Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that develops in specific cells that line the inside of the chest, abdomen and area around the heart. This form of cancer was discovered in the 18th century, but it would take nearly another two centuries for scientists to link the disease to its primary cause.
Only about 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in a typical year, but survival rates for malignant mesothelioma are relatively low, which may be due in large part to the length of time it takes most people to begin developing symptoms.
Learn more about mesothelioma, what causes it and why some families may be wise to consult a qualified mesothelioma attorney to pursue legal options in the event of a diagnosis or death of a loved one.
What Is Mesothelioma?
The human body has a layer of specialized cells that line the inside of certain body cavities, including the chest, the area around the heart and the abdomen. These cells, called mesothelial cells, form a protective barrier within the body and around most major internal organs. In addition to providing a layer of protection, these cells also assist with the transport of a variety of fluids and other important materials.
Normally these cells help the body function properly, but they also can become cancerous, dividing and multiplying out of control, causing tumors and invading nearby or distant parts of the body.
The first known description of a cancer case that today we recognize as mesothelioma was in France in 1767, and the first use of the term mesothelioma was more than a century later in 1920. But it wouldn’t be until the 1940s that researchers would begin to link one specific substance, asbestos, to mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma rates surged between the 1970s and the 1990s after asbestos was linked to the cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, diagnosis rates have leveled off since they surged beginning in the 1970s through the 1990s.
More recent years have seen the number of diagnosed cases fluctuate considerably, according to the most recent data published by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, between 1999 and 2015, the most recent year for which the CDC has published data, the number of cases increased by about 4%.
Diagnosed mesothelioma cases by year, 1999-2015
Mesothelioma Causes & Symptoms
Most people who are diagnosed with mesothelioma are men, and an estimated 8 in 10 mesothelioma cases are diagnosed in people who were exposed to asbestos. While it’s not known exactly how much exposure to asbestos is necessary for people to develop mesothelioma, and there have been cases where a person got the disease despite brief exposure, asbestos fibers are the primary cause of mesothelioma cases.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring substance that’s used in the manufacturing of a variety of products, especially building materials like insulation, tiles and drywall. It’s also used in the manufacture of brake pads and fireproof clothing for firefighters. Despite the well-known connections between asbestos and mesothelioma, the product remains legal for many uses in the U.S. and around the world, though it’s no longer mined in the United States.
Use of asbestos has declined dramatically over the past several decades, but for people in a few unfortunate industries, it’s likely the damage has already been done. In fact, several categories of American workers continue to have high death rates associated with mesothelioma and asbestos.
Jobs with high rates of mesothelioma deaths include:
- Pipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters
- Insulation workers
- Welding, soldering and brazing workers
Asbestos fibers can be microscopic, meaning a person cannot see them with their naked eye and so may inhale or ingest the fibers without knowing it. Over time, if they are not able to expel the fibers and they remain inside the body, asbestos fibers can cause genetic changes and inflammation that can lead to mesothelioma. Even family members of workers in asbestos-using industries can become exposed to the fibers if they are unknowingly carried home on the worker’s clothing or gear.
Types of Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma, like many types of cancer, can take a long time to develop. With mesothelioma, it’s not uncommon for a person to go 30 years between when they are exposed to asbestos and when they are diagnosed with this form of cancer.
The median age for mesothelioma diagnosis is 72, which is one reason why survival rates for this type of cancer are low. But there are many types of mesothelioma, each with varying survival rates and symptoms.
Which type of mesothelioma an individual has is based on the area of the body where the cancer developed, and there’s one type that’s by far the most common. Let’s break down the four types of mesothelioma:
This is cancer that develops in the lungs, and it accounts for about three-quarters of all mesothelioma cases. Asbestos is an incredibly tiny fiber, and it’s very easily sucked into the lungs, which is why pleural mesothelioma accounts for such a huge percentage of all cases of this type of cancer.
- Symptoms: Signs of pleural mesothelioma can be similar to symptoms of lung cancer, including chest pain, shortness of breath and a painful cough.
- Survival rates: If malignant pleural mesothelioma is diagnosed early, which is uncommon, the five-year survival rate is 20%. But if the cancer is advanced and has spread, the survival rate drops to just 8%.
Peritoneal mesothelioma is cancer of the abdominal lining, or peritoneum. In most cases, people who have been diagnosed with this type of mesothelioma are believed to have ingested the tiny fibers of asbestos strands, which caused tumor growth inside the abdominal lining. It’s estimated that peritoneal mesothelioma accounts for between 10% and 15% of cases.
- Symptoms: Given its place in the middle section of the body, the most common signs of peritoneal mesothelioma are stomach, intestinal and other abdominal pain, swelling and nausea.
- Survival rates: Peritoneal mesothelioma has much higher survival rates than pleural mesothelioma, though like its lung-based cousin, long-term survival rates are quite low. About 26% of people diagnosed with early-stage peritoneal mesothelioma survive five years, compared to 11% with advanced forms of the cancer. Still, that’s significantly higher than survival rates for pleural mesothelioma.
This is a cancer of the heart’s lining, which is called the pericardium. Mesothelioma generally is rare, and pericardial mesothelioma is even more rate, with only about 200 cases ever having been reported. In fact, this type of mesothelioma is so rare that often people aren’t aware they have it, and many cases have been determined only upon autopsy. Well under 1% of mesothelioma cases are from this type of the disease.
- Symptoms: Chest pain, difficulty breathing, cough and irregular heartbeat.
- Survival rates: Little data is available for pericardial mesothelioma, but one analysis found that the typical lifespan after diagnosis was less than six months. This is probably due to the symptoms of pericardial mesothelioma being similar to other conditions that can affect the heart, such as heart disease and hypertension.
The least common of the four types of mesothelioma, testicular mesothelioma affects the lining of the testes. Only about 100 cases of testicular mesothelioma have been reported in the medical literature. This form of mesothelioma affects a fraction of a percentage of all cases of mesothelioma.
- Symptoms: Swelling of the scrotum, lumps in testicles (usually painless)
- Survival rates: As with pericardial mesothelioma, little scientific study has been done on patients diagnosed with this type of cancer. With fewer than 100 cases ever reported, much more study is needed, though it’s generally believed that a patient diagnosed with this form of cancer could expect to live two more years at most.
Many people who have been exposed to asbestos and develop some of the above symptoms don’t make the connection between their exposure to asbestos and their symptoms. Plus, many other diseases have the same symptoms. So many people who are at risk of mesothelioma and become sick mistake their symptoms for something else, which delays diagnosis and treatment.
Because diagnosis often takes place decades after exposure to asbestos and because the disease takes quite a long time to develop and show any physical signs, diagnosis is often not made until the cancer is advanced. This means survival rates for mesothelioma tend to be low, though if cancer has not spread, chances are better.
Mesothelioma that has spread to distant areas of the body from where it started offers only an 8% five-year survival rate.
Asbestos Trust Funds
Dozens of trusts have been established since the 1970s to pay legal claims related to exposure to asbestos, and many remain active today. These trust funds were established by companies to provide financial compensation to victims of asbestos exposure; this is a common practice in restructuring corporate debt in cases where companies or products have been involved in lawsuits. You should consult with a qualified Mesothelioma lawyer in San Diego to go over your options to seek financial compensation.
At least 55 asbestos trust funds remain active, paying out millions combined in claims per year. Here’s a look at asbestos trust funds that are active:
- A&I Corporation Asbestos Bodily Injury Trust
- A-Best Asbestos Settlement Trust
- ACandS Asbestos Settlement Trust
- APG Asbestos Trust
- API, Inc. Asbestos Settlement Trust
- Armstrong World Industries Asbestos Personal Injury Settlement Trust
- ARTRA 524(g) Asbestos Trust
- ASARCO LLC Asbestos Personal Injury Settlement Trust
- Babcock and Wilcox Company Asbestos Personal Injury Settlement Trust
- Bartells Asbestos Settlement Trust
- Brauer 524(g) Asbestos Trust
- Burns and Roe Asbestos Personal Injury Settlement Trust
- E. Thurston and Sons Asbestos Trust
- Celotex Asbestos Settlement Trust
- Combustion Engineering 524(g) Asbestos PI Trust
- Congoleum Plan Trust
- DII Industries, LLC Asbestos PI Trust
- DII Industries, LLC Asbestos PI Trust
- Eagle-Picher Industries Inc. Personal Injury Settlement Trust
- Federal Mogul U.S. Asbestos Personal Injury Trust, Fel-Pro Subfund
- Federal Mogul U.S. Asbestos Personal Injury Trust, FMP Subfund
- Federal Mogul U.S. Asbestos Personal Injury Trust, Turner & Newall Subfund
- Federal Mogul U.S. Asbestos Personal Injury Trust, Vellumoid Subfund
- Flintkote Company and Flintkote Mines Limited Asbestos Personal Injury Trust
- G-1 Asbestos Personal Injury Settlement Trust
- K. Porter Asbestos Trust
- T. Thorpe Company Successor Trust
- T. Thorpe Settlement Trust
- Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corporation Asbestos Personal Injury Trust
- Keene Creditors Trust
- Lummus 524(g) Asbestos PI Trust
- Lykes Tort Claims Trust
- Manville Personal Injury Settlement Trust
- Motors Liquidation Company Abestos PI Trust
- NGC Bodily Injury Trust
- NGC Bodily Injury Trust
- North American Refractories Company Asbestos Personal Injury Settlement Trust
- Owens Corning Fibreboard Asbestos Personal Injury Trust, Fibreboard Subfund
- Owens Corning Fibreboard Asbestos Personal Injury Trust—Owens Corning Subfund
- Pittsburgh Corning Corporation Asbestos PI Trust
- Porter Hayden Bodily Injury Trust
- Quigley Company, Inc. Asbestos PI Trust
- Raytech Corporation Asbestos Personal Injury Settlement Trust
- Shook and Fletcher Asbestos Settlement Trust
- Stone and Webster Asbestos Trust
- Swan Asbestos and Silica Settlement Trust
- H. Agriculture and Nutrition, LLC Asbestos Personal Injury Trust
- Thorpe Insulation Company Asbestos Personal Injury Settlement Trust
- United States Gypsum Asbestos Personal Injury Settlement Trust
- United States Mineral Products Company Asbestos Personal Injury Settlement Trust
- UNR AsbestosDisease Claims Trust
- Utex Industries, Inc. Successor Trust
- R. Grace and Co. Asbestos Personal Injury Settlement Trust
- Western Asbestos Trust
- Plibrico 524(g) Trust
How Do Mesothelioma Lawsuits Work? The first thing you should do is higher a qualified San Diego Mesothelioma Lawyer to go over your options.
With asbestos-related claims, two types of lawsuits are possible — personal injury and wrongful death.
In personal injury claims, the individual bringing the mesothelioma lawsuit is the one who was exposed to asbestos, usually on the job, and later became ill.
In wrongful death claims ,mesothelioma lawsuits are filed by survivors of those who died because of their exposure to asbestos.
Regardless of the type of claim, the process for filing the lawsuit is generally the same:
- Find a qualified San Diego Mesothelioma attorney: Getting the right help on your side is critically important, and working with an attorney who is experienced in mesothelioma lawsuits, asbestos trust funds and all related matters can help make sure that you have the best chance of being compensated.
- Review and prepare your case: You’ll need to work with your mesothelioma attorney to ensure they have the entire background of your claim, including work and medical history. You’ll need to provide things like medical records, bank statements and more, depending on the particulars of the case.
- File your suit: Once you and your team have done the extensive background work of making your case on paper, your attorney will file the complaint, whether personal injury or wrongful death, against all defendants in the case.
- Response: After you file the asbestos lawsuit, the defendant has a chance to respond to the claim within a set period of time, which is most often about 30 days from when they are notified that a claim has been filed. Usually, but not always, the defendant will deny liability.
- Settlement: Most mesothelioma cases related to asbestos don’t proceed to trial. That’s because it’s in the interest of all parties to agree to a settlement. But just because that’s usually the best course of action doesn’t mean that it’s a quick one, and it usually takes about 12-18 months from the filing of a lawsuit to a finalized settlement.
- Trial: If the sides can’t come to a fair compensation agreement, the case could proceed to trial. In most cases, this is less than ideal for mesothelioma patients, who have a notoriously aggressive and deadly form of cancer. Trials for personal injury and wrongful death claims can drag on for years because of all the court papers that need to be filed and the high volume of claims before the courts already.
- Verdict: One potential benefit of proceeding to trial is that jury verdicts in favor of plaintiffs often come with higher award values than settlements, but there’s no guarantee that a jury would decide in favor of a plaintiff, and if you lose, you receive no compensation.
- Appeals: In any trial, both sides have a right to appeal, and for companies that are on the losing end of a verdict, you can certainly expect them to mount a vigorous appeal. This is another factor that can further delay you receiving compensation for your injuries or your loved one’s death.
San Diego Mesothelioma Lawsuits & Your Legal Rights
Individuals who were exposed to asbestos and developed mesothelioma and there family members may be entitled to seek financial compensation with out ever filing a Mesothelioma Lawsuit.
Dozens of bankruptcy trusts were established between the 1970s and 2011 to compensate victims who were exposed to asbestos and became sick, and one analysis of mesothelioma claims made to the trusts found that the median value of those claims were $180,000, but some victims have seen payouts far higher.
A typical Mesothelioma case settles for an average of over 1 million dollars.
If you or a family member were exposed to asbestos, and have developed Mesothelioma , your next step should be consulting with a qualified San Diego Mesothelioma lawyer who is experienced in mesothelioma and asbestos claims. Contact the Law Offices of Melinda J. Helbock A.P.C by using the form to the right to learn more about what legal options you and your family have.
Springer Science+Business Media, The History of Mesothelioma. (2005.) Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F0-387-28274-2_1
American Cancer Society, About Malignant Mesothelioma. (2019.) Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/CRC/PDF/Public/8733.00.pdf
American Cancer Society, Survival Rates for Mesothelioma. (2020.) Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/content/cancer/en/cancer/malignant-mesothelioma/detection-diagnosis-staging/survival-statistics.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Malignant Mesothelioma Mortality — United States, 1999–2015. (2017.) Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6608a3.htm#T2_down
RAND Corp. Institute for Civil Justice, Asbestos Bankruptcy Trusts. (2010.) Retrieved from https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/technical_reports/2010/RAND_TR872.pdf