There's more to know about mesothelioma than what you see on billboards

Until about two months ago, all I knew about mesothelioma was splashed across a billboard on I-294, and, then, all I learned was how to contact the lawyers who paid for the advertising.

Over the years, I’ve tried to become informed about the breadth of cancers that people face. I have to say that reading about mesothelioma has been the most harrowing. It is the most aggressive cancer I’ve read about, and it is almost completely preventable. All you need to do is avoid asbestos.

Here are some quick facts:

  • it is caused by asbestos having been inhaled or swallowed
  • 2500 to 3000 people are diagnosed each year
  • Only 10 to 20 percent are diagnosed before the disease has metastasized and become incurable
  • There are no treatments at all that “provide a complete response” according to the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation.

Asbestos fibers make their way into the mesothelial cells in the lungs (and abdomen and heart), which can then cause cancer. People can be exposed to asbestos because of their jobs or their homes. Children can also be exposed by the asbestos fibers that make their way home on the clothing of their parents.

The disease usually takes 20 years to appear after exposure, but when it does it moves aggressively. Folks diagnosed at Stage 1 have a median survival time of 21 months. At Stage 4, the median survival time is 12 months, according to the American Cancer Society.

Despite its lethal impact, asbestos has not been banned in the United States. In 1989, according to the New York Times, the EPA banned products containing asbestos, but the decision was overturned in the courts. Many of the products are still being used.

Last May, Congress passed legislation that instructs the EPA to evaluate 10 chemicals, including asbestos, with the hope that the most deadly would be banned.  The EPA was primed to begin this work under the Obama administration, but the work is uncertain in the current political climate.

Despite this, legal remedies for those with mesothelioma and other asbestos-caused diseases have been persistent. According to the New York Times,

“asbestos litigation[ is] well into its fourth decade— the longest-running mass tort in American history” and “lawsuits have bankrupted more than 100 companies.”

Mesothelioma has devastated many families and killed hundreds of thousands of people, and litigation has resulted in billions of dollars put into trusts for families and patients. You need a lawyer, however, to successfully tap into a trust.

With this much money at stake, mesothelioma has become big business for lawyers and, not surprisingly, has resulted in many scams.

In the process of doing this research, a Google search returned primarily websites linked to law firms. They are designed to look like patient-centered sites, but they serve to direct folks to lawyers.

These are a few sites that provide research-based information and that raise money for research and treatment:

Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation

National Comprehensive Cancer Network Patient Guidelines

National Cancer Institute

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Filed under: Cancer, Uncategorized

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