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Mesothelioma: The Facts of Asbestos Cancer

Mesothelioma, also referred to as “asbestos cancer,” is a complex disease that has been in the public eye since the 1920s. Once considered an industrial disease, it affected thousands of mill workers, shipwrights, sailors, soldiers, and mechanics. Today it continues to take a toll on a second generation of victims, including plumbers, electricians, contractors, mechanics and carpenters as well as homeowners who are coming into contact with deadly asbestos during demolition or remodeling projects.

When trying to understand mesothelioma, its history, and what is being done to combat it, it’s helpful to break this complex issue down into cold hard facts.

History of Mesothelioma

Company documentation as far back as the 1920s reveal concerns about the link between asbestos and mesothelioma.

In 1964, the first mesothelioma case conclusively linked to asbestos exposure was documented.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an asbestos ban and phase out order in 1989, almost a decade after requesting documentation from companies that manufactured asbestos products concerning the safety of their wares.

The Libby Mine in Montana was shut down in 1990. The vermiculite asbestos mined there was thought to be responsible for a large number of mesothelioma cases in the United States. The mine has been designated a superfund site.

To date, there have been over 174 clinical trials for mesothelioma conducted trying to find a way to better diagnose, prevent and treat asbestos related disease.

Rates and Types of Mesothelioma

Three histological types of mesothelioma have been defined: epithelial, sarcomatoid and biphasic. Epithelial mesothelioma is the most treatable, sarcomatoid mesothelioma the least.

Mesothelioma can affect the pleura, the peritoneum, the pericardium, and portions of the testicles.

The rate of new diagnoses here in the U.S. remains around 3,000 cases per year.

The new diagnosis rate of mesothelioma is predicted to peak worldwide 2020 though previous predictions for a peak in both the United States and the U.K. have been wrong.

Clinical trials may involve up to 50% of current mesothelioma patients.

While multiple mesothelioma treatments have been developed, there is no cure. Mesothelioma is always fatal.

Mesothelioma Statistics

Mesothelioma latency period (the time from asbestos exposure to the arrival of symptoms) can run as long as fifty years or more but typically falls between 25 to 40 years. Less than 1 percent of patients experience latency periods shorter than 15 years.

Between 14 and 30 people out of every million worldwide will be affected by mesothelioma every year.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) released chilling estimates that nearly 11 million people were exposed to asbestos between 1940 and 1978.

Half of all mesothelioma patients will die within 18 months after treatment.

30% of patients have a chance of living five years or longer.

Staging plays an important factor in prognosis

  • Stage I -- 32 months
  • Stage II -- 19 months
  • Stage III -- 13 months
  • Stage IV -- 6.5 months

Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 50 and 70 years.

Men are four times more likely to be diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Roughly 75% of mesothelioma cases involve the pleura (lining surrounding the lungs and chest cavity.)

10%--20% of mesothelioma involves the peritoneum (lining of the abdominal cavity.)

Computed tomography (CT scans) and positron emission tomography (PET scans) are the most advanced method for identifying and monitoring mesothelioma tumors.

Mesothelioma Treatment

Chemotherapy is the most common form of treatment for mesothelioma; surgery is second.

Cisplatin and pemetrexed (Alimta) are the most common chemotherapy drugs involved in treating mesothelioma.

Radiation usually follows surgical procedures and can be administered five days a week for several weeks.

Side effects of treatment are often worse than the symptoms of the disease.

Radical new therapies (gene therapy, immunotherapy, multi-drug therapies) are currently in experimental stage but there remains no cure. Mesothelioma is an ugly disease made uglier by the fact that it’s preventable. Asbestos exposure, either knowingly or accidentally, is the cause of this deadly disease. Mesothelioma patients have legal rights and can seek reparations from the companies who produced and used these toxic products. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed, contact one of our expert mesothelioma attorneys today at 415-332-4262.