What Is Mesothelioma?
Malignant mesothelioma is a very aggressive and rare cancer. It forms in the different parts of the mesothelium, including the linings of the lungs, abdominal cavity, heart, or testicles.
Roughly 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year, and almost all cases are linked back to asbestos exposure. Anyone who inhales asbestos fibers can develop mesothelioma decades later.
Those with mesothelioma often face a poor prognosis (health outlook). The cancer is often not diagnosed until it has spread as patients may have little to no symptoms before that time.
Mesothelioma destroys the lives of patients and families every year — and sadly, many of these cases could have been prevented.
Makers of asbestos-containing products knew the health risks of asbestos back in the 1930s but didn’t tell the general public until decades later. They let people get sick and die to make money.
We at the Mesothelioma Resource Group find this deception awful and unacceptable. We’re committed to helping right these wrongs.
To that end, we can connect mesothelioma patients to:
- Information and resources about this cancer
- Medical care and top doctors that can treat mesothelioma
- Potential payouts from the makers of asbestos-based products
Learn how we can help you right now with a free mesothelioma guide.
- Find Cancer Resources
- Get Medical Care
- Access Compensation
To date, the biggest risk factor and only known cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure.
Asbestos is a very durable and fiber-like material that was once used in many building products between the 1930s and early 1980s.
If asbestos-containing products are disturbed or damaged, they can release tiny fibers into the air. Those nearby could inhale them and be put at risk of developing mesothelioma.
Asbestos was once used so often that millions of people have been put at risk. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) found that roughly 27 million workers were exposed to asbestos between 1940 and 1979.
“Because they attach to the lining of the lungs and airways, the fibers cannot be coughed out or washed out of the lung tissue. The area around the fiber becomes inflamed and, eventually, scarred.”
— University of Montana
The asbestos fibers can cause healthy cells to mutate into cancer cells after decades of irritation.
Who Is at Risk of Mesothelioma?
Anyone exposed to asbestos can develop mesothelioma later in life. That said, those at greatest risk of mesothelioma worked with or around asbestos for long periods of time between the 1930s and early 1980s (when the dangers were hidden from the public).
Those at a high risk of mesothelioma include:
- Construction workers
- Military veterans
- Shipyard workers
Family members of people who worked in these roles are also at higher risk due to secondhand asbestos exposure. Workers may have unknowingly brought asbestos fibers home on their hair, skin, and clothes, putting their loved ones in danger of developing mesothelioma decades later.
The symptoms of mesothelioma typically appear 10-50 years after someone has been exposed to asbestos.
Common mesothelioma symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Cough that won’t go away
- Fluid buildup in the lining of the lungs, heart, abdomen, or testicles
- Presence of blood in fecal matter, vomit, or sputum (lung mucus)
- Rib pain
- Shortness of breath
- Shoulder pain
- Upper back pain
- Weight loss
There are also unique symptoms of mesothelioma depending on where the cancer tumors develop.
Types of Mesothelioma
There are four types of mesothelioma based on the cancer’s location. Learn about each type of mesothelioma below.
Malignant pleural mesothelioma is the most common type of this cancer. Up to 85% of all mesothelioma cases fall under this type. It occurs when mesothelioma tumors develop in the lining of the lungs (pleura).
Common pleural mesothelioma symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Coughing up blood
- Pleural effusion (fluid in the lung lining)
- Pain in the ribs, shoulders, and/or upper back
- Shortness of breath
Pleural mesothelioma is not considered a type of lung cancer. Lung cancer tumors develop right in the lungs themselves. Further, lung cancer has many other possible causes besides asbestos exposure, like smoking.
Doctors often treat pleural mesothelioma by surgically removing tumors, the pleura, and sometimes the lung closest to the cancer.
Peritoneal mesothelioma is the second most common type of this cancer, accounting for 10–15% of cases. It can develop if asbestos fibers are swallowed and make their way to the abdominal cavity (peritoneum).
Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include:
- Abdominal pain and swelling
- Ascites (fluid buildup in the abdomen)
- Bowel obstruction
- Unexplained weight loss
Patients with peritoneal mesothelioma often live longer than those with pleural mesothelioma, as available treatments for this type are more effective. The most effective treatment combines abdominal surgery with chemotherapy (cancer-killing drugs) to destroy as much of the cancer as possible.
Get help for any type of mesothelioma right now. Call (888) 360-2406 to connect with our patient advocates.
Pericardial mesothelioma is very rare, accounting for less than 1% of all mesothelioma cases. This form of cancer develops in the heart lining (pericardium).
Pericardial mesothelioma symptoms include:
- Atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat)
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
Pericardial mesothelioma has the worst health outlook of all types, with most patients only living a few months. Sadly, many cases of pericardial mesothelioma aren’t diagnosed until the patient has died.
However, treatments may help pericardial mesothelioma patients live longer if they’re diagnosed before the cancer spreads.
Testicular mesothelioma is the rarest type, with only a few hundred cases ever reported. It develops in the testicle lining (tunica vaginalis).
Testicular mesothelioma symptoms include:
- Hydrocele (swelling of the scrotum due to fluid buildup)
- Lump or mass in the scrotum
- Spermatocele (cyst on the upper part of a testicle)
Though it’s very rare, patients with testicular mesothelioma have a better health outlook than many of the other types. Patients are often able to live for several years after being diagnosed with testicular mesothelioma if they get treatment quickly.
Mesothelioma Cell Types
Besides classifying mesothelioma based on where it forms, doctors also note which cells are present. Mesothelioma tumors can be made up of different types of cells. The studying of these cell types is known as mesothelioma histology.
Which mesothelioma cell type you have can greatly affect your overall health outlook.
The three mesothelioma cell types are:
- Epithelioid mesothelioma: This is the most common mesothelioma cell type, accounting for 70% of cases. It’s also known as epithelial mesothelioma. Cases of epithelioid mesothelioma are relatively easy to treat since the cells clump together.
- Sarcomatoid mesothelioma: Between 10% and 20% of mesothelioma cases are made up of sarcomatoid cells, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Sarcomatoid mesothelioma is harder to treat than epithelioid mesothelioma, as the cells are more likely to spread through the body. Patients with this type have a worse health outlook as a result.
- Biphasic mesothelioma: Some mesothelioma tumors are made up of both epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells. When this happens, a patient has biphasic mesothelioma. The ACS notes that biphasic mesothelioma makes up 20-30% of cases. Patients have a better health outlook if there are more epithelial cells present.
Doctors classify cases of pleural mesothelioma into one of four stages based on how far the cancer has spread through the body. Stage 1 is the least advanced mesothelioma stage and stage 4 is the most advanced.
Most patients aren’t diagnosed until stage 3 or 4 since this is often when the symptoms of mesothelioma are first noticed. That said, medical care can help patients at any stage.
The four stages of pleural mesothelioma are:
- Stage 1: Tumors are found only in the pleura
- Stage 2: The cancer has started to spread into nearby areas like the diaphragm (muscle at the bottom of the chest), the lung, or nearby lymph nodes
- Stage 3: The tumors have spread into the chest wall, heart lining, and other organs
- Stage 4: The cancer is widespread and may be found throughout the chest, distant lymph nodes, and major organs
All other types of mesothelioma do not have official staging systems. That said, doctors can see how far the cancer has spread when making a diagnosis and recommend treatments based on what they find.
No matter the type, mesothelioma is much easier to treat if it’s caught in the early stages. Thus, it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible if you think something is wrong. Getting properly diagnosed will allow you to get the treatments you need to live longer.
Doctors follow a multi-step process to diagnose mesothelioma.
The diagnostic process includes:
- Initial exam: Doctors will ask you about your current symptoms and conduct a physical exam. They may also ask about your overall medical history. Be sure to tell your doctor if you or a family were ever exposed to asbestos — or if you’re concerned that you have mesothelioma — at this first appointment. Doctors may think a more common health problem could be causing your symptoms unless they know about your exposure history.
- Imaging scans: If your doctor thinks you might have cancer, they may order scans to look inside your body for possibly cancerous growths. These tests include CT scans, chest X-rays, PET scans, and more. Though each one is slightly different, they all allow your doctor to get a better look at what’s going on in your body.
- Biopsies: Doctors will order a biopsy if they see abnormalities (such as a growth or fluid buildup) in the imaging scans. Biopsies allow doctors to collect a fluid or tissue sample and look at it under a microscope to see if it’s made up of cancer cells. A biopsy is the only way to confirm a mesothelioma diagnosis.
After the biopsy has been conducted and studied, doctors can provide you with a formal diagnosis and recommend a treatment plan.
Learn what steps you can take after a mesothelioma diagnosis to potentially extend your life expectancy in our free mesothelioma guide.
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What Is the Prognosis for Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma prognosis is a doctor’s estimate of how long a patient will live, and how the cancer will progress. Most mesothelioma patients have a poor prognosis since the cancer is very aggressive and hard to treat.
Certain factors can play a role in changing a patient’s prognosis for the better or worse.
Mesothelioma prognosis is affected by:
- Cancer type & cell type
- Cancer stage
- How the patient responds to treatments
- Patient age
- Overall health
It’s important to know that a mesothelioma prognosis is just an estimate and that it may change depending on your unique patient factors and which treatments you receive. Some mesothelioma patients have lived for decades after being given months to live at first.
A prognosis is measured in two ways: life expectancy (the average amount of time someone lives after a diagnosis) and survival rate (the percentage of people still living with the cancer after a set span of time). Learn about each below.
Mesothelioma Life Expectancy
The average mesothelioma life expectancy is 15 months, according to a 2019 study. That said, mesothelioma life expectancies can vary greatly depending on the type, stage, and other factors.
- Pleural mesothelioma has a life expectancy of 12-21 months, depending on what stage the patient is diagnosed in. Stage 1 patients live the longest on average.
- Peritoneal mesothelioma has a life expectancy of 53 months if the patient gets treated with surgery and chemotherapy. Those who don’t get treatment typically live for only 6 months to 1 year.
- Pericardial mesothelioma has a life expectancy of 2-6 months.
- Testicular mesothelioma has a life expectancy of nearly 47 months.
Mesothelioma Survival Rate
Doctors typically measure survival rates in years. The overall 5-year mesothelioma survival rate is just 10%, according to Penn Medicine.
Again, factors like type, stage, and a patient’s overall health play a role in how long they’ll live. View mesothelioma survival rates by type below.
- Pleural mesothelioma 5-year survival rate: 12%
- Peritoneal mesothelioma 5-year survival rate: 47%
- Pericardial mesothelioma 5-year survival rate: 9%
- Testicular mesothelioma 5-year survival rate: 49%
Remember: if you have mesothelioma, you need to get medical treatments to improve your life expectancy and survival rate. We can connect you to top mesothelioma doctors and treatments. Get started now by calling (888) 360-2406.
Mesothelioma Treatment Options
If you have mesothelioma, you’ll need to get treatments in order to live longer and ease your symptoms.
There are many treatments for mesothelioma. Which treatments your doctor will recommend depends on your cancer type and stage, your overall health, and other factors. Some cancer treatment methods are unique to specific mesothelioma types.
Learn about different treatments of mesothelioma below.
Surgeries are arguably the most effective mesothelioma treatment. Doctors can remove cancer tumors, as well as non-vital tissue and organs that the tumors have grown into, to help the patient live longer.
Common mesothelioma surgeries include:
- Cytoreduction with HIPEC: This treatment combines surgery with chemotherapy to treat peritoneal mesothelioma. Doctors first perform cytoreductive surgery to remove cancer tumors from the abdominal lining. They then apply warm, liquid chemotherapy to destroy microscopic mesothelioma cells that weren’t removed during the surgery.
- Extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP): This surgery is used to treat pleural mesothelioma by removing the lung closest to the cancer tumors, the pleura, and as much of the cancer as possible. Patients must be in good overall health to withstand this surgery and so they can adjust to life without a lung.
- Pleurectomy with decortication (P/D): This surgery is also used to help pleural mesothelioma patients. This surgery removes the pleura and cancer tumors but spares both lungs. Not removing a lung allows patients to recover faster and with fewer complications.
Doctors can also surgically treat pericardial and testicular mesothelioma by removing cancer tumors, along with heart lining or testicle lining and testicle respectively.
Ask your doctor about which mesothelioma surgeries (if any) you qualify for.
Chemotherapy is medication specially designed to destroy cancer cells.
“Chemotherapy is the most common type of systemic therapy used for mesothelioma. It usually works by keeping the cancer cells from growing, dividing, and making more cells.”
— American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)
Chemotherapy can be used to amplify the effects of other treatments like surgery. It may also be the main mesothelioma treatment that a patient receives.
Doctors often combine more than one chemotherapy medication for best results. Two chemotherapy drugs — pemetrexed and cisplatin — are commonly used together when treating mesothelioma.
Chemotherapy can cause side effects like nausea, numbness, and tingling. To limit these side effects, it’s typically given in cycles — periods of time where the patient gets treated, followed by a rest period.
Doctors use radiation therapy to shrink mesothelioma tumors with concentrated beams of energy. Radiation can damage both healthy cells and cancerous ones, so special machines are used to give precise doses of radiation to the cancer site.
Radiation treatments are typically painless but can lead to side effects like fatigue and skin rashes. Doctors will do everything they can to limit the side effects.
Mesothelioma doctors often use radiation either before surgery to shrink tumors or after surgery to destroy microscopic cancer cells that were left behind.
Immunotherapy is a newer mesothelioma treatment, having been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2020. Immunotherapy medications boost the body’s immune response to destroy mesothelioma tumors and cells.
The immune system naturally works to destroy cancer. However, mesothelioma and other cancer cells can hide from the immune cells the body produces. Immunotherapy medications work to right this wrong.
Doctors can use many other treatments besides the four listed above to help mesothelioma patients. The goals of mesothelioma treatment vary with each patient, and so different treatments may be required as a result.
Other treatments for mesothelioma include:
- Palliative care: These treatments focus on easing a patient’s pain. Many major treatments — including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation — can be scaled down so they can help ease a patient’s symptoms.
- Targeted therapy: This type of treatment works to interrupt the growth of cancer cells while causing as little harm as possible to healthy cells and tissues. For example, a targeted therapy called bevacizumab can prevent mesothelioma cells from growing the blood vessels they need to live.
- Tumor treatment fields (TTfields): TTfields are pads that attach to the patient’s chest. The pads give off electricity that slows down the growth of the cancer tumors without hurting the patient. TTFields were approved for use in treating pleural mesothelioma (when used alongside chemotherapy) in 2019 by the FDA.
Mesothelioma Clinical Trials
Besides the mesothelioma treatments listed above, many others are being studied in clinical trials. Clinical trials are an important part of the cancer research process as they allow doctors to test out new — and possibly more effective — treatments to see how they help patients.
Immunotherapy and TTfields were granted FDA approval for use in treating mesothelioma after they showed promise in clinical trials.
Mesothelioma clinical trials are currently studying new treatments like photodynamic therapy (using light to kill cancer cells) and cryotherapy (freezing cancer tumors to shrink or destroy them) among many others.
Other trials look at ways to improve existing treatments (like chemotherapy and immunotherapy).
We can help you determine if you qualify for mesothelioma clinical trials. Learn more: call (888) 360-2406.
Many mesothelioma patients deserve financial compensation as their cancer could have been prevented by major companies.
Manufacturers used asbestos for decades despite knowing the dangers since the 1930s. They sold asbestos-based products without revealing the dangers, putting millions of people at risk all in the name of financial gain.
The Mesothelioma Resource Group is proud to help you fight back against this corporate greed. Thankfully, you may be able to access compensation through the legal system and other channels. Learn how you can pursue mesothelioma compensation with our help below.
A mesothelioma lawsuit or claim may allow you to get money from companies that made and sold the asbestos-containing products that caused you to get sick.
Mesothelioma lawsuits award $1 million and $11.4 million on average. Some may award more or less than these amounts.
Most lawsuits reach a conclusion through an out-of-court settlement, where the companies being sued agree to pay you so the case doesn’t go to trial.
A handful of mesothelioma claims may go to trial if a settlement isn’t reached. In a trial, a judge or jury will decide how much money (if any) the patient will get.
Patients can use the mesothelioma compensation they get from a lawsuit for anything — medical expenses, bills, mortgages, and more.
To have the best shot at getting financial compensation, patients are highly encouraged to work with a mesothelioma lawyer.
Mesothelioma attorneys specifically handle legal cases for those with asbestos-related diseases. They know how to properly build a strong claim and get the most compensation possible.
Mesothelioma lawyers will handle most of the legwork that comes with a lawsuit to make the process easier on patients and families.
Learn how an attorney can help your family in our free mesothelioma guide.
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- Get Medical Care
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Mesothelioma Law Firms
Skilled asbestos attorneys work at mesothelioma law firms. These law firms are dedicated to helping all who were wronged by asbestos-related diseases get justice and financial aid.
Top mesothelioma law firms have:
- A contingency fee plan in place (meaning clients pay nothing upfront to work with them)
- A national reach, allowing them to help mesothelioma patients all over the country
- Paralegals, medical experts, patient advocates, and asbestos attorneys on staff
- Resources related to when, where, and how asbestos-based products were used
Mesothelioma law firms can help you and your family pursue financial compensation right now. Call (888) 360-2406 to find a top law firm now.
Asbestos Trust Funds
Lawsuits aren’t the only way to access mesothelioma compensation. Many companies have money set aside in asbestos trust funds.
Makers of asbestos-based products were forced to set aside money in trust funds if they filed for bankruptcy. Many manufacturers declared bankruptcy after facing an onslaught of mesothelioma lawsuits as a way to avoid paying their fair share (as bankrupt companies can’t be sued).
There’s a total of more than $30 billion in asbestos trust funds right now. Mesothelioma lawyers can help patients file claims with asbestos trusts to access some of this compensation.
Patients can often access money from lawsuits and trust funds at the same time, depending on which asbestos-containing products they were exposed to.
VA Benefits for Veterans With Mesothelioma
U.S. veterans that served prior to the 1980s are at a very high risk of mesothelioma due to widespread military asbestos use. Thankfully, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers military benefits to those diagnosed.
VA mesothelioma benefits include:
- Free or low-cost medical care from VA hospitals
- Monthly financial compensation (worth over $3,000 in most cases)
- Survivor benefits for spouses and children
Veterans can file a VA benefits claim on their own or with the help of a VA-accredited attorney, Veterans Service Officer (VSO), or another representative.
Further, veterans can file mesothelioma lawsuits and asbestos trust fund claims alongside VA benefits claims. No legal action is taken against the U.S. military or government through private lawsuits.
Help for Mesothelioma Patients
The Mesothelioma Resource Group was created to help patients get answers when they need them most. Our team will walk through your cancer fight with you and help you find medical treatment, support, and financial compensation.
We are honored and proud to help people like you stand up to corporate greed. Many cases of mesothelioma could have been prevented if companies had been honest. Sadly, that’s not what happened.
Millions of honest, hardworking people like you were exposed to asbestos between the 1930s and early 1980s, and thousands are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year as a result.
Though mesothelioma is very aggressive, remember:
- A mesothelioma diagnosis is not your fault
- Treatment is available regardless of your diagnosis
- You can pursue legal claims often valued at $1 million or more
- Other support options are available to you and your family
The Mesothelioma Resource Group is ready to help you right now. Learn more with our free mesothelioma guide.
FAQs About Malignant Mesothelioma
What are five signs and symptoms of mesothelioma?
Five of the most common mesothelioma symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, a cough, fluid buildup, and weight loss. Patients may have other symptoms depending on what type of mesothelioma they have and how far it has spread through the body.
See a doctor if you have possible signs and symptoms of mesothelioma and were exposed to asbestos decades ago. You’ll need to get properly diagnosed in order to access treatments for your symptoms and live longer.
Is mesothelioma the deadliest cancer?
Mesothelioma is not the deadliest cancer since it’s very rare, with approximately 3,000 new cases each year.
That said, only a small percentage of patients ever become long-term survivors since the cancer is so aggressive. While cancers like lung and breast cancer kill more people each year, there are also many more long-term survivors.
What is the main cause of mesothelioma?
There’s only one known cause of mesothelioma: asbestos exposure. When asbestos fibers get swallowed or inhaled, they might never leave the body and can get stuck in the linings of major organs.
Asbestos fibers can then irritate the body for decades on end and eventually cause healthy cells to mutate into cancer cells.
Horrifically, major companies that used asbestos in their products knew the dangers back in the 1930s. Instead of revealing the risks, though, they concealed them to make money. Thousands develop mesothelioma and die each year due to this corporate greed.
Is mesothelioma a death sentence?
No. Though mesothelioma is very aggressive, you may be able to live for years or decades after being diagnosed.
Long-term mesothelioma survivors have lived for 15 years or more after being diagnosed with this cancer.
You’ll need medical treatment from top doctors if you want to become a long-term survivor. Call (888) 360-2406 to find top treatments now.
How much asbestos exposure causes mesothelioma?
No amount of asbestos exposure is safe. Even being exposed to asbestos once can cause you to develop mesothelioma later in life.
However, those exposed to asbestos regularly for extended periods of time are at greater risk. Many of those who developed mesothelioma worked with or around asbestos-containing products for years or decades at their job.
Their family members could also be at risk if workers brought stray asbestos fibers home with them over the years.
Are U.S. veterans at greater risk of mesothelioma?
Yes. Veterans are at a higher risk of mesothelioma since every branch of the U.S. military used asbestos on buildings, vehicles, and ships between the 1930s and early 1980s.
Navy veterans are at the highest risk since every Navy ship was built with tons of asbestos prior to the 1980s. In fact, one-third of all mesothelioma cases are linked back to Navy or shipyard service.