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3 ways mesothelioma is different from other cancers

On Behalf of | Jun 7, 2023 | Mesothelioma/Asbestos-Related Illness

It is common to have questions after you receive a mesothelioma diagnosis. After all, mesothelioma is a rare cancer, and many people don’t know anything about it until they learn they have it.

Obviously, you want to get as much information as you can from your medical provider. But as you are likely to focus on treatment during those conversations, you may never ask or learn some of the things that make mesothelioma different from other cancers. Let’s do that now. Here are three things that separate this cancer from the others.

1. It develops in the mesothelium

Mesothelioma’s symptoms often include chest pains and shortness of breath. Tumors often appear near the lungs. As a result, many people think of mesothelioma as a type of lung cancer. However, it does not technically form in the lungs.

There are different forms of mesothelioma, but they all grow in the mesothelium. This is the thin tissue that lines various internal organs.

The most common form of mesothelioma is malignant pleural mesothelioma. This forms in the tissue lining the lungs. But other forms of mesothelioma may develop in the tissue surrounding the heart, abdomen or testicles.

One of the problems with mesothelioma is that it tends to spread very quickly. Even though it may start in the lining of one organ, people frequently don’t realize they have the disease until it has spread throughout their bodies.

2. It can have a long latency period

It’s possible your doctor talked to you about the expected survival rate for someone with mesothelioma. Hopefully, if you had that conversation, your doctor also explained that you and your outcome are not bound to the statistics. Still, it’s possible that you learned the survival rates for mesothelioma tend to be worse than for many other cancers.

There are reasons for this, and it’s important to understand them.

One of the main reasons mesothelioma comes with such poor statistics is that people tend to be older when they receive their diagnosis. This is true largely because mesothelioma has a long latency period.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that it typically takes between 20 and 40 years for someone to develop mesothelioma. More than this, they say that, in some cases, the latency period might be as long as 71 years.

In other words, you may become vulnerable decades and decades before you start developing tumors. This can make it hard to realize the cancer is spreading through your body.

3. Asbestos exposure is the primary cause

Your doctor might have told you that mesothelioma starts with exposure to asbestos. In fact the Penn Medicine Abramson Cancer Center says, “Asbestos is the only known cause of pleural mesothelioma.”

This fact is medically important because it influences how the cancer develops. However, it is also legally important.

Almost all asbestos exposure owes to the fact that manufacturers used asbestos for many years. In fact, they continued using the material even after they knew it could cause cancer. Because they knew the risk and continued to use the product, these manufacturers made themselves legally liable. It is possible for you and others with mesothelioma to hold the manufacturers accountable for the damages they caused.

Indeed, many of these manufacturers realized they could face so many lawsuits that they filed for bankruptcy. While this allows many of the manufacturers to avoid continued lawsuits, the courts forced the manufacturers to create asbestos trust funds as part of their bankruptcies. If you cannot sue the manufacturer who caused your mesothelioma, you may be able to seek compensation from one of these asbestos bankruptcy trusts.

The more you know, the better your odds

A mesothelioma diagnosis can be scary, but the more you learn about the disease, the more you can regain control over how you respond.

You can work with your doctor to choose the most appropriate treatment. You can find support networks to help you with your emotional and psychological adjustments. And you can find an experienced attorney to help you pursue the compensation you deserve. All these steps can increase your chances of enjoying more time with your family and friends.

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