What Is Mesothelioma?


Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer (malignancy) that most frequently arises from the cells lining the sacs of the chest (the pleura) or the abdomen (the peritoneum). Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form, often presenting with symptoms in the chest area.

Peritoneal mesothelioma is much less common. This can affect the organs in the abdomen, and its symptoms are related to this area of the body, that is, abdominal swelling, nausea, vomiting, and bowel obstruction.

The rarest form of mesothelioma is pericardial mesothelioma, which involves the sac surrounding the heart. There are two major cell types of mesothelioma, epithelial and sarcomatoid.

Sometimes both of these cell types can be present. The sarcomatoid type is rarer and occurs in only about 15% of cases; it portends a poorer prognosis. In very rare cases, mesothelioma can originate from benign, non-malignant cells. This so-called benign mesothelioma can be cured surgically.

What are the symptoms of mesothelioma?

Most people present with complaints of shortness of breath. They also can have complaints of chest pain and cough. Patients may also be asymptomatic, with the disease discovered by physical exam or an abnormal chest X-ray.

As the disease progresses, shortness of breath increases, and weight loss, decreased appetite, and night sweats can develop. Local invasion by the tumor can result in changing of voice, loss of function of the diaphragm, and symptoms specific to the area and involvement of adjacent structures.

What causes mesothelioma?

Most people with malignant mesothelioma have worked on jobs where they breathed asbestos. Usually, this involves men over 40 years of age. Others have been exposed to asbestos in a household environment, often without knowing it. The number of new cases of mesothelioma has been relatively stable since 1983, the same time that the restrictions on asbestos were instituted by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

In Europe, the number of new cases of mesothelioma continues to rise. The United Kingdom possesses one of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world, largely because the UK government permitted the use of asbestos long after other countries outlawed the mineral’s use.

How much asbestos exposure does it take to get mesothelioma?

An exposure of as little as one or two months can result in mesothelioma 30 or 40 years later and in some cases, as much as 70 years later.

How is mesothelioma diagnosed?

Mesothelioma is diagnosed by pathological examination from a biopsy. Tissue is removed, placed under the microscope, and a pathologist makes a definitive diagnosis and issues a pathology report. This is the end of a process that usually begins with symptoms that send most people to the doctor: a fluid buildup around the lungs (pleural effusions), shortness of breath, pain in the chest, or pain or swelling in the abdomen. The doctor may order an X-ray or CT scan of the chest or abdomen. If further examination is warranted, the following tests may be done:

• Thoracoscopy: For pleural mesothelioma, the doctor may look inside the chest cavity with a special instrument called a thoracoscope. A cut will be made through the chest wall and the thoracoscope will be put into the chest between two ribs. This test is usually done in a hospital using an anesthetic. If fluid has collected in your chest, your doctor may drain the fluid out of your body by putting a needle into your chest and using gentle suction to remove the fluid. This is called thoracentesis.

• Peritoneoscopy: For peritoneal mesothelioma, the doctor may also look inside the abdomen with a special tool called a peritoneoscope. The peritoneoscope is put into an opening made in the abdomen. This test is usually done in the hospital under an anesthetic. If fluid has collected in your abdomen, your doctor may drain the fluid out of your body by putting a needle into your abdomen and using gentle suction to remove the fluid. This process is called paracentesis.

• Biopsy: If abnormal tissue is found, the doctor will need to cutout a small piece and have it looked at under a microscope. This is usually done during the thoracoscopy or peritoneoscopy, but can be done during surgery. Unfortunately, in some cases, tumor cells can grow along the tract where the biopsy is taken. This can be minimized with the use of radiation to the area.

What is the prognosis for mesothelioma?

Like most cancers, the prognosis for this disease often depends on how early it is diagnosed and how aggressively it is treated. Unfortunately, mesothelioma is often found at a stage in which a cure is unobtainable. Many will succumb to the disease within one year of diagnosis.

What is the average settlement for a mesothelioma case?

According to a recent Mealey’s Litigation Report, the average mesothelioma trial award is estimated at $2.4 million in U.S.A. The average mesothelioma settlement is between $1 million and $1.4 million and typically paid by multiple defendants. However, no cases are alike. Victims in the uk who can’t trace a liable employer or an employers’ liability insurer will soon be able to apply for compensation packages worth an average of £123,000. The government has increased this from the initial £115,000 debated in the House of Commons.

How long do mesothelioma claims take?

In the United States, each state has its own time limit, but in general, it is around one to three years following your original diagnosis. The law relies on “the time from initial diagnosis” because it may take 15-50 years for symptoms of mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure to become present.

Are legal settlements for mesothelioma taxable income?

Regardless of why the punitive damages were awarded, they are always taxable. Citizens of most countries are taxed on both their income and on punitive damages. However, if the emotional distress has a clear link to a physical injury, it becomes tax free.