- Understanding Mesothelioma and Asbestosis
- April 18, 2016
- Law Firm: Law Offices of Peter G. Angelos A Professional Corporation - Baltimore Office
Over the last century, millions of Americans have been exposed to asbestos—a dangerous mineral formerly used in a variety of consumer and industrial products. Asbestos fibers can enter the body when inhaled or ingested.
Asbestos fibers can damage the mesothelium. This can eventually lead to the development of mesothelioma and asbestosis. Malignant mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer that is usually not detected for years after initial exposure. Because the latency period may be long, mesothelioma diagnoses are often not made until 30-50 or more years following initial exposure.
There are three primary forms of mesothelioma: pleural, peritoneal and pericardial. Pleural mesothelioma develops in the lining of the lungs, and represents the majority of all mesothelioma diagnoses. Peritoneal and pericardial mesothelioma affect the abdomen and heart, respectively.
Because mesothelioma is usually diagnosed after it has reached advanced stages, the prognosis for patients is poor and the treatment is generally palliative. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are often used to treat mesothelioma, while surgery is sometimes recommended if the cancer is diagnosed earlier.
Exposure to asbestos fibers can cause irritation, inflammation and scarring of the lung tissue, known as asbestosis. This can cause shortness of breath and other symptoms. In severe cases, asbestosis can cause death.
The latency period is shorter for asbestosis than for mesothelioma. Diagnosis of asbestosis is based upon physical examination, chest x-ray and pulmonary function tests.
Victims of Asbestos
Many victims of asbestos were exposed while working in certain industries. These include construction workers, railroad workers, steel workers, shipyard workers, and many other craftsmen who were exposed to asbestos in their occupational setting. Not only are individuals who worked with asbestos-containing products at risk; bystanders to the use of these products and household members of these workers are also at risk of developing asbestos related diseases. Though the risks of exposure were known by the early 20th century, many companies continued to manufacture, supply, distribute and install materials containing asbestos. These companies knew, or should have known of the risks of exposure to asbestos.