Mesothelioma is unique to those who have been exposed to asbestos. Those most at risk of developing mesothelioma are people who have worked with or around asbestos or products containing it, and family members and housewives that have laundered work clothes or visited worksites. People who live near industrial plants where asbestos was used are also at risk.
There is no known “safe” level of exposure to asbestos, as both long-term exposure to low levels of asbestos and short-term contact with high levels of asbestos can cause harm. Because many older buildings contain asbestos in their ceiling material, walls, or flooring, people who live, work, or attend school in such buildings for a long period of time may also be exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos.
If you have directly or indirectly been exposed to asbestos, you should seek a medical evaluation immediately to determine if you have developed mesothelioma. If you have received a positive diagnosis of mesothelioma or asbestos lung cancer and are a resident of Pennsylvania or New Jersey, a mesothelioma and lung cancer attorney from our firm will work relentlessly to achieve the compensation you deserve.
Types of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is a cancer that manifests in the mesothelium. The mesothelium is a two-layer membrane that surrounds and protects the body’s internal organs. A lubricating fluid is secreted between the two layers so that internal organs such as the heart and lungs can move easily within the body. It is theorized that when needle-like asbestos fibers lodge in the mesothelium, they irritate cells and cause them to become cancerous, resulting in mesothelioma. There are three specific types of mesothelioma, pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma, and pericardial mesothelioma, all of which are explained below:
The mesothelium that lines the inner rib cage and the outside of the lungs is known as the pleura. When asbestos is inhaled, the tiny fibers travel to the pleura and cause the cells to become cancerous. Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of the cancer. Symptoms can take 10 to 50 years to become evident, so diagnosis is often made during a routine exam when no symptoms are present. Symptoms, when they do appear, include chest pains, breathing difficulties, lower-back pain, fever, and persistent cough.
When a tumor develops on the mesothelial membrane that surrounds the internal organs of the abdomen, it is known as peritoneal mesothelioma. The only known cause of this type of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure. Like pleural mesothelioma, symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma can take decades to manifest, and detection often comes during an exam for an unrelated condition. As the tumor develops, it can put pressure on other internal organs, including the lungs, and can cause extreme abdominal pain. Other symptoms include weight loss, nausea, fatigue, abdominal bloating, and fever.
Pericardial mesothelioma attacks the mesothelium surrounding the heart. It is the rarest form of mesothelioma, occurring in about 5 percent of cases. Asbestos fibers travel from the lungs to the mesothelial tissue that surrounds the heart, where they lodge and cause cancerous tumors to form. As the tumors expand, they can restrict functioning of the heart and cause cardiac problems, including cardiac failure. Symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma include irregular heartbeat, chest pain, loss of appetite, hypertension, and fatigue.
Because mesothelioma symptoms take so long to appear, often by the time the disease is diagnosed, the prognosis for the patient is not good. However, when mesothelioma is caught in time, treatment options do exist. If you have had prolonged exposure to asbestos in the past, or have worked in a trade at risk for asbestos exposure in which you had contact with asbestos-containing products, we urge you to seek a physical exam immediately and report your asbestos exposure to the physician. If you are diagnosed with mesothelioma, there are legal options available to you. Mesothelioma sufferers from Pennsylvania and New Jersey can contact a mesothelioma and asbestos lung cancer attorney online or call 1-877-SHEINLAW (743-4652) for a thorough case evaluation.
Types of Mesothelioma Cancer Cells
There are three types of cells that can occur in a malignant mesothelioma tumor. Many times more than one cell type appears in a patient. The type(s) of cells that manifest in a particular case are determined through a cytology or biopsy. In a biopsy, a small piece of the mesothelioma tumor is surgically removed and examined under a microscope by a pathologist — a specialist in diagnosing diseased tissue. Cytology, in comparison, is the microscopic study of mesothelial cells in a bodily fluid. A cytology or biopsy is necessary to determine whether the patient indeed suffers from mesothelioma. The three types of mesothelioma cancer cells are:
Epithelioid Mesothelioma Cells
The most common type of mesothelioma cancer cells are epithelioid mesothelioma cells. Occurring in 50 to 70 percent of all cases of malignant mesothelioma, epithelioid cells appear in a tubular pattern of cubed or multi-sided boxes. Each cell has a clearly defined nucleus. Other types of cancer cells closely resemble epithelioid mesothelioma cells, so very careful examination of the cells is necessary to ensure a correct diagnosis.
Sarcomatoid Mesothelioma Cells
Sarcomatoid mesothelioma cancer cells occur in 10 to 15 percent of malignant mesothelioma cases and are the least common of the three types of mesothelioma cancer cells. Sarcomatoid mesothelioma cancer cells arrange in an irregular pattern and are generally oval in shape. The nucleus is not as clearly apparent as it is in epitheliod cells. Sarcomatoid mesothelioma cells resemble cells of sarcomatoid carcinoma and sarcoma cancers. Careful examination under a microscope is necessary to detect sarcomatoid mesothelioma cancer cells precisely.
Biphasic Mesothelioma Cells
The biphasic mesothelioma category consists of both epitheliod and sarcamatoid mesothelioma cancer cells. Biphasic mesothelioma cells differ from the two because biphasic mesothelioma cells do not occur in a unique cellular pattern. The cells can appear mixed together or separately. Biphasic mesothelioma cancer cells occur in approximately 45 to 65 percent of cases.
After any of the three types of mesothelioma cancer cells is detected, life expectancy is not good. A recent study of mesothelioma patients showed that after diagnosis of a mesothelioma cell type, expected survival was from six to eight months. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you need strong representation to get justice and compensation. Residents of Pennsylvania and New Jersey can contact a mesothelioma and asbestos lung cancer attorney at the Shein Law to receive exceptionally effective representation.
Asbestos Lung Cancer
In addition to mesothelioma, asbestos exposure can also cause lung cancer. Inhaled asbestos fibers cannot be eliminated by the body, and so they remain in the lungs. Smokers who have been exposed to asbestos may be up to 90 times more likely to develop lung cancer than nonsmokers.
The majority of asbestos lung cancer cases begin in the lining of the main bronchial tubes, however, this type of cancer can also start in the trachea (wind pipe), smaller airways (bronchioles), and even the air sacs within the lungs called the alveoli. Much like mesothelioma, asbestos lung cancer develops slowly and cells have the potential to spread to other areas of the body.
Types of Asbestos Lung Cancer
Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) are the most commonly seen types of asbestos-related lung cancers. Small cell lung cancer cells are usually small and round shaped compared to non–small cell lung cancer cells, which are generally larger and unusually shaped. In some cases asbestos lung cancer exhibits features of both types of cells, and is classified as mixed small cell / large cell cancer.
As the most common form of lung cancer, non–small cell lung cancer accounts for approximately 75 to 85 percent of lung cancers, whereas small cell lung cancer accounts for approximately 15 to 25 percent according the American Cancer Society and medical reports. Once cancer cells form in the lungs, they can proliferate rapidly, forming tumors. Small cell lung cancer cells typically multiply faster than non-small cell. However, it is possible for all types of lung cancer cells and tumors to spread (metastasize) to other organs if they are not eliminated with treatment.
Asbestos Lung Cancer Symptoms and Diagnosis
Like mesothelioma, asbestos lung cancer victims may be asymptomatic for a long period of time, until the disease progresses to a more serious and possibly fatal stage. Those who do experience symptoms early in the onset of asbestos lung cancer, who according to the American Cancer Society account for approximately 15 percent of cases, complain of the following symptoms: relentless coughing, weight loss, chest pain, hoarseness, and blood in the phlegm. Unfortunately, all of these symptoms are rather nonspecific, and could possibly indicate a wide variety of health conditions in addition to lung cancer.
In order for a physician to reach a diagnosis of lung cancer, a battery of tests must be performed. Diagnostic testing methods may include medical imaging of the lungs (X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, and PET scans), biopsies (there are a variety of biopsy techniques), and analysis of phlegm samples.
If you believe your lung cancer is related to asbestos exposure and you live in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, an asbestos lung cancer attorney from our firm can help you pursue compensation for your medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages.
Other Types of Asbestos-Related Diseases
In addition to mesothelioma and lung cancer, asbestos exposure can also cause other types of cancer and diseases:
In addition to mesothelioma and lung cancer, asbestos exposure can also cause colon cancer, stomach cancer, laryngeal cancer, and esophageal cancer. These types of cancer may be treated successfully in some cases. The earlier a person seeks treatment, the better his or her odds of recovery are.
Asbestosis is a chronic lung condition that can develop as a result of asbestos exposure. When asbestos fibers are inhaled into the airways, they irritate the tissue, causing scar tissue to form in the lungs’ air sacs (called alveoli). The alveoli function to absorb oxygen into the blood from the lungs. The scar tissue created by the asbestos thus diminishes the lungs’ ability to transport oxygen. As scarring worsens, the lung capacity continues to decrease.
Asbestosis can cause a person to frequently feel out of breath and tired, and can also lead to heart problems and chronic lung infection. Coughing and wheezing are common symptoms of asbestosis. Asbestosis is not cancer; however, it is sometimes but not always present in individuals with asbestos-related lung cancer and/or mesothelioma. Similar to asbestos-related lung cancer and mesothelioma, asbestosis may not develop until many years after their exposure to asbestos.
In addition to causing scarring in the lungs, asbestos fibers can also cause irritation and scarring within the pleura, the protective lining around the lungs. This continued irritation forms what is known as “plaques” within the pleura. Plaques thicken and tighten the pleural walls, impairing lung function by disallowing full lung expansion and contraction during breathing. Pleural disease can also cause pleural effusion, which is characterized by a build up of fluid in the pleura.
Pleural disease is a non-cancerous condition, and is different from cancer of the pleura, which is known as mesothelioma. Since pleural disease is an asbestos-related disease, pleural disease may be present in individuals diagnosed with other asbestos-related diseases, such as lung cancer and mesothelioma.