Mesothelioma: The On-the-Job Cancer That’s on the Rise
11/19/2010 // Chicago, IL, USA // Cooney & Conway // Mesothelioma lawyers: Cooney & Conway
Mesothelioma may not be a household name—but that might change, because the deadly cancer devastates an increasing number of lives, families, and futures. Almost always triggered by asbestos exposure, mesothelioma strikes the protective lining covering many of the body’s internal organs.
A particularly aggressive and deadly cancer, mesothelioma can take years—often decades—to develop, and a diagnosis of the disease is invariably grim. It has led to early deaths and countless lawsuits as mesothelioma lawyers fight to obtain the only recovery victims can hope for: compensation for their families.
“Mesothelioma creeps throughout the chest and can give a slow, painful death,” says Dr. Raja Flores, a specialist in mesothelioma who is a professor and chief of thoracic surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. He estimates that he sees more than 50 cases annually and puts the national number of new cases at 3,000. That’s a figure that has been growing over the past 20 years, according to the National Cancer Institute.
The biggest risk factor for mesothelioma—and the one accounting for the majority of cases: on-the-job asbestos exposure.
With its resistance to heat and fire, asbestos was long a popular building material—until scientifically linked to mesothelioma and other deadly diseases. Yet while the dangers of asbestos have been known for decades, it can still be readily found in buildings, homes, offices, and even schools and hospitals across the country, often in ceilings, flooring, and insulation.
The hazards of asbestos are particularly grave during renovation and demolition work, since the asbestos fibers can be easily disturbed and become airborne—where anyone nearby can inhale them.
While there are state and federal regulations covering the use, handling, and removal of asbestos, these rules are often skirted or improperly followed, resulting in asbestos exposure, new mesothelioma cases, and more asbestos lawsuits.
Over the years, mesothelioma lawyers have had great success in obtaining compensation for victims of asbestos exposure—often winning large, even multimillion-dollar verdicts and settlements against those who improperly handled or sold the material. But mesothelioma researchers have fared less well. A cure is still elusive, and even the most advanced treatment typically grants victims, at best, no more than several months more of life.
On-the-job mesothelioma typically strikes workers involved in the manufacturing, building, and shipbuilding industries. Asbestos exposure can also be a serious risk for rescue workers, notably those who worked at ground zero after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The disease, however, is often a silent, invisible killer.
“Many people don’t even know they’ve been exposed,” says Flores. “There can be a 20- to 30-year latency, so it’s years after they’re exposed that they see symptoms.”
And those symptoms—shortness of breath, chest pain, fluid in the chest—can often point doctors, mistakenly, to other, more benign conditions, delaying a mesothelioma diagnosis further.
Further complicating matters is the lack of consensus among doctors on treatment. “One group says surgery, one group says no surgery,” says Flores. Nor is there always agreement on which surgical approach works best. “The two main surgeries are extra-pleural pneumonectomy, which removes the lung, and pleurectomy/decortication, which spares the lung,” says Flores. “The goal of surgery is to get rid of tumor bulk and expand the lung while decreasing the pain and gross size of the disease.” But a surgeon often can’t tell which approach makes more sense until surgery is performed and he or she can get a better look at the lung. There are, however, steps that individuals who have been exposed to asbestos can take to increase their odds of early detection. They can, for example, get a CT scan to have a baseline reading so their doctor can watch for changes in the lung—where mesothelioma starts.
And those who work with asbestos can take precautions, such as wearing a mask and being careful with their clothing. Asbestos fibers on a worker’s clothing not only expose them to risk, but also their family members, who can easily inhale the fibers off the clothes. Secondary asbestos exposure such as this, say mesothelioma lawyers, is responsible for a growing number of mesothelioma cases and deaths.
Then there is the final, but vital step, Flores says: Get informed. The Mesothelioma Foundation (curemeso.org) provides a wealth of information about treatment options and financial support. For too many people, however, it’s necessary information for an unnecessary, entirely preventable disease.
This news story was brought to you by the mesothelioma lawyers at Cooney & Conway. For more than half a century, we’ve brought relief—and recovery—to those injured by the negligence or harmful actions of others. In the process, we’ve litigated some of the country’s most significant asbestos lawsuits, helping victims of mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other asbestos-related diseases get answers—and justice.
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