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Mesothelioma FAQs

Mesothelioma is a rare, aggressive cancer with around 3,000 diagnosed cases in the United States each year. As a lesser-known cancer, there are many questions surrounding the causes of mesothelioma, how it is treated and how the disease progresses.

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Patients diagnosed with mesothelioma, and their loved ones, often have an array of questions. Finding answers to these questions can provide a better understanding of what’s to come and what questions to ask their medical or legal teams. These questions may also pertain to individuals that have been exposed to asbestos, have not received a diagnosis, but are seeking to understand the potential risk of developing an asbestos disease.

Causes and Risk Factors of Mesothelioma

Those facing a mesothelioma diagnosis may wonder what led to their cancer. There are also many individuals questioning whether or not they may be susceptible to developing the disease and want to better understand the causes and risk factors.

What Is the Main Cause of Mesothelioma?

The only known cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. The microscopic fibers can become inhaled or ingested, putting the individual at risk for developing mesothelioma cancer. There are other potential risk factors for developing the disease, including zeolites, radiation exposure, simian virus 40 (SV40) and high aspect ratio nanoparticles (HARNs).

Who Is Most at Risk for Mesothelioma?

Anyone exposed to asbestos is at risk of developing malignant mesothelioma. However, elderly individuals, men, those with a genetic mutation of the BAP1 gene and those in poor health may be more susceptible. Zeolites, radiation exposure, simian virus 40 and high aspect ratio nanoparticles may also be potential risk factors.

Does Everyone Exposed to Asbestos Get Mesothelioma?

Not everyone who has been exposed to asbestos will develop mesothelioma. Some individuals with long-term exposure may not even develop the disease, though they are at higher risk. There is the risk of developing other asbestos-related illnesses, such as asbestosis and lung cancer.

Can Short-Term Exposure to Asbestos Be Dangerous?

Exposure to asbestos is always dangerous, whether it was only short-term exposure or a single incident. However, long-term exposure and exposure in high concentrations does make an individual more likely to develop asbestos illnesses.

Is Mesothelioma Genetic?

Mesothelioma is not genetic. However, mutation of the BAP1 gene could make an individual more likely to develop the cancer, so families with a history of this mutation could be more at risk.

Detecting and Diagnosing Mesothelioma

Those exposed to asbestos may wonder how they can proactively look out for malignant mesothelioma. As such a rare condition, and one that often is misdiagnosed, it’s important to understand the early signs of mesothelioma and what can be done.

What Are the First Signs of Mesothelioma?

When looking out for warning signs of mesothelioma, there are common symptoms to be aware of, such as abdominal pain and swelling, chest pain, coughing, difficulty breathing, fatigue, respiratory complications and unexplained weight loss. However, because the symptoms are nonspecific and start out so mild, mesothelioma can be very difficult to detect and often goes misdiagnosed.

Can Mesothelioma Be Detected Early?

Mesothelioma is most commonly detected at stage 3 or stage 4. However, it is possible to be caught early on, and advancements in diagnostic tools offer hope towards improving early detection, such as with biomarkers and blood tests. Individuals with known exposure can also undergo regular checkups and imaging scans to proactively look for signs of cancerous growth.

Can Mesothelioma Be Cured If Caught Early?

There currently is no cure for malignant mesothelioma. However, the earlier that the disease is diagnosed, the more treatment options are likely available to the patient and the better the prognosis is likely to be. Mesothelioma cure research also continues to make great strides.

How Do You Check for Mesothelioma?

The only way to confirm a mesothelioma diagnosis is through a biopsy. Individuals should be aware of mesothelioma symptoms and seek medical care immediately if the cancer is suspected, often resulting in blood tests, imaging scans and a biopsy.

Is There a Test for Mesothelioma?

While a biopsy is the only way to definitively diagnose mesothelioma, there are blood tests that look for certain biomarkers in the blood that may signal the presence of mesothelioma, asbestos exposure or mesothelioma symptoms. Researchers have also been developing a breath test that may one day be able to detect mesothelioma.

How Early Can You Detect Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma can be diagnosed at stage 1, stage 2, stage 3 or stage 4, though symptoms typically go unnoticed or misdiagnosed until the later stages. Symptoms usually take 10 – 50 years to develop.

Can a Chest X-Ray Show Mesothelioma?

A chest X-ray cannot in itself diagnose mesothelioma. However, imaging scans like X-rays can show the presence of a tumor, tumor location and tumor size to guide specialists towards a diagnosis and allow them to conduct a biopsy.

How Long Does It Take Mesothelioma to Develop?

Mesothelioma has a long latency period, so patients may not develop symptoms until 10 – 50 years after they were initially exposed to asbestos. The risk of developing mesothelioma will not decrease the longer an individual goes without experiencing symptoms.

What Are the Symptoms of Advanced Mesothelioma?

Symptoms of advanced mesothelioma are often the same as early-stage symptoms, though more severe. Patients often experience an overall feeling of tiredness or not feeling well, trouble swallowing, chest pain or abdominal pain, fevers and night sweats, tightness in the chest, weight loss and swelling from fluid buildup.

Mesothelioma Stages and Disease Progression

Patients with mesothelioma, and their loved ones, often end up having several questions about their diagnosis. Oftentimes, questions emerge about how the disease will progress and what stage means in terms of prognosis.

How Many Stages of Mesothelioma Are There?

There are four main stages of malignant mesothelioma, including stage 1, stage 2, stage 3 and stage 4. Stage 1 and 2 are considered early stages when the cancer has not spread, while stages 3 and 4 are considered late stages when the disease is more advanced and likely spread to other areas of the body.

Is Stage 1 Mesothelioma Curable?

While mesothelioma does not have a cure, patients diagnosed at stage 1 typically have the most treatment options and best prognosis. At stage 1, the patient can usually undergo aggressive surgeries, and the disease is localized and more responsive to treatment.

Is Stage 2 Mesothelioma Curable?

There is no cure for mesothelioma, but stage 2 still typically offers a better prognosis than patients diagnosed at stage 3 or stage 4. Treatment options may be more aggressive and the cancer hasn’t spread to distant areas of the body at this stage.

Can You Survive Stage 3 Mesothelioma?

The average life expectancy for patients diagnosed with stage 3 mesothelioma is 16 months. However, life expectancy can vary with each case, and some patients may be able to extend their survival with treatments. Such success has been seen with patients undergoing experimental treatments through clinical trials.

How Long Can You Live with Stage 4 Mesothelioma?

The average life expectancy for patients diagnosed with stage 4 mesothelioma is around 12 months, but will vary based on their specific case. Experimental treatment options may be able to extend survival for patients that are able to participate.

What Organs Are Affected by Mesothelioma?

The four main types of malignant mesothelioma are pleural mesothelioma affecting the lining of the lungs, peritoneal mesothelioma affecting the lining of the abdomen, pericardial mesothelioma affecting the lining of the heart and testicular mesothelioma affecting the lining of the testicles. There are also rare types of mesothelioma that may affect other areas of the body.

What Happens in the Final Stages of Mesothelioma?

In the final stages of mesothelioma, symptoms often increase in severity and treatment options can become more limited as the cancer has spread. Patients are often unable to undergo aggressive surgeries, chemotherapy or radiation treatments, and instead are primarily using palliative treatments to manage symptoms.

Mesothelioma Treatment and Cure Research

Mesothelioma treatment is not available at every hospital or cancer center, so patients often travel to find specialized treatment from mesothelioma doctors who have experience diagnosing and treating the disease. While there are standard treatments typically offered to mesothelioma patients, each treatment plan will ultimately depend on the individual case.

Can Mesothelioma Be Cured?

There is no cure for malignant mesothelioma. Mesothelioma research continues to make great strides with improved diagnostic tools and treatment techniques, offering hope towards finding a cure.

What Is the Best Treatment for Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma treatment plans will vary from patient to patient, depending on mesothelioma type, stage and patient characteristics. Standard treatments include chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery, and many specialists opt for multimodal treatment, incorporating a combination of standard treatments. Immunotherapy also is being offered on a wider scale with continued success.

Is Mesothelioma Always Fatal?

Although mesothelioma is considered a terminal illness, some patients have been able to achieve remission, as seen through the stories of mesothelioma survivors.

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy and Survival

As a rare and aggressive cancer, mesothelioma prognosis can be difficult to understand or predict. There are average life expectancies and survival rates that can help patients and their families get a general understanding, though each case is different based on the type of mesothelioma, cell type, stage and other factors like patient age and health.

How Long Do You Live After Being Diagnosed with Mesothelioma?

The average life expectancy for patients diagnosed with mesothelioma is 12 – 21 months. However, how long you live after diagnosis depends on several factors, including mesothelioma type, stage and patient health.

Can You Survive Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is considered a fatal cancer. However, some patients have achieved remission and continue to share their survivor stories, offering hope to patients and their loved ones. As treatments and diagnostic techniques become more advanced, more patients have been able to extend their life expectancy by months or years.

What Is the Survival Rate of Mesothelioma?

Survival rates vary based on mesothelioma type, cell type, stage and other patient characteristics. On average, around 55% of patients survive six months or longer, 35% survive longer than one year and 9% live longer than five years. Peritoneal mesothelioma typically has the best survival rates, followed by pleural mesothelioma and pericardial mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma and Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos is the only proven cause of mesothelioma, leading to several questions about how exposure occurs, if it can be detected and what the risks are. Since asbestos use began to decline in the late 1970s, there has been a growing list of asbestos products and high-risk occupations. Many products are still in use today, provoking concern.

Is There a Blood Test for Asbestos Exposure?

A blood test can not definitively reveal whether or not an individual has been exposed to asbestos. However, there are developments in blood tests and biomarkers that have shown success distinguishing between those that have been exposed and those that haven’t, though more research is needed. This includes the HMGB1 and EGFR tests.

How Long Do Asbestos Fibers Remain in the Air?

Asbestos fibers are microscopic and can float for hours before settling. Asbestos can take up to 72 hours to fall from the air when there is little air movement.

Can You Live in a House with Asbestos?

Asbestos products may not pose a risk if fully intact, but when walls, ceiling tires, flooring and other household materials age, deteriorate, become damaged or face wear and tear, they pose a risk to inhabitants. It’s best to have a professional assess the presence of asbestos and determine whether or not it should be removed by an asbestos abatement professional.

Who Is Most at Risk for Asbestos Exposure?

Everyone that has come into contact with asbestos is at risk of harmful exposure. However, it’s important to consider high-risk occupations, asbestos products and locations with known asbestos exposure.

Mesothelioma Compensation and Legal Action

A mesothelioma diagnosis can cause emotional, physical and financial stress on patients and their families. Oftentimes, patients and loved ones look into filing a mesothelioma claim to receive compensation to help with medical bills and loss of income. However, there are many questions surrounding lawsuit eligibility, compensation amounts and timeframes.

Can You Sue for Mesothelioma?

Whether or not you can sue for mesothelioma depends on the specifics of your situation. Typically, mesothelioma patients or their loved ones can file a lawsuit against asbestos companies that produced the products and materials causing the asbestos exposure that led to a diagnosis. To determine if you quality, it’s best to seek out an experienced asbestos attorney.

Who Can File a Mesothelioma Claim?

There are two main types of mesothelioma lawsuits, including personal injury and wrongful death. Personal injury claims are filed by those that have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, while wrongful death claims are filed by a surviving family member that has lost their loved one as a result of mesothelioma.

Can I Claim Compensation for Exposure to Asbestos?

There are many different forms of mesothelioma compensation, including worker’s compensation, mesothelioma settlements, mesothelioma lawsuits and veterans’ benefits. The type of claim that can be filed will depend on each individual case, though claimants typically need to have a medical diagnosis as a result of their exposure to receive compensation.

What Is a Mesothelioma Law Firm?

Not all law firms have experience handling mesothelioma cases. Mesothelioma law firms understand asbestos litigation and specialize in supporting and representing mesothelioma patients and their loved ones. The best mesothelioma law firms have a nationwide presence and a proven track record of winning compensation for their clients.

How Much Is the Average Mesothelioma Settlement?

Recent reports indicate that the average mesothelioma settlement is between $1 million and $1.4 million with trial verdicts averaging around $2.4 million. Settlement and verdict amounts can and will vary on a case-by-case basis.

How Long Do Mesothelioma Claims Take?

Mesothelioma claims take 9 months, on average, to resolve. The time it takes to receive compensation can vary based on the complexity of the case, if the claim goes to trial and if the defendant tries to fit the claim.

What Is the Statute of Limitations on Mesothelioma Claims?

Each state has its own statute of limitations, placing a timeframe on when mesothelioma patients and their loved ones must file a claim after a diagnosis or death. They typically range from 1 – 3 years, but do vary by state.

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Written By

Tonya Nelson

Managing Editor

Tonya Nelson is an experienced writer and editor, who has published on a wide variety of topics, particularly in the health field.