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Why is mesothelioma so deadly?

Every year, there are nearly 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma in the United States. As a rare and aggressive cancer, the one-year survival rate for mesothelioma is approximately 40%.

answered by Gregory A. Cade

Mesothelioma is the most serious disease caused by asbestos exposure

Occurring in nearly 3,000 people throughout the country every year, mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer, which mostly develops on the outer lining of various organs. While it mostly affects the lungs, it can also occur on the outer lining of the abdomen, the heart, and the testicles. Consequently, there are four types of mesothelioma, depending on the area of the body it affects: pleural, peritoneal, pericardial, and testicular. The only known cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure and over 80% of mesothelioma cases concern the lungs. It takes between 20 and 50 years for mesothelioma to develop after the first asbestos exposure. Because it is so aggressive, the prognosis of mesothelioma is very poor, with a life expectancy of 14 to 22 months following diagnosis. Mesothelioma is often found when cancer has already spread to adjacent organs and tissues in the body, such as the heart, the diaphragm, and the esophagus, as the disease is usually asymptomatic in the early phases.

When it is diagnosed in early phases, treatment usually involves a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. If, however, mesothelioma is found when cancer has already metastasized, treatment options are limited, as surgery would endanger the life of the patient. People who struggle with terminal mesothelioma are often recommended palliative treatment, whose purpose is to enhance the quality of life by reducing the intensity of symptoms such as chest and abdominal pain, shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing, coughing up blood, fatigue, night sweats, and fever. In people whose mesothelioma is found in early stages, surgery is performed to remove the malignant tumors from the lungs, but the patient often has to undergo chemotherapy or radiotherapy before surgery to reduce the size of the tumors.


For pleural mesothelioma, the one-year survival rate is 73%, the three-year survival rate is 23%, the five-year survival rate is 12%, while the ten-year survival rate is 4%. When it comes to peritoneal mesothelioma, the second most common type, the one-year survival rate is 92%, the three-year survival rate is 74%, the five-year survival rate is 52%, whereas the ten-year survival rate is 39%. Consequently, peritoneal mesothelioma has a better prognosis than pleural mesothelioma, as it does not occur in the proximity of vital organs. Pleural mesothelioma is thereby the deadliest type and, unfortunately, the most frequent in victims of asbestos exposure. The majority of people who lose their life to mesothelioma develop the following fatal health complications:

  • shortness of breath
  • pleural effusion
  • rounded atelectasis
  • collapsed lung
  • pneumonia
  • respiratory failure

While these symptoms and conditions can be kept under control with the appropriate treatment, they will eventually claim the life of the patient. Most people who struggle with pleural mesothelioma die of pneumonia, as their immune system is too weak to fight the infection, or respiratory failure, which is bound to occur if their lungs are severely damaged by cancer. The reason why mesothelioma is deadly to the majority of people who develop it is the fact that it develops slowly, over the course of several decades, and when it is diagnosed, cancer has already spread to other organs and tissues in the body, which disqualify the patient for treatment.

Mesothelioma is often misdiagnosed

Another reason why mesothelioma is often fatal is misdiagnosis, which occurs frequently among the victims of asbestos exposure. Because mesothelioma is rare, the majority of medical professionals will not encounter any cases during their careers, which increases the risk of misdiagnosis. Furthermore, the symptoms of pleural mesothelioma resemble those of more common lung diseases and conditions, such as pneumonia, asthma, emphysema, or chronic bronchitis, whereas the symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma are very similar to those of irritable bowel syndrome, hernia or ulcerative colitis. Since it is more likely for someone to have a more common health problem, doctors often assign a wrong diagnosis to mesothelioma sufferers, which greatly delays their treatment. Moreover, people who struggle with mesothelioma and have a wrong diagnosis cannot take legal action to recover the compensation they deserve. For this reason, we strongly encourage people who experience the following symptoms and have a history of asbestos exposure to seek a second and even third opinion from medical specialists, as they may have developed mesothelioma:

  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • a persisting cough
  • difficulty breathing
  • fatigue
  • wheezing
  • hoarseness
  • fever
  • loss of appetite
  • night sweats
  • abdominal pain
  • unexplained weight loss

If you have mesothelioma, you qualify for compensation from asbestos trust funds, as well as from the VA, if you are a veteran. A lawyer with vast experience in toxic exposure cases will help you file a claim to recover the compensation you are entitled to for your physical and emotional distress.

Legal assistance for people who have mesothelioma

With over 25 years of professional experience, our attorneys specialize in pursuing compensation for the victims of asbestos exposure and will gladly help you file a claim with the asbestos trust funds of the employers who exposed you to asbestos, as well as with the VA if you are a veteran. This way, you will obtain the maximum compensation you qualify for, which will also help you afford superior healthcare and treatment for mesothelioma. While the legal process in asbestos exposure cases is very complex and tedious, your involvement will be minimal and your family members can help you gather the documents which you need to provide your attorney with, namely your employment or military records and your medical records. These documents will be used as evidence of your asbestos exposure and of related diagnosis. However, because solid proof must accompany your claim, our legal experts will also conduct in-depth research to discover additional evidence. We strongly encourage you to take legal action if you have mesothelioma, as, because it is the most serious disease asbestos exposure can cause, your claim will be expedited and you will recover the compensation you are eligible for within the shortest time possible.

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