During the twentieth century, around 30 million tons of asbestos were used in industrial sites, homes, schools, shipyards and commercial buildings in the United States. Many asbestos-containing products remain in buildings, ships, industrial facilities and other environments where the fibers can become airborne.
Mesothelioma is a cancer of the cells that make up the lining of the lungs, the inside of the ribs, and around the abdominal organs. In the past it was thought that cigarette smoking caused mesothelioma. However, with medical research it has been proven that it is caused by asbestos exposures.
Here's what the asbestos does. When a person breathes in asbestos fibers, the fibers then travel to the ends of the small air passages reaching the lining of the lungs and damaging the mesothelial cells (the lining of the lung cells). If swallowed, these fibers can reach the lining of the abdominal cavity where they play a part in causing a cancer called peritoneal mesothelioma. The chance of ever getting mesothelioma rises with the intensity and duration of your exposure to asbestos.
And you may not get mesothelioma right away. Mesothelioma can even develop 20 to 50 years after the initial exposure. The average life span of an inflicted person from the time of diagnosis with mesothelioma until death is less the 6 months. So, who's at risk?
People who work or used to work in asbestos environment, and spouses or children being exposed to asbestos fibers from work clothing brought home. Also, if you live in a house that was built in the mid 70's or before, you have to know that most insulation materials, including pipe insulation; boiler insulation; fireproofing spray; firebrick and gunnite (used for internal insulation of furnaces and boilers); also many construction materials, such as roof, floor and ceiling tiles contained asbestos. You too might be exposed to asbestos. You need to have your house checked for any asbestos presence.
If you have ever been exposed to asbestos directly or indirectly, early symptoms of mesothelioma can include shortness of breath and/or pain in the lower back or at the side of your chest. Less often, you can experience trouble swallowing, cough, fever, sweating, fatigue, and weight loss. So, these early symptoms sometimes may delay your diagnosis as these symptoms are also related to other illnesses. It will be up to you to mention to your doctor the possibility of asbestos exposure, because your doctor may not suspect it right away. Your doctor then, has to use x-rays, CT scans or a breathing test to detect the presence of asbestos. He or she can further perform a biopsy (taking samples of your lung tissue) to confirm it.
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you were most likely exposed to asbestos. Many asbestos manufacturers and even distributors knew for decades that asbestos was hazardous, yet they did not warn people of those hazards. As a result, you have a right of recovery against those manufacturers, which on the other hand can help pay the costs of treatment and provide compensation for your pain and suffering.
The first thing you need to do after being diagnosed with mesothelioma is contact a lawyer immediately to see if you have a case. Think about the source of your exposure, regardless of how long ago that might have been. Try to find the responsible parties. Whether that was your spouse's work, your work, your parents' work, the house you lived in, or anything at all that might have exposed you to asbestos.
Also, you need to ask your lawyer about your statute of limitations. Even if your family member has died from mesothelioma, you may still be eligible to file a claim. Even if you've never worked at a place that directly dealt with asbestos but you have gotten it through asbestos fibers brought home on clothes worn by a spouse or parent who worked in an asbestos environment, you may still be eligible to file a claim.
If diagnosed with mesothelioma, your doctor can only do so much to save your life. It will be mostly you religiously following the health directions given to you by your doctor and educating yourself about mesothelioma. Your doctor can help you save your life, but you can also help him or her help you by knowing how to deal with it.
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