The U.S. Social Security Administration recently added pericardial mesothelioma to its Compassionate Allowances list. The Compassionate Allowances program lets people diagnosed with specific conditions receive expedited approval of Social Security disability benefits. These patients do not have to go through the lengthy application and approval process. Often, their diagnosis is so dire that they potentially would not make it through the normal benefit approval process.
Currently, there are more than 250 conditions on the Compassionate Allowances list. Two other types of mesothelioma were already on the list: pleural mesothelioma and peritoneal mesothelioma. These are the most common forms of this cancer.
This addition to the Compassionate Allowances program is good news for people suffering from pericardial mesothelioma. Although this cancer is rare, it is just as serious and fatal as the other types.
Pericardial mesothelioma is cancer that originates in the pericardium, which is the protective membrane that surrounds the heart. Asbestos fibers get trapped in the pericardium and form cancer cells over time. Uncontrolled growth of the cancerous cells leads to thickening of the pericardium and tumor formation. This thickening, along with fluid accumulation, eventually affects heart function. Pericardial mesothelioma can metastasize to the lymph nodes and other organs.
The more common forms of mesothelioma, pleural and peritoneal, affect the chest and abdominal cavities and lining of the lungs. These types account for almost all cases of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma of any type is one of the most fatal cancers because it is often diagnosed in late stages when the five-year survival rate is under 10 percent.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that has been used in common household products and industrial building products since the late 1800s. It is heat- and fire-resistant and relatively low cost, making it a popular choice for many applications.
When asbestos is disturbed, it gives off invisible fibers. People working or living near asbestos inhale these fibers without knowing. After prolong exposure, the asbestos becomes embedded in various body parts, causing abnormal cell growth and cancer. The cancer is almost always slow-growing. Pericardial mesothelioma can be diagnosed from 15 to 60 years after exposure.
The link between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma cancers has been known for decades. While many countries have completely banned the use of asbestos in all applications, it is still used in the United States in controlled quantities.
Pericardial mesothelioma symptoms may be confused with many other heart and chest problems. That is why it is often not diagnosed right away. Anyone exposed to asbestos should alert their doctor of the exposure immediately if any of these symptoms arise:
An exam will start with a complete physical exam and medical history. The patient should always alert the doctor of any asbestos exposure. The doctor may order some or all of the following diagnostic tests:
Pericardial mesothelioma, diagnosed at any stage, is incurable. The estimated survival time after a diagnosis is from six weeks to 15 months. However, some treatments can offer pain relief and may extend the person’s life, known as palliative care.
Pericardiectomy is a surgery that removes all or a portion of the pericardium without affecting normal heart function. If the cancerous pericardium is not removed, the average patient survival rate is just six months. If the cancer has spread to other organs or parts of the heart, surgery is generally not an option for the patient.
Chemotherapy may slow the progression of the cancer and reduce symptoms. Additionally, clinical trials can help with symptoms or progression of the cancer. The patient should ask their doctor which treatment is best for them.
Most mesothelioma cancers are caused almost exclusively by exposure to asbestos. While this is the case with the pericardial type, there may be additional causes as well. Medical researchers are working to identify those causes. Avoiding contact with asbestos can certainly help prevent the disease.
However, some people have jobs that put them in regular contact with burning or eroding asbestos. They should use personal protective equipment at all times, and their employer should provide this equipment. Protective equipment includes filtration masks, goggles or face shields, oxygen tanks, protective clothing, shoe coverings, and gloves. Anyone who is routinely exposed to asbestos should have routine pre-emptive check-ups with a medical professional.
While pericardial mesothelioma is rare, the following workers have a higher-than-average risk for all types of mesothelioma:
This does not mean that a person working in one of the above industries will develop mesothelioma. While the widespread use of asbestos is no longer legal, the United States has not banned the use of asbestos completely, so there is still a possibility of exposure.
If you have symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma or were exposed to asbestos, seek medical attention right away. While the disease cannot be cured, treatment options may prolong life and help manage symptoms, so the earlier the diagnosis, the better. Remember to tell your doctor about exposure to asbestos because pericardial mesothelioma symptoms can be mistaken for many other heart problems.
Another step is to contact a lawyer. Many workers are unknowingly exposed to asbestos, or their employers do not adequately protect them from it. When mesothelioma results from someone else’s negligence, you may be compensated for medical bills, lost wages, and more. You will need a lawyer to help with insurance company negotiations or litigation in court.
A diagnosis of pericardial mesothelioma can be devastating, both financially and emotionally. Let our Philadelphia mesothelioma lawyers at Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown & Sandler help ease some of your legal worries. Call us at 215-569-4000 or complete our online form for a free consultation. We are conveniently located in Philadelphia, and we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Delaware County, Chester County, and Philadelphia County.