What is Mesothelioma?

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Mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelium; the protective sac that covers and protects most internal organs of the body. The mesothelium has two layers, one, which covers the organ, and a second, which forms a sac around it. The mesothelium has different names depending on the location in the body. The pleura is the name for the mesothelial tissue surrounding the lungs and lining the chest cavity. The peritoneum covers most of the organs in the abdominal cavity, while the pericardium covers and protects the heart.

The mesothelium produces a lubricating fluid that allows organs within it to move and glide easily. The fluid allows the lungs to breathe and the heart to expand and contract without creating any type of internal friction.

Like other forms of cancer, mesothelioma occurs when cells become abnormal and divide or grow out of control. When someone has mesothelioma, the helpful lubricating fluid described above may be over-produced. This excess fluid encases the organs with a thick layer of tumor tissue, described as a rind type of layer. In advanced cases of mesothelioma, cells metastasize, or grow and invade other organs and spread to other areas of the body.

The majority of individuals suffering from mesothelioma have cancer in the lining of the lung. Sometimes, mesothelioma occurs in the lining of the abdominal cavity (peritoneal mesothelioma) or in the lining of the heart (pericardial mesothelioma).

The symptoms of mesothelioma are common to a number of illnesses which means that mesothelioma is difficult to diagnose. Unique types of treatment for mesothelioma are still being investigated through clinical trials and research, but as a general rule, mesothelioma does not respond well to most treatments that are currently being offered.

Mesothelioma is caused by breathing or ingesting asbestos fibers. The coarse fibers cause scarring of the mesothelial tissue which can cause asbestosis or pleural plaques. Unfortunately, the scarring can also lead to cancer known as mesothelioma.

It often takes 20 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos before the symptoms of mesothelioma develop. This period of time is referred to as a latency period. Because of the latency period, the disease commonly affects men and women that are at least 50 years of age and that worked with asbestos between 20 and 50 years ago. Many workers working 20 to 50 years ago did not use any type of protection in the workplace while they were exposed to the dust or fibers from asbestos. At the same time, however, many of the companies employing the workers had full knowledge that asbestos was dangerous and that exposure to asbestos would harm the health of many of the workers. Insulators, plasterers, electricians, pipefitters, mechanics, ironworkers, ship builders, ship workers, brick layers, carpenters, and other tradesmen are just a few examples of workers that were likely to work with asbestos on a day-to-day basis. Also at risk are the families of these workers, as the asbestos fibers may be brought into the home from the clothes, skin, or hair of the worker.

If the mesothelioma is detected in the earlier stages and treated aggressively, studies have shown that half will survive two years and 20 percent will survive five years. However, if the diagnosis is for Advanced Mesothelioma, only 10 percent have a three-year survival rate and only 5 percent have a life expectancy of five years.

Keep in mind that these statistics should only be used as general guidelines, and not as a definitive idea of an individual patient’s survival rate. Patients are encouraged to speak with their physicians about their individual prognosis.

Unfortunately, millions of people have been exposed to asbestos over the years. Only now are we able to see the disastrous effects of asbestos exposure in the workplace.

As with other cancers, a speedy diagnosis is important to effective treatment of mesothelioma. If you believe that you may have mesothelioma and that you worked with asbestos in the past, you may wish to inform your doctor of this fact.


If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma in the last five years, you may wish to meet with an attorney to discuss your legal rights. Anyone who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma should consider this option. If you have a loved one who is deceased because of mesothelioma, their spouse or an executor of the estate should also consider legal representation.

There are different avenues to consider regarding representation and the possibilities of obtaining compensation. We believe it is important that you choose representation by a firm that is exclusively devoted to mesothelioma claims. We believe you should choose a firm that has years of experience and a proven track record with mesothelioma claims.

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