In many jobs, there is a danger that workers could develop an occupational illness from exposure to harmful substances. Occupational illnesses can be especially devastating because they often develop years or decades after the worker’s exposure. One life-threatening occupational illness that workers in many industries are at risk for is mesothelioma. While employees may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits to pay for their expensive medical treatments and lost wages, they may have to fight to obtain the benefits they deserve.
What Is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a deadly type of cancer that develops in the cells of the mesothelium, which is the protective lining covering many of our internal organs. It is caused by long-term exposure to asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral that is heat and fire resistant. Because of these properties, it was used in a wide range of household, commercial, and industrial products until its health hazards became apparent.
While its use is no longer widespread, it can be found in older materials and some newer products, such as vinyl floor tiles, cement shingles, and some brake pads and linings. Some of the workers at highest risk of exposure include:
- Shipyard workers
- Construction workers
- Industrial and factory workers
- Chemical plant workers
- Auto mechanics
- Boiler workers
- Workers installing insulation
What Are the Different Types of Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is probably the most common type of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Once a worker inhales asbestos fibers and debris, these materials become imbedded in the mesothelial tissues, often in the lungs. The fibers damage the tissues, and aggressive cancerous tumors develop.
There are different types of mesothelioma, with each affecting different internal organs. Workers could develop one of these forms of mesothelioma:
- Pleural mesothelioma. This is the most common type of mesothelioma and affects a worker’s chest cavity and lungs. Symptoms can include difficulties breathing and swallowing, coughing, chest pain under the ribs, and unexplained weight loss.
- Peritoneal mesothelioma. This cancer develops in the stomach and can cause swelling of the abdomen and abdominal pain.
- Pericardial mesothelioma. Pericardial mesothelioma affects the lining of the heart and surrounding area. It is the rarest form of mesothelioma.
Treatment Options for Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is an especially aggressive and deadly form of cancer, and the prognosis for a person diagnosed with it is poor. There is no cure for mesothelioma at present. Like other forms of cancer, the disease progresses through four stages that can lead to death.
There are a number of options to treat this cancer and to make a person more comfortable during the remaining period of his or her life. Treatments that a worker could need include:
- Surgery. If the cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, which is not often the case, surgery can be performed to remove fluid build-up, cancerous tissue around the lungs and abdomen, an affected lung and surrounding tissue, or to remove as much of the cancer as possible. While it is not always possible to eliminate all of the cancer, surgery can remove some affected tissues and help stop the spread of the disease to other organs.
- Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is the use of powerful drugs to kill the cancer. In some cases, the chemotherapy drugs are heated and administered directly into the person’s abdominal cavity. This enables a doctor to use higher doses of the drug that directly target the affected cells and not healthy ones in other parts of the body.
- Radiation. Radiation focuses high-energy beams of x-rays and protons onto specific parts of the person’s body. It can be used after surgery to kill additional cancer cells or to reduce symptoms when surgery is not possible.
- Clinical trials. There is much ongoing research on curing and treating all forms of cancer, including mesothelioma. Workers can consider clinical trial options as part of their treatment.
Let Manfred Ricciardelli Help You Fight for the Workers’ Compensation Benefits You Deserve
If you developed mesothelioma from your job, the value of your claim may be greater and it may be harder to show how your job caused your cancer given the time between the exposure and disease. These are two reasons that the workers’ compensation insurance company may fighter harder to deny your claim. Manfred Ricciardelli is here to help you pursue your legal rights. To schedule a free consultation to learn more, call our office today.