Exposure to asbestos is the only known cause of malignant mesothelioma, a relatively rare but always incurable cancer. It’s a sad fact, faced by thousands in the United States every year. In fact, many of those who are diagnosed with mesothelioma will live for only about a year after the diagnosis – sometimes less. If you or someone you love is diagnosed with mesothelioma, it is imperative to seek legal help as quickly as possible by arranging to speak with an experienced Chicago personal injury attorney.

Mesothelioma is a cancer that can take as long as twenty to fifty years to develop. It occurs in the lining of the chest, abdomen, lungs, and heart. Each year in the U.S., approximately 3,000 people receive a mesothelioma diagnosis. If you believe that you may have inhaled asbestos, and if you experience early signs of mesothelioma – coughing, shortness of breath, swelling, pain, unexpected weight loss, fever, or anemia – see your doctor at once.

Although there is still no cure, treatment can usually ease the symptoms of mesothelioma and slow its progress. If you are (or become) a mesothelioma patient, ask your doctor about new and experimental treatments.

Mesothelioma can arise when someone has inhaled asbestos particles, fibers, or dust into his or her lungs. If that asbestos inhalation happened due to an employer’s negligence or the negligence of a property owner, contractor, or manufacturer, a mesothelioma patient is entitled by law to justice – meaning financial compensation.

If you have received a mesothelioma diagnosis in or near the greater Chicago area, consult immediately with an experienced Chicago personal injury attorney, and make certain that your attorney has experience representing mesothelioma patients.

Candidly, the prognosis for mesothelioma sufferers is never good, but many mesothelioma patients have been able to improve their prognosis with immediate, appropriate treatment and with a strong commitment to a healthy lifestyle. A great deal hinges on the type of mesothelioma, the progress of the disease, and the patient’s age and health apart from mesothelioma.

WHAT FIVE FACTORS DETERMINE A PROGNOSIS FOR MESOTHELIOMA?

1. Location: Peritoneal mesothelioma (located in the abdomen) has a marginally better prognosis than pleural mesothelioma (located in the lungs), and pleural mesothelioma has a slightly better prognosis than pericardial mesothelioma (located in the heart), which has a very poor prognosis.

2. Stage: Mesothelioma victims who receive an early diagnosis and treatment have a better prognosis than patients with a later diagnosis. By the time mesothelioma advances to Stage III or Stage IV, in most cases, only palliative treatments will be administered to ease discomfort and pain.

3. Cell Type: There are three primary mesothelioma cell types, each with several subtypes. Different cell types have a different impact on the prognosis and the treatment a patient receives. The variations are caused by genetic mutations to healthy cells due to asbestos inhalation. Of the three main mesothelioma cell types, epithelioid mesothelioma is the most common and has a slightly better prognosis than sarcomatoid mesothelioma or biphasic mesothelioma.

4. Metastasis: If mesothelioma spreads, the prognosis is not good. It is far more difficult to remove the cancer surgically or fight it through chemotherapy after mesothelioma has spread to other parts of the body.

5. Age and health apart from mesothelioma: Mesothelioma patients under age fifty – and in otherwise relatively good health – will have a better mesothelioma prognosis. Many older patients already suffer from one or more other medical conditions that may restrict treatment options and reduce the patient’s overall strength and health.

HOW DOES THE LOCATION OF MESOTHELIOMA IMPACT A PROGNOSIS?

1. Pleural mesothelioma (mesothelioma in the lungs): Pleural mesothelioma patients who obtain treatment typically survive for six to twelve months after receiving the diagnosis, although slightly longer periods of time have been reported when the treatment is chemotherapy using the drugs pemetrexed (Alimta®) and Cisplatin.

2. Peritoneal mesothelioma (mesothelioma in the abdomen): After receiving the diagnosis, the typical peritoneal mesothelioma patient survives for approximately a year. Today, however, healthier and younger peritoneal mesothelioma patients who pursue treatment through surgery and hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy can survive much longer. Reportedly about fifty percent of the patients receiving the treatment have survived for more than five years.

3. Pericardial mesothelioma (mesothelioma in the heart): Usually, pericardial mesothelioma is only diagnosed when an autopsy is conducted. For patients who receive a pericardial mesothelioma diagnosis, candidly and frankly, the diagnosis is not hopeful.

In recent decades, cancer researchers have developed and discovered increasingly effective mesothelioma treatments, improving the long-term prognosis for the average patient. Still, an early and accurate diagnosis of mesothelioma combined with immediate proper treatment is the best way to improve a prognosis. Blood tests that identify particular biomarkers can now detect mesothelioma earlier than ever before.

WHO IS AT RISK FOR MESOTHELIOMA, AND WHY?

Because mesothelioma takes so long to develop, it can be difficult to pinpoint the precise source of someone’s asbestos exposure. Asbestos was used everywhere in shipbuilding, manufacturing, construction, and in the military right up until the 1980s. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that more than one million workers in construction and other fields are at risk right now for mesothelioma.

A federal statute – the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 – now protects most of this nation’s workers from exposure to asbestos, so individuals over the age of 60 face a risk for mesothelioma that’s significantly greater than the risk for people who are under the age of 50. In fact, victims who were exposed to asbestos thirty or forty years ago may only now be receiving a diagnosis of mesothelioma.

Those victims may still qualify to obtain workers’ compensation benefits, and they may still be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the party or parties responsible for their exposure to asbestos. An experienced Chicago personal injury attorney may be able to help you trace your asbestos exposure and hold negligent parties accountable. Some patients may receive a settlement or a verdict to compensate them for cancer treatments, lost wages, and related expenses.

If you receive a mesothelioma diagnosis, discuss your legal rights and options as a mesothelioma victim as quickly as possible with an experienced Chicago personal injury attorney. Victims in some cases may qualify for substantial compensation covering years of medical treatment and associated expenses. If you worked with asbestos, even decades ago, or if you shared a residence with anyone who worked with asbestos, get checked for the disease as swiftly as you possibly can.

By: Stephen Phillips

Stephen D. Phillips is the managing partner at the Phillips Law Offices in Chicago. He earned his Juris Doctor from Loyola University in 1985 and his B.A. from the University of Iowa in 1981. He is an extensively published writer and sought-after lecturer on legal topics ranging from medical malpractice to tort reform. Mr. Phillips is also the recipient of a number of awards and honors from various legal and community groups.