Last reviewed by Dr. Raj MD on January 12th, 2022.
What is Mesothelioma?
It is a type of cancer that primarily affects the mesothelium (thin layer of tissues that covers the internal organs). Mesothelioma has various types depending on what part of the mesothelium it affects.
Image 1: Outlining the different types of mesothelioma.
Picture Source: i1.wp.com/mesotheliomcancer.com
Pleural (lungs) mesothelioma
It is the most common type of mesothelioma (75% of all cases). As the name suggests, it affects the lining of the lung cavity (pleura). To accurately diagnose this type, a CT scan, MRI, and tissue biopsy should be made.
Peritoneal (abdomen) mesothelioma
About10% of mesothelioma case affects the peritoneum. The peritoneal lining gets thickened and in some cases, there are small nodule and/or single big tumor in the peritoneum. A CT scan, MRI, and surgical or needle biopsy should be made to confirm the diagnosis.
Pericardial (heart) mesothelioma
The lining of the heart (pericardium) consists of mesothelial cells. Of all types of mesothelioma, pericardial is considered one of the rarest and accounts for only 1% of mesothelioma cases. A tissue biopsy in the form of thoracotomy should be made to confirm the diagnosis.
Testicular (testes) mesothelioma
Another rare form of mesothelioma and it begins in the tunical vaginalis tissue. To detect the presence of cancer cells, a scrotal ultrasound is made. Although rare, it is an aggressive type. (1, 2, 3, 4)
Types of mesothelioma cells
Picture 2: The different types of mesothelioma cells.
Photo Source: www.treatmesothelioma.org
It is the common cell type as seen in patients with pleural mesothelioma. Fortunately, this cell type is responsive to treatment. With the right and timely treatment, there is a huge chance that the patient can recover.
It is a not so common cell type but the most aggressive one. It grows quickly and rapidly, difficult to treat leading to the patient’s poor prognosis.
It is a combination of epithelial and sarcomatoid cells. The responsiveness to treatment and aggressiveness nature depends on the distribution of the epithelial and sarcomatoid cells. (4, 5, 6, 7)
What are mesothelioma symptoms?
Photo 3: The clinical manifestation of patients with mesothelioma.
Image Source: www.asbestos.com
The symptoms vary on which type of mesothelioma the patient has. The clinical manifestations per mesothelioma types include the following:
Chest pain and discomfort, specifically under the rib cage, shortness of breath, painful cough, unexplained weight loss, and an abnormal lump of tissue under the chest, which is evident during palpation.
Abdominal pain and discomfort, swelling of the abdomen, unexplained weight loss, an abnormal lump of tissue under the abdomen.
Difficulty breathing and chest pain.
Swelling of the testes and presence of abnormal mass. (7, 8. 9, 10)
It is not really clear as to what the exact cause of mesothelioma is. However, cancer cells start when there is a series of genetic mutation within the cell leading to growth and multiplication of cells. Researchers believed that the following factors contribute to mesothelioma:
- Genetic (11)
- Health conditions/medical conditions
- Lifestyle (1)
Who is at risk?
Photo 3: A work environment that exposes you to asbestos puts you at risk for mesothelioma.
Image Source: www.mesotheliomahelp.org
Image 4: Exposure to asbestos is one of the primary causes of mesothelioma.
Picture Source: i1208.photobucket.com
Exposure to asbestos
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral. It is strong, durable, and heat resistant and is used in a wide array of applications such as insulation, flooring, brakes, shingles, and the likes. A dust is created if asbestos is broken up.
If you work with asbestos without protection, there is a huge possibility that you will inhale or swallow the asbestos fiber. Eventually, the fiber will settle in some major organs of the body such as the lungs and stomach. Over time, it could develop into mesothelioma, especially if you have a weak immune system.
If you have a family history of mesothelioma, there is a possibility that you will have such disease too. (3, 7, 11, 12)
What can you do to prevent mesothelioma?
- Know if you are at risk. If you are exposed to asbestos at work, then you might want to consider changing work or wear protective gear. Factory workers, miners, shipbuilders, insulation manufacturers, auto mechanics, and construction workers are all at risk for asbestos exposure.
- Strictly follow safety regulations in the workplace – Make sure that if you are in the workplace, you wear protective clothing and equipment, especially when it comes to handling asbestos and other related products. If you are working in an old home or building, they might contain asbestos. So, you have to be extra careful as if you break up the asbestos there is a possibility that you will inhale the fiber. (12, 13, 14, 15)
When should you call out for help?
If you are experiencing the signs and symptoms mentioned above, then you need to see your doctor. The more you need to see your doctor if you have been exposed to asbestos at least once in your life. You will not develop mesothelioma right away. It would take some time for you to see abnormal changes in your body. (11, 15)
Mesothelioma is quite difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are nonspecific and most of the time, symptoms can only be detected if the condition is already in the advanced stage. To accurately diagnose mesothelioma, various diagnostic procedures should be made such as blood works, imaging studies, and biopsies.
Accurate diagnosis is helpful in determining the stage of mesothelioma the patient has. Diagnosing mesothelioma is based on the following stages:
It is the early stage and is best to find out mesothelioma when it is on its early stage because the treatment options are vast and patient usually has a very good prognosis. A stage 1 mesothelioma is confined to a specific part of the body.
The clinical manifestations are mild and oftentimes mistaken to other types of illnesses. Curative treatments are available. When the right treatment is given, the patient could live for up to 40 months or even longer.
In this stage, the tumor starts to spread to other parts of the body. Mesothelioma treatment options are still available and the prognosis is average. The clinical manifestations are noticeable and in some patients, the signs and symptoms are intense.
Stage 2 mesothelioma life expectancy is at least two years. Some patients live longer depending on the patient’s respond to treatment.
It is the advanced stage, which means that the cancer has already spread to other parts of the body. Many mesothelioma cases are diagnosed in their stage 3 because the symptoms are pronounced and can greatly affect the patient’s quality of life.
Depending on the patient’s age and state of health, the doctor could resort to curative treatment but most of the time, patient with stage 3 mesothelioma will only have palliative care. This leads to a poor prognosis. On the average, patients with stage 3 mesothelioma will only have at least 16 months to live.
It is the most advanced phase of mesothelioma. The cancer has spread to different parts of the body including the lymph nodes. The symptoms are severe and affects the different systems of the body. The cancer cells have already metastasized to other parts of the body including the chest cavity, abdomen, and lymph nodes.
In fact, even the distant organs can be affected even the brain. This is the terminal phase and the doctor can only provide symptomatic or palliative care. The prognosis is poor. In most cases, the patient has less than 12 months to live. (2, 7, 15, 16, 17, 18)
Picture 5: Mesothelioma treatment consists of different treatment modalities.
Photo Source: 1.bp.blogspot.com
When it comes to determining the type of treatment the works for the patient, a lot of factors have to be considered such as the stage of cancer, the parts of body affected (extent of metastasis), cell type, the patient’s age, and general health condition of the patient. Mesothelioma treatments include the following:
The doctor will conduct a thorough assessment to determine if the patient is fit to undergo a surgery or not. Surgical procedures are done to cure and relieve pain.
The patient is put on a course of chemotherapeutic drugs which attacks growing cancer cells. It is used in conjunctions with surgical procedures. After the surgical procedure, the patient has to be put on a course of a chemotherapeutic drug to kill the remaining cancer cells, if there is any.
It can be given to the patient before and after the surgery to significantly reduce the size of cancer cells.
Multimodal treatment approach
It is a combination of chemotherapy and radiation so as to prolong the life of the patient. A success in multimodal treatment could extend the life of the patient for up to five years or even longer.
The patient is exposed to new treatments such as gene therapy, immunotherapy, and photodynamic, to name a few. (19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24)
Photo 6: Consulting a lawyer is one of the best things you can do when filing a mesothelioma claim.
Image Source: probablybadnews.com
If you or someone you know has mesothelioma, then know that you can actually have a solid case and that you are eligible for compensation. Asbestos companies expose their employees to health hazards and most of them are aware of it.
If you have been working or had worked in a company that uses asbestos and you now have mesothelioma, then you could sue your previous employer for negligence. You have the legal option to hold the people/company accountable and that you are eligible to receive financial compensation.
While you can’t do anything about your health, you can somehow use the money to cover for your medical expenses and other incurred cost such as emotional distress, travel and lodging, loss of wages, and the likes.
If you are planning to file a case or simply want to know your legal options, the first thing to do is to seek the service of the best mesothelioma lawyer. You will have a lot of options when filing a mesothelioma claim such as legal claims, insurance claims, and benefits claims.
Which is why it is important to have the best lawyer by your side so that your best interest will be taken care of. Should you wish to file a lawsuit, you can opt for a personal injury lawsuit, mesothelioma lawsuit, and wrongful death lawsuit (in the case of an immediate family whose family member’s death is caused by mesothelioma).
Someone who has a mesothelioma or surviving family member can actually file a claim and be able to receive financial compensation. Once the claim has been filed, it will undergo a litigation process so as to determine whether there is really a case in the first place. The settlement amount varies depending on an individual case. The settlement amount could encompass by any of the following:
Asbestos trust funds
Asbestos trust funds were a result of a bankruptcy proceeding of some asbestos companies. This is to make sure that the victims will be able to receive fair and just compensation.
This is the type of compensation given to workers or employees who have been exposed to asbestos in the workplace and later on developed mesothelioma and other health conditions linked to asbestos exposure. The workers’ compensation amount varies depending on the maximum award limit of each state.
The Department of Veterans Affairs include mesothelioma in its list of covered diseased. If you are a veteran and you have a mesothelioma, then know that you are eligible to file a benefits claim. The amount to receive varies on the individual claim but is typically paid on a monthly basis.
Mesothelioma is a medical condition that has an average to poor prognosis depending on how soon the disease is diagnosed. Most of the time, mesothelioma is diagnosed when it is already in the advanced stage which makes treatment quite challenging.
Not to mention, the skyrocketing cost of healthcare. If you are someone you love has mesothelioma, you might want to consider seeing a lawyer that specializes in mesothelioma cases. You could be eligible for compensation and you can use the money to shoulder the medical expenses and other related costs. (3, 5, 9, 13, 17, 20, 25)