In 2010, Congress designated September 26th as National Mesothelioma Awareness Day to increase awareness of the historic and ongoing dangers of asbestos, prevent future exposure, and help victims diagnosed with devastating asbestos-related cancers like mesothelioma. And while Mesothelioma Awareness Month is not officially recognized, those affected by this disease understand the importance of spreading awareness all 30 days of September.
As a firm known nationally for litigating mesothelioma cases, our team at SWMW Law views September as an important time to educate others about the dangers of asbestos and how it causes cancers like mesothelioma, which kills between 2,500 to 3,000 Americans each year. As such, we’re leveraging our experience to help victims and families confronting diagnoses find the resources and support they need.
What is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma, short for diffuse malignant mesothelioma, is a type of cancer that forms in the lining (or “mesothelium”) of vital organs and regions of the body. The word “diffuse” refers to mesothelioma’s ability to spread and ravage vital organs and to its presentation as “sheets” of malignant cells.
While mesothelioma can affect the lungs, heart, stomach, and/or testicles, there are two types of mesothelioma that are most common:
- Pleural mesothelioma, which develops in the soft tissue surrounding the lungs called the pleura. As the most common type of mesothelioma, pleural mesothelioma accounts for approximately 75% of all mesothelioma cases in the U.S.
- Peritoneal mesothelioma, which develops in the lining of the abdomen called the peritoneum. Peritoneal mesothelioma accounts for roughly 20% of all mesothelioma cases and approximately 250 to 500 new diagnoses each year in the U.S.
Mesothelioma is a destructive and debilitating cancer that, while rare in the general population, occurs with alarming frequency in people who have been exposed to asbestos, a naturally occurring group of minerals that has been used widely in a variety of consumer products and industrial applications.
In fact, the only known cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure.
How People Are Exposed to Asbestos
From the early 20th century through the 1980s, asbestos was ubiquitous. From various consumer products to virtually every home, school, and workplace across the country, asbestos-containing materials were the norm.
Unfortunately, that meant that nearly everyone who lived during a certain period was exposed to asbestos. If you were alive in the 1960s or 70s, for example, it’s overwhelmingly likely that you were exposed to asbestos. And even if you weren’t, asbestos is still legal in the U.S. and can be found in numerous products and workplaces across the country.
But as prevalent as asbestos was, some people are more at risk for developing asbestos-related health conditions such as mesothelioma. These include:
- Workers. People in trades and professions who worked with, near, or around asbestos or asbestos-containing products are most at risk for developing mesothelioma, as asbestos fibers are more easily inhaled or ingested when they are disturbed. While there are many at-risk occupations known for asbestos exposure, some of the most common include shipyard workers, construction workers, insulators, boilermakers, steelworkers, electricians, railroad workers, mechanics, pipefitters and plumbers, and people who served in the Navy.
- Families of workers. The families of workers who performed jobs with or around asbestos are also more likely than those in the general population to suffer from mesothelioma and other asbestos-related conditions due to take-home exposure. This type of exposure occurs when asbestos fibers on hair, clothing, and other items are transported by workers from their jobs to their homes.
Asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma have a latency period that ranges from 10 to over 50 years. This means it can be decades after a person’s initial exposure to asbestos before they first experience symptoms. When exploring potential sources of exposure, victims, and families will often need to look to the past, including where they or a loved one worked, to determine their potential exposure source.
Because mesothelioma is such an aggressive disease and because it is typically diagnosed at a late stage, a cure is generally not possible for most people. As such, mesothelioma treatments generally focus on controlling the cancer and making patients more comfortable.
Ultimately, how a person treats their mesothelioma comes down to personal factors. This includes a person’s age, health, stage/location of the cancer, and whether they are willing to endure side effects in exchange for the possibility of improvement or treatments that make them comfortable and capable of living as symptom-free as possible.
Although there is currently no cure for mesothelioma, there is promising research on the horizon.
If you or your loved one is confronting a diagnosis, finding the right medical specialist is a great place to start. You can also learn more about top treatment facilities and whether you might qualify for unique programs, such as clinical trials offered through the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation or special benefits for veterans with mesothelioma.
Seeking Compensation Through Legal Means
In as much as we find it important to spread awareness about mesothelioma and the dangers of asbestos exposure, our team at SWMW Law also believes in the importance of helping victims and families understand they may have legal options after being diagnosed with mesothelioma.
Because companies that made and used asbestos and asbestos-containing products continued to use them long after learning that they were dangerous, they are now required to pay the people they’ve harmed.
This means if you or someone you love was diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, you may have grounds to pursue legal action and financial compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.
SWMW Law: Serving Mesothelioma Victims Nationwide
At SWMW Law, we’re known for providing personalized, cutting-edge support to victims and families whose lives have been forever altered by mesothelioma and exposure to asbestos. Our work has played an important role in setting precedent and shaping public policy and has helped our clients recover more than $750 million in compensation.
As we show our support for Mesothelioma Awareness Month, we invite you to get involved as well. Browse our website to learn more about this cancer, or share some of our mesothelioma information pages with friends and family. If you have questions about our team or the work we do, call (855) 744-1922 or contact us online. We’re always available to help.