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Mesothelioma: Questions and Answers

Q. What is Mesothelioma?

A. Mesothelioma is a malignant and rare form of cancer that occupies the tissue lining of the chest or lungs (pleural mesothelioma), abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma), or in the rarest of cases, the sac that surrounds the heart (pericardial mesothelioma). The majority of patients diagnosed with mesothelioma have a relatively low-rate of “long-term” survival; however, early diagnosis that leads to treatment may extend a patient’s life considerably. There are approximately 2,000 new mesothelioma cases diagnosed every year. Approximately 75 percent of all cases are diagnosed as “pleural mesothelioma”, 20 percent are diagnosed as “peritoneal mesothelioma”, and the remaining percentage of cases is diagnosed as “pericardial mesothelioma.”

Q. How do you get Mesothelioma?

A. Patients commonly diagnosed with mesothelioma have inhaled fibers from asbestos-containing materials in the workplace or at home. Some examples include working in environments that are associated with construction, shipbuilding, mining, milling, textiles, automotive, or other industries that tend to use asbestos materials. Cases of mesothelioma have also been related to home environments where high-levels of asbestos have been present (i.e. such as in ceiling materials/tiles, insulation, flooring products, or roofing shingles). There have also been incidences of mesothelioma that have developed in family members or friends of workers when asbestos materials have been carried home on tools, work clothes, or other personal items.

Q. How long after exposure do symptoms start to appear?

A. It is not uncommon for mesothelioma, caused through asbestos exposure, to take a long period of time to develop. For example, it may take several years or decades of exposure before the disease finally surfaces. The majority of cases presently being diagnosed may go back to initial exposure of the material that began in the 1940’s through the 1970’s, due to the disease’s long latency period. It was not until the 1980’s that restrictions on asbestos use were instituted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Q. Is mesothelioma the same as asbestosis?

A. Although mesothelioma and asbestosis share common symptoms (such as shortness of breath, chest pain, and coughing) and occur through asbestos exposure, there are significant differences.

Asbestosis is a condition that results from a build up of scar tissue in the lungs. This leads to difficulty breathing due to limited expansion and contraction of a patient’s lungs. Asbestosis is considered a serious lung disease; however, it is not a form of cancer.

Mesothelioma, on the other hand, develops from cancerous cells that are present in the lining of the lungs/chest, abdomen, or heart, and thus is considered a form a cancer.

Q. How common is mesothelioma?

A. About 2,700 people per year in the United States are diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma. Click here for more statistics on mesothelioma.

Q. Is mesothelioma (also sometimes referred to as “asbestos cancer”) the same as lung cancer?

A. No. It is unfortunate that mesothelioma is sometimes called asbestos cancer, or even worse, asbestos lung cancer. Lung cancer is a completely different disease from mesothelioma. Lung cancer can be caused by asbestos exposure, and by exposure to other forms of hazardous materials, too, but it is not the same as mesothelioma.


Q. How is mesothelioma diagnosed?

A. Once mesothelioma is suspected, the patient's doctor will perform a number of procedures to validate the diagnosis. This includes chest x-rays, a complete blood count test, biopsy and other methods.

Q. How is this cancer treated?

A. The most standard treatments for mesothelioma include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. It is not uncommon for a patient’s treatment plan to include two or more combined treatment types. The type of chosen treatment depends on factors that may include the stage or severity of the cancer, tumor size, the amount of fluid present in the region, a patient’s general health, history, and age, and of course, the type of mesothelioma cancer.

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This site is sponsored by Brad Cooper* of Cooper, Hart, Leggiero, & Whitehead, PLLC, is located in The Woodlands, Texas (Greater Houston Area) and can be reached at toll-free 1-800-998-9729 for more information on mesothelioma. Past cases have involved association of co-counsel. Each case is unique and involves risk of uncertainty. Past success of amount awarded is no guarantee of future performance.

*Licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas