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Malignant Mesothelioma Diagnosis: First Steps

Facing a diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma can feel devastating and overwhelming. There are several steps that can be taken after diagnosis for both patients and their loved ones that will allow for more choice and help navigate the road of having terminal cancer.  This article shares helpful information for patients and loved ones during such a difficult time.

Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that begins in the lining of the lungs, chest or abdominal cavities and its cause is primarily linked with exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a toxic, naturally occurring mineral that has been used in thousands of industrial and construction products for many years. Asbestos, when airborne, can easily be inhaled and fibers lodge in the lining of the heart, chest or abdomen, causing fatal illnesses.
Malignant mesothelioma can be contracted after repeated exposure, low levels of exposure or a single incident of exposure. The latency period between the time of first exposure and development of symptoms of mesothelioma is generally between 20 – 40 years. Prognosis and survival times at time of diagnosis are usually poor. Currently, there is no known cure for mesothelioma, however much research is being conducted to try to discover one.
Mesothelioma is often not diagnosed until it has reached inoperable and advanced stages due to the long latency period and difficulty in early identification of symptoms. Most patients diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma have a survival time of less than two years, despite scientific and medical advances. Because of the poor prognosis, most patients diagnosed with mesothelioma realize that they are facing a terminal illness. Facing and coping with this knowledge is very challenging for the patient diagnosed as well as for family members and friends. Many first reactions are shock, anger, denial, and deep sadness. 
During the initial time period after diagnosis, there are several steps one can take become better informed and gain some sense of control of how to move forward. The first step is to learn as much as possible about the disease, including stages, location, type, etc. Next, there are many standard as well as alternative medical treatments for mesothelioma. Explore all possibilities, including participating in a clinical trial, with your medical team and mesothelioma specialist. Have friends and family members help you research which treatments are best for you.
Having a network of support is vital to helping ease this period of time. Doctors, palliative and hospice specialists, clergy and spiritual leaders, as well as loved ones can offer emotional and physical support. Being able to communicate which treatments you would like to receive and your preferences for end of life care are essential to ensuring your wishes are followed.   For many, support groups at the treating medical center or in the area provide a place to voice concerns and fears about your diagnosis and about death and dying.
Knowing what sources of financial compensation you can receive is also important. Inform yourself about your medical benefits as well as your right to legal compensation. An experienced mesothelioma attorney who specializes in handling asbestos lawsuits is best at recovering financial compensation to help cover loss of wages, costs of medical treatments, and loss due to pain and suffering. Mesothelioma lawyers who specialize in asbestos cases will have extensive resources in maximizing your financial benefits, as well as information about medical treatments, specialists and centers.
Receiving a diagnosis of mesothelioma is extremely difficult on everyone. Take time to spend with family and loved ones. Take care of any unfinished business, personal, financial or practical. Surround yourself with those that love you and provide compassionate support. Staying informed and communicating your desires can make an important difference in treating mesothelioma.