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Mesothelioma FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a very rare cancer that can affect the linings of the stomach, lungs, and heart. Every organ has a thin membrane around it, which protects it from the other organs, and mesothelioma is a cancer that develops in that lining. It is caused by exposure to asbestos.

Is Mesothelioma The Same Thing As Lung Cancer?

No, actually it’s not. Mesothelioma develops on the outside lining of the lung, whereas lung cancer generally develops inside the lung. There are different cell lines. They create different forms of cancer. People discuss mesothelioma as lung cancer mainly because of the close proximity to the lung. But it’s two different forms of cancer, and the treatments available for lung cancer vs. mesothelioma are different.

Does Everyone Exposed To Asbestos Develop Mesothelioma?

Absolutely not. It’s a very rare cancer. It happens roughly 2,000 times a year in our country. There’s no rhyme nor reason as to who gets it, but people who were exposed to more asbestos have a higher risk of developing the disease than people who were exposed to less. You can be exposed to asbestos, but it’s extremely rare to develop mesothelioma.

Is Mesothelioma Preventable?

Mesothelioma is preventable in the sense that asbestos companies never should have used asbestos, thereby exposing millions of people to the deadly fiber. Mesothelioma is not preventable in the sense that it takes so long to develop. Mesothelioma has about a 40-year latency period. It was preventable from the company’s end by not putting it into our environment, but it’s not preventable on the worker’s end for those already exposed to asbestos. Going forward, you don’t want to be exposed to asbestos, but there’s nothing you can do about past exposure.

Is Asbestos Still Used Today?

Asbestos is still used if you look at the world market. It’s still used in developing countries, and it’s still being mined in certain places such as Canada. It is still used in specialty applications such as the aerospace industry when protection from extreme heat is a consideration. But in consumer applications in the US, it’s not being used anymore.

How Do I Know If There Is Asbestos In My Home Or Workplace?

The best way to determine if there is asbestos in your home or workplace is through research. Things that were built in the fifties, sixties, and even the seventies and eighties may contain certain amounts of asbestos. Asbestos can be found in dry wall, ceiling tiles, floor tiles, different types of cements, siding, or roofing shingles of homes or other structures. Newer products on the market today do not use asbestos, but if items were installed 30 or 40 years ago, there is a chance they may contain asbestos. It’s best to assume that an old house might contain asbestos and to protect yourself from dust while doing home improvements or repairs. You shouldn’t conduct any construction, even minor, unless you’ve tested to see if there’s asbestos present.

What Are The Symptoms Of Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma has a wide range of symptoms. Some of the first symptoms of mesothelioma are a dull pain in the back or the chest or difficulty breathing. Sometimes the body, when the cancer just starts to develop, will start to fill with fluids. Fluid puts pressure against the lungs and makes it very difficult to breathe. Some asbestos symptoms are similar to lung cancer symptoms, such as shortness of breath with either exertion or at rest, cold-like symptoms, and a deep cough. Anything along those lines can be a symptom of mesothelioma, which makes it very difficult to detect because it can be easily dismissed as simply a cold.

If I Have Shortness Of Breath Or Trouble Breathing, Should I Be Concerned That I Have Mesothelioma?

No. If you are suffering from shortness of breath, there are many things that might be keeping you from breathing correctly. One of the symptoms of mesothelioma is shortness of breath, but that’s also a symptom of colds, pneumonia, and lung cancer. There are a number of afflictions that can cause shortness of breath. If you are experiencing this, you should consult your personal physician just as you would with anything else. When you speak with your physician and explain your symptoms, they’re going to know what to look for. If you were ever exposed to asbestos, you want to make sure that your doctors are aware of it so they can assess your risk of potentially developing mesothelioma.

Can I Have Mesothelioma But Show No Symptoms?

Yes. Mesothelioma is what we call a long latency period disease, meaning that it can take 20 to 40 years to develop. The exact molecular process controlling how and when a regular cell turns into a cancer cell is not completely known. The hypothesis is that an asbestos fiber makes contact with a cell, changes the DNA of that cell, and then that cell becomes active 20 to 40 years later. It’s very difficult to detect mesothelioma until it has expanded and grown into Stage Four cancer.

What Is Asbestosis, And Can It Progress Into Mesothelioma?

Asbestosis is a non-malignant form of asbestos-related diseases. It’s essentially a difficulty breathing related to asbestos in the lung tissue. When asbestos gets into the lung, it is not expelled and damages lung tissue, causing scarring and making it difficult to breathe. Lung capacity is reduced because scar tissue cannot expand and contract as readily as healthy lung tissue. Asbestosis itself does not progress into mesothelioma. These are two distinct forms of disease. But the fact that you have asbestosis proves that you were exposed to asbestos, and asbestos fibers are the root cause of mesothelioma.

Is There A Cure For Mesothelioma?

It depends on who you ask, but generally speaking, there is no cure for mesothelioma. The goal with mesothelioma is to treat the patient to slow the progression of the disease and improve quality of life. Doctors will attempt to stop the spread of the tumor, isolate it chemically or through oncology practices, and/or remove as much of it as possible and maintain a relatively small size of that tumor for the rest of the person’s life. Remission, in the case of mesothelioma, means a tumor that is not growing or spreading.

How Is Mesothelioma Diagnosed?

The first step in diagnosing mesothelioma is to talk to your personal physician. They are the ones who know your health and your body best. Generally speaking, if there’s a pain in your chest, your doctor will order a chest x-ray or a CT scan to identify any abnormalities inside the chest. If the doctor sees an area that they’re concerned about, a pathologist will come in and do a biopsy to remove a small amount of tissue for analysis. Then the pathologist will look at those cells underneath the microscope. The pathologist is trained to look at the cells and determine what they are. A confirmed diagnosis of mesothelioma can only be made in this way.

Why Do I Need a Mesothelioma Lawyer?

Filing a mesothelioma claim takes time and energy you may not be able to spare after a diagnosis. Our mesothelioma attorneys can do much of the work for you—and we also have the benefit of experience with claims of this type. Mesothelioma law requires a vast amount of knowledge about the uses of asbestos across industries, the types of products that contained asbestos, the science behind exposure, and the science behind the development of mesothelioma cancer. We have this knowledge and can use it to help you build a strong case to maximize your compensation.

What If I Can’t Afford a Mesothelioma Lawyer?

Most mesothelioma lawyers, including those at Shrader & Associates L.L.P., accept cases on a contingency fee basis. This means you do not have to pay anything out-of-pocket. Our attorneys instead take a portion of the recovery at the end of the case. This arrangement ensures everyone has access to legal aid regardless of their ability to pay upfront.

How Do I Find a Good Mesothelioma Lawyer?

Most non-specialized lawyers are not going to be familiar with the past 40 to 50 years of asbestos litigation in this country. You need a lawyer who understands the specifics and can therefore build a strong and substantial case on your behalf. They should also be dedicated to their clients, taking the time to file individual claims. When you’re interviewing lawyers, you should ask the following questions:

  • Does the firm file individual claims, or are they filing a class action suit?
  • Does the firm handle all cases itself, or contract them out to other firms?
  • Are the attorneys skilled litigators who will fight for you, or do they just plan to submit an application to a trust on your behalf?
  • How accessible are the attorneys—not just the paralegals and other firm staff—to clients?
  • Is the lawyer willing to travel to your location, no matter where you are in the U.S.?
  • While talking to a firm, you should also get a feeling for whether its team is ready to advocate for you. Especially in such a tough time, you deserve a strong and dedicated team at your side.

If I’ve Filed a Claim for Another Asbestos-Related Disease, Can I Also File a Mesothelioma Suit?

Generally speaking, the answer is yes. Most states have what they call a two-disease rule, meaning that you can file once for a non-malignant form of asbestos-related disease (such as pleural plaques or asbestosis) and once for a malignant disease (lung cancer or mesothelioma).

How Much Time and Effort Will the Legal Process Require from Me?

For the most part, you can choose your level of involvement in your case. During the investigation phase, we will need to speak with you to determine possible causes of exposure. Afterward, our lawyers are happy to take on all the work of filing the claim, arguing in discovery, taking depositions, and reviewing documents. If you would like to stay heavily involved, you are welcome to, but we find most clients would rather spend the time with their loved ones.

Will I Have to Go to Trial?

Most mesothelioma cases settle before going to trial. It will always be your choice whether to accept a settlement or fight in court, but most defendants would rather pay a fair amount than spend their resources fighting a trial.

What Options Do I Have if the Liable Company Is Bankrupt or No Longer Exists?

Most asbestos companies that have gone bankrupt were made to establish trust funds against which asbestos victims can file claims. The process of filing may be complex to make sure you meet the requirements set by the trust administrator. Our attorneys can help you understand your options once we know more about your claim.

Will I Need to Sue the Navy If I Was Exposed to Asbestos While Serving?

Because the federal government has sovereign immunity, it would be very difficult to file a suit against the Navy itself. In a situation where somebody was exposed to asbestos in the Navy, lawsuits are typically filed against the companies that manufactured the various asbestos-containing ship parts. The preliminary phase of a lawsuit involves figuring out which products were used on the ship or Naval base.

Can I File a Claim if I’m Receiving Workers’ Compensation or Disability Benefits for Mesothelioma?

Yes, you can. Worker’s Compensation and disability benefits are separate claims that don’t involve the court system and are dictated by state or federal law. Worker’s Compensation, which is designed to compensate injured employees, involves seeking compensation from the insurance company employed by your company. If you are of working age you can file for appropriate benefits without harming your eligibility to file a mesothelioma claim.

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