Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mesothelioma - Defining the Disease

Mesothelioma - Defining the Disease
by Robert Grazian

Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that invades the mesothelium, a protective layer that surrounds most internal organs including the lungs, stomach and heart.

There are both benign and malignant forms of Mesothelioma; however, less than 10% of occurrences are benign. There are at least three known causes for Mesothelioma, including:

• Asbestos exposure (foremost cause) including direct and indirect contact
• Thorium Dioxide (Thorotrast)-used in certain X-ray tests in the past
• Zeolite-a silicate mineral common in soil in Turkey's Anatoli region

Diagnosing Mesothelioma, especially in the early stages, is a tricky proposition because the symptoms will mirror common aches and pains and are often ignored until the disease has progressed.
Malignant Mesothelioma affects three main areas of the body-lungs, abdominal cavity, and heart, and are categorized as follows:

• Pleural Mesothelioma (most common form) affects the lungs
• Peritoneal Mesothelioma affects the abdominal cavity
• Pericardial Mesothelioma (rarest form) affects the heart

Each type carries its own unique list of symptoms, most of which remain undetected until the cancer has reached untreatable levels.
Those with Pleural Mesothelioma can experience chest pains, weight loss, fever, difficulty breathing, persistent cough and swelling of the face and neck.
In cases of Peritoneal Mesothelioma, a person will suffer from nausea, weight loss, abdominal pains, and vomiting.
Complications include anemia, blood clotting issues, and bowel obstruction. Pericardial Mesothelioma causes shortness of breath, a persistent cough, chest pains and heart palpitations.
With all three forms of the disease, the signs grow more acute with time and yet can still evade diagnosis by being chalked up to other diseases with similar symptoms.

The first cases of Mesothelioma appeared in the early 1900's, amongst asbestos miners and factory workers.
The rate of occurrence continues to grow even though use of asbestos has declined, mostly because it can take decades for symptoms to emerge.
While those who are directly exposed to asbestos are most likely to get this type of cancer, those who have had only minimal contact have also contracted Mesothelioma.
Something as simple as washing asbestos-covered clothing or daily exposure to houses and buildings that utilize asbestos insulation can put people at risk.

While Mesothelioma is a popular buzzword in the personal injury law arena today, victims and the legal system have been fighting for rights, and restitution since the 1920's.
Companies with low ethical standards and even lower levels of compassion, having knowledge of the dangers of asbestos, forced countless employees to work in unsafe, life threatening conditions, without benefit of protective clothing, masks, or other safety precautions or the benefit of informing them of the risks they faced on a daily basis.
In the United States, laws have been enacted, such as The Clean Air Act, and the Toxic Substance Control Act, in order to provide more protection to employees, and citizens, in general from exposure to Asbestos.
Even if Asbestos was banned globally, however, it would take decades or longer before the risks of contracting Mesothelioma would be thwarted

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