The term mesothelioma means malignant tumors on the mesothelium, which is a lining around many of the body’s organs. The lungs have one called the pleura, and the abdominal cavity has one called the peritoneum.
Mesothelioma is most often caused by previous exposure to asbestos, and it most often occurs in the lungs, because the asbestos fibers were breathed in. They are microscopic fibers, easily airborne, and when a person works where asbestos is being used, he or she will be breathing them in.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is the name for a group of minerals which are atypical in that they’re fibrous. Asbestos is heat-resistant, resistant to chemical change, blocks sound, and does not conduct electricity. Because it’s fibrous, it also has tensile strength. In the late nineteenth century it became favored for its many valuable properties, and was widely used in wiring, plumbing, drywall, automobile brakes and many other areas of manufacturing or building.
So people were exposed to it for about a hundred years in many ways, including in the asbestos mines. Those who breathed it in every day of their working lives had no immediate symptoms. The tiny fibers became lodged in the lungs and over time worked their way deeper in.
The body’s defenses inadequate
Normally the body sends scavenger cells to dispose of foreign bodies like asbestos fibers. But asbestos is resistant to chemical change and instead of the cells engulfing the asbestos and carrying it away in the bloodstream to be excreted, the asbestos killed off the scavenger cells. They accumulated in those locations until eventually a tumor formed.
Symptoms will appear between about 20 and 50 years after the asbestos exposure.They are typically:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest wall pain
- Wheezing and coughing
- Coughing up blood
Depending on where the asbestos fibers became stuck, there may be several tumors, and at some point, the lungs may collapse. As with many other cancers, mesothelioma may spread in the bloodstream to other parts of the body.
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos, you may have a valid legal claim against the party responsible for exposing you to the asbestos. Please call or email us to schedule a free consultation.