Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer. It is caused by asbestos and forms on the protective tissues covering the lungs, abdomen and heart. Symptoms include coughing, chest pain and shortness of breath. Treatments combining surgery, radiation and chemotherapy improve survival and life expectancy.
The American Cancer Society records about 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma each year in the U.S.
It’s a disease that mostly affects people who worked with asbestos and products containing asbestos.
While there are treatments that control tumor growth, researchers have not found a definitive cure for the cancer.
Mesothelioma is a rare cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.
The cancer develops when a person ingests asbestos, and it causes changes to a person’s DNA.
Our genes, which are made of DNA, control how cells grow, multiply and die. Changes in our genes may cause cells to divide out of control and may lead to cancer.
Development of Mesothelioma
- A person inhales or swallows airborne asbestos fibers.
- The asbestos fibers become lodged in the lining of the lungs, abdomen or heart.
- The embedded fibers damage the mesothelial cells and cause inflammation.
- Over time, tumors begin to form on the damaged mesothelium, which is the lining of the abdomen, lung, heart and testes.
Tumors also can be benign (noncancerous). But when tumors are cancerous, doctors call the disease malignant mesothelioma. It is often shortened to mesothelioma.
Common mesothelioma symptoms include:
- Dry coughing
- Shortness of breath
- Respiratory complications
- Pain in the chest or abdomen
- Fever or night sweats
- Pleural effusion (fluid around the lungs)
- Weakness in the muscles
These mesothelioma symptoms usually do not show until tumors have grown and spread. Mesothelioma latency is 20-50 years. That’s how long it takes from initial exposure to accurate diagnosis. For that reason, many people with mesothelioma are in their 60s or 70s.
You should talk to a mesothelioma specialist soon if you have a history of asbestos exposure and experience these symptoms. An early diagnosis may improve your prognosis and life expectancy.
Types of Mesothelioma
Oncologists name each type of mesothelioma by the location in the body where it develops.
The pleural and peritoneal types of mesothelioma are the most common. Pericardial accounts for 1 percent of cases. Another rare type is testicular mesothelioma. It represents less than 1 percent of all mesotheliomas.
Prognosis, symptoms and treatment options vary by type.
- Most common type
- Forms on soft tissue covering the lungs
- Best treated with a multimodal approach
- Less than 20 percent of all cases
- Develops on lining surrounding the abdomen
- Responds best to a combination of surgery and heated chemotherapy
- Second-rarest type
- Forms on soft tissue around the heart
- Best treated with a multimodal approach
- Rarest type
- Develops on the lining of the testes
- Responds best to surgery
Who Is Most at Risk of Mesothelioma?
Asbestos use in the military was widespread from 1940 to 1980. Veterans from all branches of the U.S. armed forces were at risk of exposure. Navy veterans are most at risk. This branch used the largest quantity of asbestos products.
More than 75 occupations have exposed workers to asbestos. Auto mechanics, textile workers, steel mill workers, construction workers and firefighters are among the most at risk.
Asbestos workers unknowingly carried asbestos fibers on their body and clothing. This resulted in secondary asbestos exposure among residents such as women and children.
Younger patients and women have a better mesothelioma prognosis than older men. People diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma also have a higher chance of survival.
Patients eligible to undergo multimodal therapy, which is a combination of two or more standard-of-care treatments, have a better life expectancy and improved prognosis.
A patient’s mesothelioma cell type also plays a significant role in prognosis and life expectancy.
The three types of cells include: Epithelioid These cells are the most responsive to treatment, which improves prognosis and life expectancy. They comprise 50 percent of mesothelioma diagnoses. Sarcomatoid These cells are the least responsive to treatment. Patients with this cell type have a poorer prognosis and shorter life expectancy. These cells comprise 10 percent of diagnoses. Biphasic A combination of epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells. This type is less responsive to treatment. But prognosis and life expectancy depends on the ratio of both types of cells. This type accounts for 30-40 percent of diagnoses.
Common Questions About Mesothelioma Prognosis
How Long Do Mesothelioma Patients Live? The life expectancy for most patients is about 12 months after diagnosis. What Factors Affect Prognosis? Stage and cell type of the cancer are the factors that most affect prognosis. Age, gender and patient’s asbestos exposure history also affect survival outlook. How Can Patients Improve Their Prognosis? Eating a nutrient-rich diet, undergoing cancer treatments, including multimodal therapy, and staying healthy can improve prognosis.
The Four Stages of Mesothelioma
The cancer is localized. Surgery is most effective at this stage. Survival rate is higher. Median life expectancy at stage 1 is 22.2 months.
Tumors have started to spread from the original location into adjacent structures. Surgery is still an option. Median life expectancy at stage 2 is 20 months.L
Cancer has progressed to a more advanced stage with spread into the regional lymph nodes. Surgery may still be an option. Median life expectancy at stage 3 is 17.9 months.
Cancer has spread extensively in the area where it developed. Chemotherapy and immunotherapy control symptoms and prolong survival. Median life expectancy at stage 4 is 14.9 months or less.
Importance of Finding a Mesothelioma Specialist
Mesothelioma is a rare cancer. It represents only 0.3 percent of all cancer diagnoses. Most doctors and oncologists have never encountered it.
A 2009 study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine states that cancer care “requires the technical knowledge and skills of specialty physicians such as medical oncologists, surgeons and radiation oncologists.”
Specialty cancer doctors establish:
- Goals for treatment and prognosis
- Possible use of chemotherapy
- First type of treatment
- Possible participation in clinical trials
These are factors that impact a mesothelioma patient’s survival. That’s why finding a mesothelioma specialist is so important.
Mesothelioma treatment helps patients live longer lives. But not every patient is eligible for each type of mesothelioma treatment.
The most common treatments for mesothelioma include: Surgery Offers greatest chance of survival. Usually used for diagnosis, tumor removal or palliative care to reduce pain. Patients with strong health and limited cancer spread are good candidates. Chemotherapy More than 70 percent of patients undergo chemotherapy. It uses powerful drugs to shrink tumors and kill cancer cells. Radiation Therapy Used to reduce pain from growing tumors. When combined with surgery and chemotherapy, it reduces risk of local recurrence. It can be used at any cancer stage. Immunotherapy This experimental treatment boosts the immune system to fight the cancer. Primarily used in clinical trials. Multimodal Therapy A combination of two or more treatments. Clinical studies show this approach improves survival rates. HIPEC A multimodal treatment for peritoneal mesothelioma patients. Surgery is first used to remove as many tumors as possible. Heated chemotherapy is then applied to the abdominal cavity to destroy remaining cancer cells. Palliative Treatments May include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or HIPEC. The purpose is not curative care. Instead, the goal is to reduce pain and improve quality of life. Good for any mesothelioma patient.
More than 70 percent of mesothelioma patients undergo chemotherapy
Clinical Trials and Emerging Treatments
Clinical trials offer mesothelioma patients access to experimental therapies. They also provide scientific and medical information for researches to develop new treatments. Patients in clinical trials also receive excellent medical care.
Herbal medicines, mind-body therapies, holistic healing and other complementary therapies may benefit patients.
Survival Statistics for Mesothelioma
Survival rates tell you what portion of people with the same type and stage of cancer are still alive a certain amount of time (such as 5 years) after they were diagnosed. They can’t tell you how long you’ll live, but they may help give you a better understanding about how likely it is that your treatment will be successful.
What is a survival rate?
Statistics on the outlook for a certain type and stage of cancer are often given as survival rates. For example, the 5-year survival rate is the percentage of people who live at least 5 years after being diagnosed with cancer. A 5-year survival rate of 50% means that an estimated 50 out of 100 people who have that cancer are still alive 5 years after being diagnosed. Many of these people live much longer than 5 years after diagnosis.
But keep in mind that survival rates are estimates – your outlook can vary based on a number of factors specific to you.
Cancer survival rates don’t tell the whole story
Survival rates are often based on previous outcomes of large numbers of people who had the disease, but they can’t predict what will happen in any particular person’s case. There are a number of limitations to remember:
- The numbers below are among the most current available. But to get 5-year survival rates, for example, doctors have to look at people who were treated at least 5 years ago. As treatments are improving over time, people who are now being diagnosed with mesothelioma may have a better outlook than these statistics show.
- These statistics are based on the stage of the cancer when it was first diagnosed. They do not apply to cancers that later come back or spread.
- The outlook for people with mesothelioma varies by the stage (extent) of the cancer – in general, the survival rates are higher for people with earlier stage cancers. But many other factors can also affect a person’s outlook, such as a person’s age and overall health, where the cancer is in the body, what type of mesothelioma it is, and how well it responds to treatment. The outlook for each person is specific to their circumstances.
Your doctor can tell you how these numbers may apply to you, as he or she is familiar with your particular situation.
Survival rates for malignant pleural mesothelioma
The numbers below come from thousands of people from all over the world who were diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM), mainly between the years 2000 and 2013. These numbers are only for mesotheliomas that start in the inner lining of the chest (the pleura), which is the most common place for mesothelioma to start.
Here are the 2-year and 5-year survival rates, by stage, for MPM:
- For stage IA cancers, the 2-year survival rate is about 46%, and the 5-year survival rate is about 16%.
- For stage IB cancers, the 2-year survival rate is about 41%, and the 5-year survival rate is about 13%.
- For stage II cancers, the 2-year survival rate is about 38%, and the 5-year survival rate is about 10%.
- For stage IIIA cancers, the 2-year survival rate is about 30%, and the 5-year survival rate is about 8%.
- For stage IIIB cancers, the 2-year survival rate is about 26%, and the 5-year survival rate is about 5%.
- For stage IV cancers, the 2-year survival rate is about 17%, and the 5-year survival rate is less than 1%.
Along with the stage of the cancer, the outlook for people with MPM can also be affected by other factors. For example, the type of mesothelioma, based on how the cancer cells are arranged when seen in the lab, is important. The epithelioid type tends to have a better outlook than the other types, such as sarcomatoid or mixed (biphasic) MPM. Other factors can be important, too.
Remember, these survival rates are only estimates – they can’t predict what will happen to any one person. We understand that these statistics can be confusing and may lead you to have more questions. Talk to your doctor to better understand your specific situation.
Mesothelioma Lawsuits and Financial Assistance
Why Should You File?
Many companies that produced, distributed or used asbestos products knew it was deadly. But they neglected to warn their employees. Filing a lawsuit can help mesothelioma patients cover lost wages, medical expenses and other costs. Quick Fact:
$180,000 is the median value for mesothelioma claims, according to a 2010 report from the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit institution that conducts research and analysis on asbestos bankruptcy trusts.
Who Can File a Lawsuit?
A person with mesothelioma can file a personal injury lawsuit. Mesothelioma lawyers file these against companies responsible for their client’s asbestos exposure. Families can file wrongful death claims when a loved one dies of mesothelioma.
How Do I File a Lawsuit?
Qualified mesothelioma attorneys can help you decide when to file a lawsuit. They can also guide you through the process. Time is of the essence because statute of limitations may expire. A mesothelioma lawyer will review your case so you receive the highest compensation.
Other Types of Financial Assistance
VA Claims Military veterans can file asbestos-related claims through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Medicare and Medicaid Government aid for older patients or those with limited income. Workers’ Compensation Financial help may be available to people exposed to asbestos on the job.
Support is available for mesothelioma patients, survivors and loved ones in many forms. Mesothelioma Support Groups Offer patients and survivors a safe place to share experiences. Grief Support Counseling sessions and grief support groups can bring peace of mind. They can also provide the coping skills needed to grieve for the loss of a loved one. Medical Support A complete medical team with a mesothelioma specialist, dietitian, patient advocate and others can improve prognosis.
The Mesothelioma Center’s monthly online support group meets every second Wednesday. Licensed mental health counselor Dana Nolan runs the support group. Patients and survivors can share their experiences with others on a similar cancer journey.
Mesothelioma Law Firm
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you should know that financial compensation may be available to help you cover medical expenses, loss of income and other hardships. An experienced mesothelioma law firm can explain your options and help you recover the compensation you and your family need.
What Does a Mesothelioma Law Firm Do?
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that attacks the lining of the lungs and chest wall (pleural), abdominal area (peritoneal), heart (pericardial) and testicles (tunica vaginalis testis). The only known cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos.
Mesothelioma law firms focus on helping mesothelioma patients and their families recover compensation from the asbestos companies that are responsible for their illness. Asbestos litigation is a complex field of law, so it is crucial to choose a top-rated mesothelioma law firm that has an established track record of securing maximum payments for their clients.
When you trust a respected law firm to handle your mesothelioma claim, you can expect your legal team to:
- Research your work history or military service history to pinpoint where and when you were exposed to asbestos
- Gather documentation about the asbestos materials you were exposed to and the companies that produced them
- Keep track of your medical treatments and health care expenses related to your disease
- Collect proof of other economic losses related to your illness, such as loss of income
- Consult with health care experts, life care planners, economists and other professionals to calculate future losses you and your family will experience due to the disease
- File a mesothelioma lawsuit against the at-fault parties and/or pursue claims through asbestos bankruptcy trust funds
- Explore your eligibility for compensation from sources such as veterans’ benefits, Social Security Disability Insurance, and workers’ compensation benefits
- Negotiate aggressively to maximize any settlement offers from asbestos companies
- Zealously argue your case before a judge and jury if a fair settlement cannot be reached
How Can an Asbestos Law Firm Help Me?
Coping with a mesothelioma diagnosis, whether you are the patient or the caregiver, can be all-consuming. It can take every bit of strength and energy you have just to get through each day. Meanwhile, the financial pressures continue to pile up, and you worry about what will happen to your family in the future.
The best mesothelioma law firms have a true understanding of what patients and families are going through. These seasoned attorneys have helped countless asbestos victims through this difficult time, and they work tirelessly to take the pressure off patients and families.
A highly qualified asbestos law firm will work to ease your stress by:
- Explaining all your options for obtaining compensation to cover medical expenses and other bills
- Connecting you with medical specialists who understand what mesothelioma patients need
- Managing all the paperwork and detailed documentation required to file a legal claim
- Ensuring the patient’s and family’s needs are always put first, including accommodating patients who are too ill to travel
- Helping families make a plan for the future to ensure they are not left with financial burdens after a tragic loss
What Should I Look for When Hiring an Asbestos Law Firm?
There are several qualities to look for when selecting the best mesothelioma law firm to handle your claim for compensation. Because asbestos cases are a very specialized area of law, you will need a highly qualified mesothelioma attorney who has extensive experience successfully handling these types of claims.
When choosing a lawyer to take on your mesothelioma claim, you should look for:
- A proven track record of results in cases involving mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases
- Detailed and extensive knowledge about the companies that produced asbestos materials, as well as the many job sites where these products were used
- Thorough understanding of the complex medical needs of mesothelioma patients, as well as connections to top specialists in the field
- Broad network of recognized medical professionals and other experts who can provide testimony as part of your case
- Dedication to helping you and your family identify every potential source of compensation, including assistance such as veterans’ benefits and Social Security Disability benefits
- Compassionate approach and earnest concern for what you and your family are going through
- Commitment to consistent communication about the status and progress of your claim, so you always know what is happening
All of the top-rated mesothelioma lawyers handle asbestos claims on a contingency-fee basis. This means that your attorney does not get paid unless he or she wins your case. A reputable lawyer will also provide a free consultation on your claim to answer your questions and explain your legal options.
Some of the questions you should ask when talking to a law firm about your asbestos claim include:
- How long has your law firm been focused on mesothelioma claims?
- How many asbestos claims have you handled and what were the outcomes? How many of those cases were specific to mesothelioma vs. other asbestos diseases?
- What is your firm’s level of trial experience?
- Has your firm successfully handled appeals in asbestos cases?
- What is the contingency fee arrangement?
- How often will I speak with my lawyer? Will I have direct contact with my attorney, or will I be communicating mostly with a paralegal or case manager?
- Does your law firm have connections to the top mesothelioma experts across the country in order to share knowledge and expertise?
- Can your mesothelioma law firm do anything to expedite my case?
- Can your firm still help the family if a patient dies before the case is resolved?
- Does your firm represent families whose loved ones have died from mesothelioma?
Choosing a mesothelioma attorney that you can trust with your personal information is an important decision. Do not hesitate to ask questions and continue asking questions throughout the process. A good attorney will want to make sure you are comfortable with how your case is progressing and will always be available to talk.
Award-Winning Mesothelioma Lawyers Ready to Help Your Family
The community at Mesothelioma Help is supported by Belluck & Fox, one of the highest ranked, nationally recognized mesothelioma law firms. For more than two decades, the law firm has been focused on helping families who have been affected by asbestos diseases.
The trusted mesothelioma attorneys at Belluck & Fox travel throughout the United States to meet personally with patients and their families. They have earned a reputation for compassionate and personalized customer service, as well as outstanding results.
Belluck & Fox has a track record of obtaining top-dollar verdicts and settlements in complex mesothelioma claims, recovering more than $1 billion for mesothelioma patients and their families.
A Mesothelioma Law Firm That Delivers Results
Belluck & Fox has extensive experience, significant resources and a history of success in handling complex asbestos litigation. Some of the firm’s most notable achievements for clients include:
- $32 million verdict for a U.S. Navy veteran who was diagnosed with asbestos disease after being exposed aboard Navy ships
- $22 million verdict for a part-time construction worker who was diagnosed with mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos on the job
- $19.5 million verdict for a construction worker who inhaled asbestos from joint-sealing compounds while working on a high-rise building in New York
Meet the Mesothelioma Attorneys at Belluck & Fox
Belluck & Fox has a team of dedicated mesothelioma lawyers who focus on handling these types of claims. The firm’s partners are committed to providing the highest quality service, including giving clients their personal cellphone numbers to maintain contact throughout the length of the case.
Joseph W. Belluck is a well-respected trial attorney and trusted advocate for those who have been harmed by asbestos. Joe has dedicated his career to holding asbestos companies accountable for failing to warn workers and consumers of the dangers of their products. He is nationally recognized for his work in the field of asbestos litigation, having secured tens of millions of dollars for victims and their families.
Jordan Fox has more than two decades of experience securing million-dollar verdicts in complicated asbestos claims. He has earned a reputation for winning landmark asbestos cases, including a groundbreaking case against Sears Roebuck ─ the first such case against a retail giant.
Bryan Belasky has helped hundreds of families who were unjustly harmed by mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis and other preventable asbestos diseases. He is a seasoned litigator with a strong commitment to holding large companies accountable for putting innocent individuals and families in harm’s way. Bryan has recovered millions of dollars in compensation for his deserving clients.
Seth A. Dymond heads up the motion and appellate practice at Belluck & Fox. He has extensive experience in appellate law and an in-depth knowledge of the strategies and techniques that are necessary to win on appeal. Because mesothelioma cases can result in large jury awards, which are often appealed, having a strong appellate practice is a crucial aspect of Belluck & Fox’s full-service approach to mesothelioma cases.
Nationwide Mesothelioma Law Firm Recognized for Putting People First
Belluck & Fox measures its success based on client satisfaction. The firm is proud to have earned top recognition from professional legal organizations such as Martindale Hubbell, Best Lawyers and Super Lawyers. However, its most valued recognition comes from former clients:
“I want to express my sincere thanks to you and your team for your hard work and dedication to my case, words cannot express my heartfelt gratitude in how you and your team have changed our lives for the better. We are indebted to you for the remainder of our lives.”
“I know it was a lot, but I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand the amount of time, effort, expertise, etc. that went into finishing this job. When I was given the opportunity to find legal help, it was a true relief to hear that you would take the case. … Thank you for keeping me involved only when I needed to be – this helped keep my anxiety and stress at bay, so I could focus on taking care of my girls and myself. I am forever grateful to you all for every single moment of time you put into helping us.”
“I realize that this case is nearly settled and it is time for me to move on. I thank all of you for the many hours of hard work you put into John´s case. It must be so rewarding to know that someone was compensated for the negligence and deceit in knowingly allowing Asbestos products to be sold and used. … Please keep doing what you are doing knowing that what you are doing is a worthwhile cause.”
-Pamela, Lawrence & Michael
Frequently Asked Questions
Taking the first step in pursuing a mesothelioma claim can be daunting, but you are not alone in this. An experienced mesothelioma lawyer can answer all your questions and go over all the details related to pursuing the compensation you and your family need.
At Mesothelioma Help, here are some of the questions patients and caregivers frequently ask us:
What if I don’t know which company exposed me to asbestos?
mesothelioma lawyer will walk through your work history or service
history with you to help determine when and where you were exposed to
asbestos. An experienced mesothelioma law firm will already have records
on the companies that produced asbestos products, and having that
research on hand will help your attorney determine which product(s) is
responsible for your disease.
In addition, your attorney may also track down former co-workers or people who served in the military with you to interview them about what they remember about the asbestos products that were used at the time.
Do I have to go to court for an asbestos claim?
No. In fact, the majority of mesothelioma lawsuits result in out-of-court settlements. For the cases that do need to go to trial, seriously ill individuals are not forced to travel to appear in court. Your asbestos lawyer will work with you to make appropriate accommodations out of respect for your situation.
I have workers’ compensation benefits. Can a law firm still help me even if I have other compensation benefits?
Yes, even if you are receiving workers’ compensation benefits or disability benefits, you may be entitled to compensation through a mesothelioma claim. You should schedule a free consultation with a trusted mesothelioma law firm to review the details of your case and learn about all of your options.
Compensation recovered from a verdict, settlement or trust fund claim can provide significant financial relief beyond the benefits you are already receiving.
How do asbestos law firms charge for services?
Asbestos law firms charge clients a contingency fee. This fee is typically an agreed-upon percentage of the total amount the firm eventually recovers for the client. As part of this agreement, if the firm does not recover any money for the client, the firm does not get paid.
The contingency fee arrangement benefits both the client and the firm because the client does not need to spend any money upfront to pursue a claim, and the firm has a serious incentive to aggressively pursue the maximum amount possible for the client.