Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that affects the mesothelium, a tissue that lines most of the body’s organs. The most common type is pleural mesothelioma, cancer of the pleura or lining of the lungs. This cancer is aggressive, takes years to develop into recognizable symptoms, and is often diagnosed only after it is too late to expect treatment to cure it. For most people, this terrible illness is a death sentence.
Causes and Risk Factors
Doctors and researchers cannot pinpoint an exact cause of mesothelioma, which is not a common type of cancer. It is likely an interaction of several factors that leads to the development of malignant tumors. These include genetics, environmental factors, lifestyle, and health. While the cause cannot be made definite, there is one huge risk factor for mesothelioma that stands apart from all others: asbestos exposure.
Asbestos is a natural mineral that has been used for hundreds of years in a number of applications from insulation to shipbuilding to car brakes. It has been used for so long and in so many different ways because it is very strong and resistant to heat. Because asbestos is fibrous, when it is broken apart, particles get in the air and can be inhaled.
It is this inhalation that is the number one risk factor for mesothelioma. People who worked in conditions that included asbestos fibers and inadequate safety gear are at serious risk for the cancer. It can take 20 years and more for the cancer to develop and show symptoms and too many people are surprised later in life with this terrible diagnosis.
Treatment for Mesothelioma
It is unfortunate that this type of cancer is so aggressive and often gets diagnosed in later stages; many people don’t survive and treatments may only extend a patients’ life a little longer. Still, many opt for treatments to live longer and to be more comfortable.Treatment options for pleural mesothelioma include surgery to remove the cancerous tissue or even an entire lung, chemotherapy or radiation to kill cancer cells, and clinical trials with new medications and therapies, including gene therapy.
Mesothelioma and Legal Action
Many people diagnosed with mesothelioma were exposed to asbestos at work. This especially includes people who worked on ships or in construction with asbestos insulation. Most of these workers who end up with this terrible type of cancer had no idea that they were exposed to asbestos fibers or that they were at risk. They feel wronged and many want justice.
Mesothelioma lawsuits continue to rise because of these people suffering from cancer. They are working with lawyers to sue their employers, to file claims, and to seek compensation from asbestos trust funds. Their employers failed in a responsibility to provide them with a safe workplace, and now they are getting both compensation and justice for their suffering.
A Survivor’s Story
Katherine Keys is a woman who battled the odds and won. Diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma at age 49, she was given just two years to live, even though the cancer was rated as stage 1. Determined to fight and survive, Katherine underwent surgery to remove her right lung along with its pleura. She also had radiation treatment for several months.
Katherine is in remission and is now down to only annual follow ups to make sure that the cancer has not returned. Losing a lung has been difficult and she experiences pain and certain limitations, but is happy to be alive. Her story is one that brings hope to others battling this terrible type of cancer.