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What you need to know after a mesothelioma diagnosis

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed by both the diagnosis and the amount of information the internet has to offer. There are a few basic things you should understand about mesothelioma and asbestos exposure, to begin to comprehend the diagnosis and where to go from here.

Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos, which was used in the construction of many buildings in the U.S. Asbestos was mostly banned in the U.S. in 1989, although it still remains in the walls of many buildings, as it is not dangerous unless it is disturbed. Asbestos causes problems when individuals either inhale or ingest it. The body cannot process asbestos fibers, which then become “stuck” in the lining of the body organs, most often the lungs. The fibers then lead to irritation and, in many cases, to malignant mesothelioma — an aggressive cancer. If ingested instead of inhaled, mesothelioma may be present in the abdominal cavity in addition to or instead of the lungs.

Typically, mesothelioma is not diagnosed until years or decades after asbestos exposure. Most people with a current mesothelioma diagnosis were exposed long before the dangers of asbestos were known. Because asbestos exposure must be continual and long-term to lead to mesothelioma, most people diagnosed with the disease were exposed to asbestos in their workplace, over the course of many years. Symptoms of malignant mesothelioma or other asbestos diseases do not begin to appear until approximately 15 years after exposure, though symptoms may sometimes remain unnoticed for decades longer. Asbestos was especially common in shipyards, steel mills, and factories (such as those associated with automobile manufacturers).

As with many other forms of cancer, mesothelioma can be treated with surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy. Treatment plans depend greatly on the individual’s overall health, as well as on the progression of the mesothelioma. There are also supportive and palliative treatment options to relieve the symptoms and pain of mesothelioma.

These treatments, as well as the associated hospital or doctor’s office stays, can be costly. Because mesothelioma is often diagnosed when an individual is older, many couples or individuals have already retired from work and are on a fixed income, making it incredibly difficult to afford the treatments. If this describes you or your family, you have options. You may be owed financial compensation from the company that is at fault for the asbestos exposure of you or your loved one.

Although you and your family would likely prefer to focus your energy on your loved one during this time, pursuing financial compensation can allow for the best possible medical care during the entirety of you or your loved one’s illness. The compensation can help pay for visits to specialists, as well as participation in less common treatment types and the use of palliative treatments or therapies.

Although diagnoses and treatment plans vary widely from one person to the next, you and your family are not alone. Visit mesotheliomahelp.org for more cancer information, and to begin to learn your options and rights during the treatment process.

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