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Malignant mesothelioma, one of the most serious health problems associated with asbestos exposure, is a rare form of cancer. The disease typically occurs decades after a person’s initial exposure. Asbestos exposure causes cells in the mesothelium, a protective lining covering most internal organs, to become abnormal and divide without control or order. These cancerous cells then metastasize (spread) to other parts of the body, causing damage to other tissues and organs.


The form of malignant mesothelioma someone has is an important factor in evaluating both treatment options and symptoms of the disease. The most common forms of mesothelioma include:

  • peritoneal mesothelioma (cancer of the abdominal lining);
  • pleural mesothelioma (cancer of the lung lining); and
  • pericardial mesothelioma (cancer of the heart lining).


Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include shortness of breath, chest pain and/or general symptoms such as fatigue, a persistent cough and weight loss. Peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms include stomach swelling and pain, problems with bowel movements, weight loss and fatigue. Because the symptoms of mesothelioma are similar to many other cancers and health problems, it is important to see a doctor for a correct diagnosis.


Although mesothelioma is a relatively rare cancer, reported incidence rates have increased over the years. The most important risk factor for mesothelioma is workplace exposure to asbestos. Most people who develop mesothelioma have worked jobs where they were exposed to and inhaled asbestos fibers.


Mesothelioma occurs more often in men than in women, and risk increases with age. Yet, mesothelioma may appear in either men or women at any age. There is some evidence that family members and others living with asbestos workers have an increased risk of developing mesothelioma. This risk may be the result of exposure to asbestos dust brought home on the clothing and hair of someone who worked with asbestos.


Health hazards from asbestos dust have been recognized among those who handle or handled asbestos during the mining, milling or manufacturing of asbestos products, as well as those who work or worked with asbestos products in the shipbuilding or construction industries. Demolition workers, mechanics involved in brake repairs, drywall removers, and firefighters also may be exposed to asbestos dust.


Although it is known that the risk to workers increases with heavier exposure and longer exposure time, investigators have found asbestos-related diseases in individuals who had only brief exposures. Workers who develop asbestos-related diseases may show no signs of illness for a long time after their first exposure. It can take from several decades for symptoms of an asbestos-related condition to appear.


A plaintiff who can prove that he or she was exposed to asbestos may be able to recover for both the economic and noneconomic consequences of that exposure, including:

  • The cost of past and future medical care;
  • Lost past and future wages;
  • Lost earning capacity;
  • Lost enjoyment of life;
  • Emotional distress; and
  • Past and future pain and suffering.

Many people who have suffered injuries from toxic substances such as asbestos did not know of the health risks at the time of the exposure. As a result, some states’ laws allow people to file lawsuits for a certain amount of time after the date when their asbestos-related illness was detected, rather than from the date of the exposure. An attorney can tell you whether you still have time to file a lawsuit within the limitation period applicable in your state.


If you are concerned about potential exposure to asbestos, or if you or a loved one suffers from asbestosis, mesothelioma, or another medical condition associated with asbestos exposure, please contact the Mumphrey Law Firm.

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