Mesothelioma is an aggressive type of cancer that attacks the mesothelium, a thin layer of tissue that lines body cavities. This disease is caused by exposure to asbestos, a fibrous material that becomes airborne as it breaks down into abrasive microscopic particles that become a carcinogenic irritant when inhaled or ingested.
Mesothelioma is known to take a long time to develop. Decades may go by between the asbestos exposure and the first symptoms of cancer. Mesothelioma patients are commonly diagnosed 20 to 50 years after they encountered asbestos. Most mesothelioma cases stem from employment situations in which a worker was unknowingly inhaling asbestos particles on the jobsite.
While mesothelioma is a very rare cancer, when it does occur, it is commonly found in the lining of the lungs. This type of mesothelioma is pleural mesothelioma. Much less common is peritoneal mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the abdominal cavity. Two other types of mesothelioma also exist, which are pericardial and paratesticular, but those are the least common types of mesothelioma. It is rare to develop more than one type of mesothelioma, but it does happen.
About 75 percent of all diagnosed cases of mesothelioma are pleural mesothelioma, which affect the mesothelial lining of the lungs called the pleura. This type of cancer develops as a result of inhaling asbestos particles.
Pleural mesothelioma differs from lung cancer, which can also be caused by exposure to asbestos. Sometimes mesothelioma is misdiagnosed as lung cancer, which develops in the lung itself, not its lining. Other misdiagnoses include common ailments, such as pneumonia or bronchitis. Such misdiagnoses further delay proper treatment after years of the disease’s quiet incubation.
Symptoms include shortness of breath, chronic cough, weight loss, and fever, as well as chest pain resulting from pleural effusion, which causes pressure from an excess of fluid.
The lining of the abdominal cavity is called the peritoneum. Peritoneal mesothelioma affects about 20 percent of mesothelioma patients. Asbestos fibers can travel to this area of the body after it is inhaled or accidentally ingested. Symptoms associated with this type of mesothelioma include abdominal pain and swelling caused by fluid build-up, as well as bowel obstructions, anemia, weight loss, and fever. It is often misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome or similar gastrointestinal problems.
In the rare instances where both pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma were present, there was no indication that the second instance of the cancer affected the survival benefit of the patient. In cases involving either just one or both types of mesothelioma, there was a median overall survival rate of 33.9 months after the commencement of treatment.
If you received a mesothelioma diagnosis due to asbestos exposure, contact the Philadelphia mesothelioma attorneys at Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown & Sandler for help. Contact us online or call us at 215-569-4000 for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we represent clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Delaware County, Chester County, and Philadelphia County.