Mayo Clinic꞉ Asbestos most important risk factor for mesothelioma

Many people in North Carolina have died from a lung disease known as mesothelioma. This blog has frequently cited the association between mesothelioma and exposure to asbestos fibers. As a physician at the renowned Mayo Clinic recently pointed out, the exact causal connection between mesothelioma and asbestos has not been identified but asbestos exposure is still the “most significant risk factor” for contracting the disease.

Mesothelioma is a cancer that initially develops in the mesothelium, the outer lining of the lungs. The disease can spread into the lungs, but technically, it is not a form of “lung cancer.” When asbestos is fragmented, as in the mining process or building construction or demolition, microscopic asbestos fibers are released into the air where they can be inhaled into a person’s lungs. The inhaled fibers cause irritation, which can lead to mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases such asbestosis. Doctors for years have noted a strong association between exposure to asbestos fibers and mesothelioma.

Unfortunately, mesothelioma can take many years to become symptomatic. Doctors have no screening device to detect the disease, and people only show symptoms such as shortness of breath or chronic coughing when the disease is in its late stages. Treatment options are limited to surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. The efficacy of these treatments is limited by the ability of the patient to tolerate side effects.

Any person who has experienced the common symptoms of mesothelioma or has a loved one who has exhibited the symptoms should seek a medical evaluation. If the diagnosis is positive for mesothelioma (or any other lung disease associated with asbestosis), a consultation with a lawyer who specializes in handling asbestos claims can provide useful information about possible sources of asbestos exposure and an estimate of the likelihood of recovering damages from the parties who are responsible for the exposure.

Source: Rochester Post-Bulletin, “Ask Mayo Clinic: Asbestos most significant risk factor for mesothelioma,” Tobias Peikert, M.D., August 4, 2015