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What is mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer which develops in the mesothelium, the protective membrane which covers most of the body's internal organs.
The primary cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. It has a prolonged latency period, and symptoms usually appear around 30 to 40 years after first exposure. Sometimes it’s as long as 60 years, but usually not less than 15 years.
It’s thought that when asbestos fibres are inhaled or ingested, they pierce the mesothelial lining, causing cells to react abnormally, and usually result in scarring or inflammation. This leads to pleural plaques or diffuse pleural thickening, altering the cell’s DNA to become malignant.
We have lawyers in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Darwin and throughout Australia. We also represent New Zealand clients who were exposed to Asbestos in Australia. Contact us today to find out how we can help you with your Mesothelioma claim.
Types of mesothelioma cancer
Mesothelioma typically develops after exposure to asbestos fibres and dust, which are inhaled or swallowed. There are four types of asbestos mesothelioma: pleural - involving the lungs, peritoneal - involving the stomach and abdomen, pericardial - involving the heart, and testicular. Pleural mesothelioma and peritoneal mesothelioma are the most common types, comprising approximately 90% of all cases.
Groups at a higher risk of developing mesothelioma include anyone who has worked with asbestos, particularly in jobs such as asbestos mining and manufacturing, and those in the construction, power and shipbuilding industries, as well as their close family or household members who may suffer from secondary exposure.
Causes of asbestos mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is caused by breathing or swallowing toxic asbestos in the form of either dust or fibres and most often starts in the outer membrane of the lungs known as the pleura. Because asbestos fibres and dust can also be swallowed, mesothelioma can also occur in the lining of the abdominal cavity, known as the peritoneum. Less commonly, asbestos mesothelioma may affect the heart, known as pericardial mesothelioma, or reproductive organs, known as testicular mesothelioma.
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis or other asbestos related disease, contact Maurice Blackburn to talk about how we can help with your personal injury claim.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Pleural mesothelioma develops in the membrane that surrounds the lungs (visceral pleura) or the membrane that lines the chest wall (parietal pleura). Pleural mesothelioma often results in a build-up of fluid which presses on the lung, known as pleural effusion, and causes breathlessness. Other symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include coughing, often severe chest pain, lethargy and weight loss.
Peritoneal mesothelioma develops in the membrane that forms the lining of the abdominal and pelvic cavities. Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include painful and swollen abdomen caused by a build-up of fluid (peritoneal effusion), high temperature, nausea and vomiting, lethargy and bowel and urinary problems.
To diagnose both types of mesothelioma, a doctor may perform a number of examinations including:
- taking a full medical history, including a history of possible asbestos exposure
- physical examination
- blood tests
- chest x-rays
- CT scans
- drainage and analysis of pleural or peritoneal fluid
- inserting an endoscope through a small incision in the chest wall to take a tissue sample (thoracoscopy), and
- tissue sample or biopsy to determine the presence of malignant cells.
Treatment options for a confirmed diagnosis of mesothelioma include:
- pleurectomy - surgery to remove affected tissue
- thoracentesis - a procedure that removes fluid from the pleural cavity through a needle inserted between the ribs
- pleurodesis - a special powder is inserted between the pleural layers to cause inflammation and stop production of excess fluid. This is performed using a slender instrument (endoscope) inserted into the chest
- paracentesis - a thin needle or tube is inserted into the abdomen to remove fluid from the peritoneal cavity (the space within the abdomen that contains the intestines, the stomach and the liver)
- chemotherapy - the use of cancer-killing drugs that can shrink the cancer and ease symptoms. Chemotherapy is often recommended if the cancer has returned following other treatment or if other treatments are inappropriate. Common chemotherapy treatments for mesothelioma include Cisplatin and Alimta, and
- radiotherapy - x-ray treatment to kill cancer cells. Only small areas can be treated or the healthy cells of the lungs, heart and liver may be damaged. Radiotherapy is often used to ease pain and breathlessness.
Note: This information is general in nature. Please consult your doctor about your health.