Regardless of how much we know about asbestos exposure today, and how careful we try to be with its identification and removal, people are still being diagnosed with and dying from mesothelioma. Part of this reality is the length of time it takes to diagnose mesothelioma. On average, it takes between 20 and 40 years to develop this deadly form of cancer after asbestos exposure. While there are many medical risks associated with mesothelioma, there are also a variety of legal liability issues that patients must consider before filing a claim.
Truth in Numbers
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 18,000 people diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma died between 1999 and 2005. The age range of most mesothelioma victims during this period were between 65 and 84 and a higher percentage were men. Anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 patients are diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma annually and mostly with pleural mesothelioma or cancer of the lung lining. Around 60 percent of patients die within the first two years after their diagnosis.
Exposure to Asbestos
While mesothelioma can result from a variety of conditions, 70 to 80 percent of cases are the direct result of asbestos exposure. Many materials used in auto repair, construction, textiles, shipyard, farming, railroad and manufacturing work during the 20th century contained asbestos. Both employees in these industries and their family members have a higher risk of inhalation of asbestos fibers, which can lead to mesothelioma many years later. During the 1970s through the 1990s, there was a rise in mesothelioma diagnoses.
Mesothelioma Medical Risks
Asbestos fibers or dust can become imbedded in the body. The body's immune system may try to fight or kill these fibers. However, when there are many particles, especially longer strands, chronic inflammation occurs in the body. This inflammatory process leads to the abnormal growth and division of cells in the mesothelium, or lining of internal organs. As a result, malignant mesothelioma develops and spreads over time. In comparison to other forms of cancer, mesothelioma is rare, but it has become more prevalent in recent years.
Legal Liability Issues
There are many variables which may contribute to a mesothelioma victim's exposure to asbestos, like duration of exposure, asbestos fiber concentration and protective gear when working around asbestos. A person may have worked directly with asbestos, been a family member of an exposed worker or lived in an area where asbestos materials were frequently used. Regardless of how a person came to be exposed to asbestos, the parties responsible for the subjection can still be held responsible for mesothelioma diagnoses years later.
Depending on your state, there are laws that allow mesothelioma victims to file claims within a certain period following the diagnosis, instead of the exposure to asbestos. If you or your loved one was recently diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact a local attorney with experience litigating these specific and complex cases. You may be able to recover for medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering for developing this awful form of cancer that slowly and silently breaks down a body over time following asbestos exposure.