Quick Summary

Over 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year. The only known cause of this cancer is exposure to asbestos. Victims diagnosed with mesothelioma may be eligible for financial compensation. However, time is limited. Do not delay — get a free case review today.

What Is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a rare — but deadly — form of cancer. It develops when asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested. Once inside the body, the fibers get stuck in the protective linings of major organs.

Mesothelioma can occur in the lining surrounding the:

  • Abdomen
  • Lungs
  • Heart
  • Testicles

Mesothelioma has no cure, but with medical help, patients may be able to extend their lifespan.

Causes of Mesothelioma

The only known cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure.

Asbestos is a mineral known for being fire resistant. It was used throughout the 20th century in many industries and the U.S. military.

Asbestos could be found in thousands of products, including:

  • Buildings
  • Ships
  • Vehicles

However, if these products broke down, asbestos fibers could be released into the air. Since these fibers are microscopic, anyone nearby could breathe them in without notice.

Once inside the human body, they cannot be removed. These fibers then slowly irritate nearby healthy tissue, causing scarring and, eventually, cancer.

It takes 20-50 years for mesothelioma to develop. Many people who were exposed to asbestos decades ago are at risk of mesothelioma today.

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Types of Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma can develop in different areas of the body. What type develops depends on where the asbestos fibers are lodged.

Pleural Mesothelioma

Pleural mesothelioma affects the lining of the lungs. It is the most common type of mesothelioma, accounting for about 75% of all cases.

Notable symptoms include weight loss and tightness in the chest.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Peritoneal mesothelioma develops in the lining of the abdomen. Common symptoms include abdominal swelling, diarrhea, and constipation.

This is the second most common type of mesothelioma. It accounts for roughly 20% of all cases.

Pericardial Mesothelioma

Pericardial mesothelioma occurs in the lining of the heart.

This type of mesothelioma may cause heart murmurs and other issues.  It is often mistaken for other heart conditions because it is so rare.

Testicular Mesothelioma

Testicular mesothelioma starts the lining around the testicles, causing swelling and fluid buildup. It is the rarest type of the disease.

Symptoms of Mesothelioma

The symptoms of mesothelioma are slightly different with each type. The cancer affects the body differently depending on where it forms.

That being said, there are a few symptoms shared by most types of mesothelioma.

These symptoms include:

  • Blood in stool
  • Bloody sputum
  • Fatigue
  • Fluid buildup in the affected area
  • Rib Pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Shoulder pain
  • Upper back pain
  • Vomiting blood

Regardless of type, mesothelioma symptoms are usually mild at first. It is often mistaken for other, more common illnesses.

However, since mesothelioma is deadly, it is important that you are properly diagnosed.

Mesothelioma Diagnosis

A mesothelioma diagnosis is crucial to getting help for this disease. The earlier the disease is caught, the sooner you can receive life-extending treatments.

Mesothelioma is diagnosed through the following steps:

  1. First, doctors will perform a physical exam and study your symptoms.
  2. Doctors will then use X-rays and CT scans look for tumors.
  3. Finally, a biopsy is needed to make an official diagnosis.

A biopsy is a fluid or tissue sample of the affected area. By studying this sample, doctors can determine if you have mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma Stages

As part of the diagnosis process, doctors will look at how far the cancer has spread. They will classify it into one of four stages.

These stages are:

  • Stage 1: The cancer is contained to the lining of the lungs.
  • Stage 2: The cancer has begun to spread to other areas (such as nearby lymph nodes), but it is still relatively contained.
  • Stage 3: The cancer has spread far past the lung lining and into the rib cage, heart lining and lymph nodes.
  • Stage 4: By this stage, the cancer has spread to distant organs like the brain.
Did You Know?

Only pleural mesothelioma has official stages. There have not been enough reported cases of the other types to determine stages.

Mesothelioma Prognosis

After a doctor makes a diagnosis, they will provide a prognosis. This is the expected outlook for the disease. It helps patients and their families prepare for the future.

Mesothelioma has a poor prognosis since it has no cure and is often diagnosed after it has spread.

Most patients have a lifespan of 12-21 months after they are diagnosed.

Patients who are diagnosed with stage 1 or stage 2 mesothelioma have a better prognosis, as the cancer has not spread.

However, you may be able to improve your prognosis through medical treatment. There are treatment options available no matter what your prognosis is.

Treatment Options for Mesothelioma

The most common treatment options for mesothelioma are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.

These treatments allow doctors to remove tumors and kill cancer cells. Mesothelioma specialists may combine these treatments for best results.


Surgery for mesothelioma is one of the most important forms of treatment. It allows doctors to remove all visible cancer tumors from the body.

Patients can undergo surgery if they are relatively healthy and if the cancer hasn’t spread too far. There are a few different types of surgery that doctors may perform.

Doctors may also use chemotherapy and radiation to supplement surgery.


During chemotherapy, patients are given drugs that kill mesothelioma 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.


With radiation therapy, patients are exposed to powerful rays of energy. This damages the DNA of mesothelioma cells and prevents them from multiplying. Many cells also die, allowing tumors to shrink.

Like chemotherapy, radiation may be given before, during, or after surgery.

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials offer new hope to patients if standard treatments are not effective. These trials test new treatment methods with hopes of finding a cure.

Clinical trials are offered at major cancer centers across the country. Patients can learn more about clinical trials by talking to their mesothelioma doctor.

All clinical trials have eligibility requirements. Not all mesothelioma patients will be able to participate in every clinical trial.

Mesothelioma Treatment Costs

While treatments are key for long-term survival, the costs can add up quickly for patients.

For example, several rounds of chemotherapy can cost upward of $80,000. Life-extending surgeries can cost anywhere from $100,000-$600,000.

Insurance can help cover expenses. However, most patients will still have to pay some of the costs out of their own pockets. Unprepared patients may have to pay for all the medical bills on their own.

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Mesothelioma Legal Options

Victims of mesothelioma should not be expected to pay the high costs of treatment on their own. They had no idea that asbestos exposure would lead to this deadly disease.

Fortunately, there are different options that can help mesothelioma patients afford the cost of treatment and protect their family’s future.

There are many options available to patients, including:

Mesothelioma Lawsuits

Mesothelioma lawsuits seek compensation from companies that made and sold asbestos products. Many of these companies knew asbestos was dangerous but hid the truth to make a profit.

Most mesothelioma lawsuits are settled out of court. This means that patients can avoid the stress of a trial.

Mesothelioma and Asbestos Trust Funds

As the government became more aware of the dangers of asbestos, they took steps to help those affected by corporate negligence.

In the 1990s, asbestos trust funds were set up to help victims and their families. Today, it is estimated these trusts amount to over $30 Billion.

Additionally, new companies are now accepting claims. This will likely make more trust money available. A mesothelioma lawyer may be able to help you access these funds.

VA Benefits for Veterans

Veterans with mesothelioma can receive benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Asbestos was used in military ships, buildings, and vehicles from the 1930s to the early 1980s. Veterans are at a higher risk of mesothelioma than the general population.

Asbestos companies hid the deadly truth about their products for decades. Because of this, the military did not know the dangers until thousands had been exposed.

Veterans and Mesothelioma

Military veterans make up over 30% of all diagnosed cases of mesothelioma.

VA benefits provide financial aid, medical care, and other services to veterans and their families. These tax-free benefits can be a great help to veterans who are struggling.

To make sure veterans get the benefits they need, many of them work with VA-accredited lawyers. These lawyers have the experience and resources needed to file VA claims properly.

We Are Ready to 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 trust funds, lawsuits, and VA benefits.

Do not wait — request a free case review today.

Author:Sokolove Law Team
Sokolove Law Team

Contributing Authors

The Sokolove Law Content Team is made up of writers, editors, and journalists. We work with case managers and mesothelioma attorneys to keep site information up to date and accurate. Our site has a wealth of resources available for victims of mesothelioma and their families.

Last modified: May 6, 2020