 3 pleural mesothelioma patients are usually no longer able to undergo surgery.

Stage 412 MonthsLife Expectancy

Stage 4

Stage 4 is the most advanced stage of pleural mesothelioma. By stage 4, the cancer has spread throughout the body through the lymph nodes. The focus of treatment becomes enhancing quality of life through palliative care.

Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms

Most Common Symptoms

  • Chest pain
  • Chronic Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Other Symptoms

  • Tightness in the chest
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Weight loss
  • Coughing up blood
  • Fever
  • Fluid buildup in the chest wall (pleural effusions)
  • Fatigue
  • Pain in the ribs, shoulder, & upper back
  • Night sweats

If you’ve been diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, or if you’re experiencing the symptoms above, reach out to our team of Patient Advocates for a free case review.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Peritoneal mesothelioma originates in the lining of the abdomen (peritoneum), making up around 10-15% of all mesothelioma cases.

The median life expectancy for peritoneal mesothelioma patients is around 63.2 months with treatment.

Learn More About Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Symptoms

Most Common Symptoms

  • Abdominal distension (swelling)
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Weight loss

Other Symptoms

  • Blood in vomit and/or stool
  • Fluid buildup in the abdominal cavity (ascites)
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Night sweats
  • Loss of appetite

Rare Types of Mesothelioma

Man with Doctor

Pericardial Mesothelioma

Pericardial mesothelioma originates in the lining of the heart (pericardium). It is one of the least common forms of mesothelioma, making up only 0.7% of all cases. The life expectancy of pericardial mesothelioma patients is approximately 6 months.

Pericardial mesothelioma symptoms include:

  • Heart palpitations (arrhythmia)
  • Heart murmurs
  • Irregular heartbeat

Testicular Mesothelioma

Testicular mesothelioma occurs within the lining of the testes (tunica vaginalis). It is one of the rarest forms of mesothelioma, accounting for less than 1% of all cases. The median life expectancy of testicular mesothelioma is 26-36 months after surgery.

Testicular mesothelioma symptoms include:

  • Inflammation or thickening of the testicular lining
  • Swelling of the testicles

Mesothelioma Cell Types

Each cell type grows and spreads at a different rate, giving them a unique prognosis and treatment response.

Mesothelioma tumors are made up of 3 main cell types:

Epithelioid

  • 70% of mesothelioma cases
  • Slow tumor growth
  • Responds well to treatments
  • Higher life expectancy

Sarcomatoid

  • 7-15% of mesothelioma cases
  • Rapid tumor growth
  • Responds poorly to treatments
  • Lower life expectancy

Biphasic (mixed)

  • 10-20% of mesothelioma cases
  • Mix of epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells
  • Life expectancy falls between other cell types

Mesothelioma Causes

Exposure to asbestos is the only proven cause of mesothelioma. The U.S. military and many private industries capitalized on the usefulness of asbestos throughout the 1900s, using asbestos-containing products heavily.

Groups with a higher risk of asbestos exposure include:

  • Tradespeople
  • U.S. military veterans
  • Loved ones of individuals exposed to asbestos
  • Individuals living near an asbestos mine
The Covered-Up Dangers of Asbestos

The greater the exposure to asbestos fibers, the greater the chance of developing a devastating disease such as mesothelioma. Companies that sold asbestos products were aware of the risk factors of this mineral and deliberately hid the truth from the government and the public.

Recently Diagnosed With Mesothelioma?

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Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Early detection and diagnosis of mesothelioma are crucial to accessing and qualifying for curative treatments.

Mesothelioma is diagnosed through the following steps:

  • Doctors perform a physical exam and study a patient’s symptoms.
  • X-rays and CT scans look for tumors. Doctors may also order blood tests.
  • A biopsy (fluid or tissue sample) is needed to make an official diagnosis.

A cancer diagnosis is devastating — paying for treatment shouldn’t add to your worries. Contact Sokolove Law at (800) 647-3434 to see if you may qualify for compensation.

Misdiagnosing Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is often misdiagnosed because its symptoms are nonspecific and common in many other illnesses. Further, it can take roughly 20-50 years for individuals to experience symptoms of mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos.

These factors, and the sheer rarity of mesothelioma, tend to make diagnosing this type of cancer difficult.

People who think they may have mesothelioma should seek a second opinion from an experienced mesothelioma specialist. This reduces the chances of misdiagnosis and helps ensure effective treatment options will be available.

Mesothelioma Treatment

The most common mesothelioma cancer treatments are:

Specialists determine which mesothelioma treatment options make the most sense for the patient and create personalized treatment plans. These treatment strategies are based on a patient’s health information, prognosis, and personal wishes.

Doctors will often prescribe multiple types of treatments at once to increase their effectiveness.

Mesothelioma Surgery

Surgery is the most effective way to eliminate mesothelioma tumors. The purpose of surgery is to physically remove the tumors present in the patient.

Since surgery for mesothelioma is aggressive, it is usually only an option for patients in the early stages of the disease who are otherwise in good physical health.

Top surgeries for mesothelioma include:

Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP)

  • Used for pleural mesothelioma
  • Removal of entire diseased lung
  • Median survival after surgery is 19 months

Pleurectomy with decortication (P/D)

  • Used for pleural mesothelioma
  • Tumor removed and patient keeps both lungs
  • Median survival after surgery is 29 months

Cytoreduction with HIPEC

  • Used for peritoneal mesothelioma
  • Combines surgery with heated chemotherapy
  • Can extend survival after surgery up to 90 months

Surgery for mesothelioma is aggressive. It is usually only an option for patients in the early stages of the disease who are otherwise in good physical health, according to Mayo Clinic.

Mesothelioma Chemotherapy

During chemotherapy, patients are given drugs that kill mesothelioma cancer cells. Patients typically receive several rounds of chemotherapy over the course of their treatment.

Chemotherapy may be used before, during, or after surgery. When it is used depends on the treatment plan. It may also be used to ease painful symptoms in patients who cannot undergo surgery.

Mesothelioma Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy treatment, in which a patient’s immune system is activated to attack and kill cancer cells, has proved effective in treating other types of cancers and is now the focus of clinical trials that will determine if it can also slow the spread of mesothelioma.

A phase II trial at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center found promising results for peritoneal mesothelioma patients treated with a combination of the immunotherapy drug atezolizumab (brand name: Tecentriq®) and the chemotherapy drug bevacizumab (Avastin®).

Additionally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of immunotherapy medications ipilimumab (Yervoy®) and nivolumab (Opdivo®) as a front-line treatment for those with pleural mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma Radiation Therapy

With radiation therapy, patients are exposed to powerful rays of energy. The rays damage the DNA of mesothelioma cells, shrinking them or preventing them from multiplying.

Radiation therapy often has fewer side effects compared to surgery and chemotherapy. In some cases, its high-energy beams can damage healthy tissue along with tumors.

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials conduct cancer research for mesothelioma to determine whether new, cutting-edge therapies may help patients more than standard treatments.

Mesothelioma clinical trials are currently studying promising treatments including targeted therapy, immunotherapy, and gene therapy.

Accessing Treatment at a Mesothelioma Cancer Center

Connecting with a specialized oncologist at a mesothelioma cancer center helps patients get an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. These facilities have access to state-of-the-art equipment and employ the best mesothelioma doctors in the United States.

Our team can help you understand your medical options and find a National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated cancer center near you. Learn More

Mesothelioma Prognosis

Couple with Doctor

Mesothelioma prognosis, which is the expected progression of the cancer, gives patients a general idea of what to expect after diagnosis and treatment. Since mesothelioma is often diagnosed after the cancer has spread, the majority of patients have a poor prognosis.

Prognosis takes into account both the life expectancy and survival rate for mesothelioma.

Average life expectancy with mesothelioma is:

22 ½ Months

1-year survival rate for mesothelioma is:

82%
A Prognosis Is Not Final!

A mesothelioma patient’s prognosis is not final. Improving overall health and getting prompt treatment from a specialist have helped many patients far outlive their original prognosis.

Financial Assistance for Mesothelioma Victims

Most families do not expect a mesothelioma diagnosis and the high costs that come with treatment. These expenses can increase stress and cause further complications at a time when patients should be focusing on their health.

Fortunately, there are many potential options for financial help for mesothelioma cancer patients and their family members.

Mesothelioma Lawsuits

Families affected by mesothelioma may be eligible to file a mesothelioma lawsuit and receive compensation by working with Sokolove Law, a national law firm that specializes in asbestos cases.

Learn More About Mesothelioma Lawsuits

Asbestos Trust Funds

There is an estimated $30+ Billion allocated to asbestos trust funds to make up for the irreparable damage caused by manufacturers of asbestos-containing products.

Learn More About Asbestos Trust Funds

VA Benefits

Veterans who developed mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos during their military service may qualify for compensation and other benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Learn More About VA Benefits

“[Mesothelioma is] an expensive disease to treat. A lawsuit doesn’t bring back your loved one, or it certainly doesn’t take away what’s happening with the disease. But it allows you that flexibility that you can take this money, and you can pay for any treatment that your insurance company may not cover.”

– Mary Hesdorffer, NP,
Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation

Sokolove Law Can Help You

We understand how physically, emotionally, and financially devastating it is when you or someone you love has been a victim of injustice. You are not alone.

The experienced mesothelioma lawyers at Sokolove Law are here to help. They can answer any questions you may have about mesothelioma lawsuits, asbestos trust funds, and VA benefits.

Don’t wait — request a free case review today.

Frequently Asked Questions about Mesothelioma

Is mesothelioma contagious?

Mesothelioma is a cancer that affects the mesothelium, the tissue that lines the lungs, abdomen, and heart. As is the case with all cancers, mesothelioma is not contagious.

While some cancers can be hereditary, such as breast and ovarian cancer, mesothelioma is not hereditary. If multiple members of a certain family develop mesothelioma, it is likely that this is due to secondhand exposure to asbestos.

Secondary exposure can occur when a family member unknowingly brings home microscopic asbestos fibers that are attached to their clothes, body, or hair, after working around asbestos.

How does mesothelioma kill you?

Mesothelioma kills because it is a terminal form of cancer. Pleural mesothelioma, which affects nearly 75 percent of all mesothelioma patients, attacks the linings of a person’s lungs, called the mesothelium.

Caused by asbestos exposure, mesothelioma occurs when asbestos fibers cross the lung surface and enter the pleural cavity. Over time, asbestos fibers can overwhelm a body’s defense cells and cause an inflammatory reaction.

As a result, the lung gets “trapped,” as it is no longer able to expand easily. Eventually, if the entire cancer cannot be removed from the thin layer of the mesothelium, a person can die.

What causes mesothelioma cancer?

Mesothelioma is a terminal form of cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral mined from beneath the earth’s surface.

Most commonly mesothelioma is caused by repeated and prolonged exposure to asbestos, and such extended exposure typically occurs at one’s workplace, where asbestos is being mined or used in manufacturing on a consistent basis.

A person can also be exposed to asbestos during the asbestos abatement process or through secondhand exposure.

What is mesothelioma disease?

Mesothelioma is a particularly aggressive form of cancer, which is caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a fibrous, naturally occurring mineral, and when disturbed, it can release microscopic fibers into the air.

These fibers, once inadvertently breathed in, can become lodged in a person’s lung lining, called the mesothelium. If the body’s defense cells are unable to fend off and destroy the asbestos fibers, it can ultimately lead to cancer.

What is mesothelioma asbestos cancer?

Asbestos is an organic, fibrous mineral that is found commonly in nature. To this day, asbestos is mined from the earth to be used most commonly in the manufacturing of products that require strong fireproofing.

Because of asbestos’s fibrous nature, it can easily be damaged and release microscopic fibers into the air. If these fibers are inhaled or ingested, the result could be a particularly deadly form of cancer called mesothelioma.

There are three types of mesothelioma: pleural, peritoneal, and pericardial. Asbestos can also cause lung cancer, and a deadly disease known as asbestosis.

How do asbestos fibers enter the body?

The most common way for asbestos to enter the body is by inhaling airborne fibers. Most fibers will become trapped in the mucous membranes of the nose or throat.

But some may be deposited within air passages in the lungs, and others, if swallowed, can also enter the stomach. In this case, nearly all fibers will pass along the intestines and leave the body through feces.

But if the fibers penetrate cells or become trapped within the lungs or stomach, they can build up over time and remain in place for many years. This can cause health risks such as lung cancer and mesothelioma.

How does asbestos cause mesothelioma?

Asbestos fibers cause inflammation and scarring in the lungs. The body responds by trapping the fibers in cells to protect and lubricate the lung tissue. The asbestos fibers can cause mutations in these protective cells and damage the signals that control their growth. Mutated mesothelial cells eventually grow uncontrollably, causing mesothelioma tumors that spread across the lining of the lungs or other organs.

Can mesothelioma be inherited?

Unlike many other cancers, mesothelioma is not hereditary. However, ongoing research is investigating genetic predispositions to the disease. Certain genes, which are hereditary, have been found to increase the likelihood that asbestos exposure will lead to mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma sometimes appears hereditary because multiple family members will be contract the disease after being exposed to asbestos, or even exposed secondhand, as in the case of a child with a parent who is exposed as work.

Can mesothelioma be caused by smoking?

Mesothelioma is not caused by smoking, however smoking significantly increases the risk of mesothelioma. Studies have shown that cigarette smokers are at least 50 percent more likely to develop mesothelioma after exposure to asbestos.

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