Many people have heard the term Mesothelioma, but generally only those that have affected by it have any real idea what it is. Mesothelioma is a relatively rare type of cancer. In people afflicted with mesothelioma, malignant cancer cells are found in the mesothelium. So what is the mesothelium and how does one get mesothelioma?
The mesothelium is a membrane, or protective sac, that covers and protects the majority of the body’s internal organs. The mesothelium has two layers so that one layer is directly around the organ it is protecting and the other forms a sac around the first layer. The mesothelium produces a lubricating fluid that is released between the two layers which allows moving organs such as the beating heart or expanding lungs to glide easily against adjacent structures. The mesothelium can be referred to by different names depending on where in the body it is located. The peritoneum is the mesothelial tissue that covers most organs found in the abdominal cavity while the pleura surrounds the lungs and lines the walls of the chest cavity for example.
Mesothelioma – or cancer of the mesothelium – happens when the cells of the mesothelium become abnormal and start to divide put of control. When that happens, they begin to invade and damage nearby tissues and organs. Not only can they damage nearby tissues and organs, but when cancer cells metastasize (spread) to other parts of the body they can cause damage their as well.
Mesothelioma was once thought of as an extremely rare type of cancer. Over the last 20 years, the reported incidences of mesothelioma have increased at an alarming rate. Working with, or exposure to, asbestos is the largest risk factor for developing mesothelioma. Estimates are that 70-80% of the reported cases of mesothelioma can be traced back to extended exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a has been used in many industries including flooring products, brake linings, roof shingles, cement, insulation, textiles and many others. When these products are being manufactured, small particles of asbestos may escape into the air and then be swallowed by unsuspecting employees. Once these particles enter your lungs, they can increase your risk of developing mesothelioma.
Asbestos has been widely used in the United States for over 100 years in the manufacture of different products. The potential link between asbestos and cancer has been known for over 50 years, but regulations were not put in place to protect workers until recently. Now, the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) sets very strict guidelines for how much asbestos a worker can be exposed to. While that may help those that work in asbestos industries at the moment, there were thousands, maybe millions, that were exposed to asbestos before those rules and regulations were put into place. Worst of all, family members of workers in an asbestos industry could have also been exposed to the cancer causing asbestos and are also at risk for developing mesothelioma.
If you, or a loved one, worked in an industry that used asbestos, or believe that you were exposed to asbestos for any other reason, consult a physician for a thorough examination. The actual symptoms of mesothelioma may not appear for as long as 50 years after exposure takes place. Only a physician can diagnose mesothelioma but the sooner you are diagnosed the better your chances of beating the disease.
If you are diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be entitled to compensation for the injuries you and your family have suffered as a result of exposure to asbestos. To find out more about your legal options, contact the mesothelioma law firm of Ledger & Associates at 1-800-300-0001 or visit them online at www.ledgerlaw.com.