Monday, 25 October 2010

Mesothelioma Diagnosis

How do medical professionals diagnose mesothelioma?
If you believe that you may have mesothelioma, a qualified medical professional will use a variety of diagnostic tests and methods to confirm the presence of the disease.

Medical history review and exam
The first step that mesothelioma doctors will take in evaluating an asbestos related disease is to obtain a full medical history to determine the level and severity of mesothelioma risk factors and presenting mesothelioma symptoms. This interview will look consider among other things, where asbestos exposure occurred, the length of exposure and the amount of asbestos that you were exposed to.

In addition, he/she will perform a medical exam to look for signs and symptoms of various types of mesothelioma. For example, if pleural mesothelioma is suspected the doctor will look for fluid in the chest, peritoneal mesothelioma often shows fluid in the abdomen and pericardial mesothelioma presents with fluid in the area of the heart.

Diagnostic imaging tests
Chest x-rays are used to identify abnormalities in the lungs including unusual thickening, mineral deposits and fluid in the chest area. If these conditions are present then it may be evidence that mesothelioma has developed.

Diagnostic image tests like x-rays, CT scans and MRI's are useful in determining more information about the cancer including how far it is progressed. Each method provides another piece of information to your doctor to assist in making an accurate diagnosis. CT scans are capable of providing images of the same location from many different angles. MRI technology uses magnetic fields rather than x-ray to provide additional views.

Testing fluid and tissue samples
If fluid build-up in the chest, abdomen or heart area is present, your doctor may want to obtain a sample. To accomplish this he/she will use a long needle to obtain fluid from the target area. The fluid will then be sent to the lab for analysis.

A bronchoscopy procedure may be recommended for patients who are suspected of having pleural mesothelioma. For this medical test, a soft tube illuminates the trachea and bronchi to determine if any masses are present in the airways. If deemed necessary, the technician my take sample of tissue that appears to be abnormal for further testing.

If lymph node involvement is suspected which is common with asbestos lung cancer, patients may also undergo a mediastinoscopy. This procedure is similar to a bronchoscopy in that a soft tube enters the body under the chest bone and illuminates the chest area. In this way, the surgeon can examine lymph nodes for abnormalities, check to see how far disease may have progressed and when necessary help diagnose lung cancer vs. mesothelioma.

Diagnosing mesothelioma is never easy. Fluid build up alone in the chest, belly or heart regions is not enough to confirm a diagnosis. Tissue samples obtained from biopsy procedures are also difficult to discern because mesothelioma cancer cells often resemble other types of cancer. For this reason, specialized laboratory procedures are often employed to identify certain chemicals that are known to exist with mesothelioma and high powered laboratory equipment is used to examine the smallest details of cancer cells to confirm that mesothelioma is present.

Mesothelioma Symptoms

What are the warning signs of mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is difficult to diagnose because the early signs and symptoms of the disease can be subtle at best. Symptoms are all too frequently ignored or dismissed by people who are inclined to attribute them to common every day ailments. Sometimes patients live with symptoms for up to 6 months before being diagnosed but usually the symptoms are present for two to three months prior to mesothelioma diagnosis.

About 60% of patients diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma experience lower back pain or side chest pain and there are frequent reports of shortness of breath. Lower numbers of people may experience difficulty swallowing, or have a persistent cough, fever, weight loss or fatigue. Symptoms to also consider are muscle weakness, loss of sensory capability, coughing up blood, facial and arm swelling and hoarseness.

Peritoneal mesothelioma originates in the abdomen and as a result, symptoms often include abdominal pain, weight loss, nausea, and vomiting. In the event that there is a hernia present, fluid build up may occur in the abdomen as well.

Mesothelioma Causes

What are the main causes of mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is most predominantly caused by asbestos exposure. Asbestos fibers that are inhaled through the mouth and nose may eventually become embedded in the lining of the lungs, causing damage and resulting in mesothelioma lung cancer or asbestosis (scar tissue formation in the lungs). It has also been found that swallowing asbestos fibers could contribute to a form of mesothelioma originating in the abdomen called peritoneal mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma cancer generally results from occupational exposure but there are instances of environmental exposure to asbestos that can cause mesothelioma disease. Oftentimes second hand exposure of a family member to an asbestos workers dirty work clothes can result in that family member having a mesothelioma diagnosis.

Asbestos insulation workers appear to have the highest death rate. One study reports that almost six percent of asbestos workers fall victim to mesothelioma or experience mesothelioma symptoms and asbestos insulation workers are over 300 times more likely to die from mesothelioma than the general public.

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Tuesday, 19 October 2010

What is Mesothelioma?

Types of Mesothelioma

Pleural Mesothelioma, Peritoneal Mesothelioma and Pericardial Mesothelioma

There are two main types of mesothelioma, called Pleural Mesothelioma and Peritoneal Mesothelioma.  There is also a third type of mesothelioma called Pericardial Mesothelioma; however this is a very rare condition.
Pleural Mesothelioma
Pleural Mesothelioma is the most common and is caused by inhaling asbestos fibres into the lungs. A tumour forms on the lining (pleura) of the lungs, which makes breathing difficult and painful.  The majority of mesothelioma claims we deal with are for Pleural Mesothelioma.
Peritoneal Mesothelioma
Peritoneal Mesothelioma is less common but is also caused by exposure to asbestos. A tumour then develops on the lining of the abdomen (peritoneum) which prevents it from working properly to lubricate the organs inside the abdomen.  Although Peritoneal Mesothelioma is less common we have still dealt with mesothelioma claims for this disease.

How is Mesothelioma Contracted?

Causes of Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is caused by breathing in asbestos dust. Mesothelioma affects approximately four times as many men as women. This is because in most cases the exposure to asbestos occurred at work in places such as shipyards, building sites, power stations, railway workshops and other factories where predominantly men were employed decades ago.
Unlike other asbestos related conditions, mesothelioma can develop even after exposure to relatively low levels of asbestos or where the exposure took place over a relatively short period of time.
Many women who have developed mesothelioma have contracted it after contact with the work clothes and overalls belonging to their male relatives although some were directly exposed at work or by living close by to a factory which released asbestos fibres into the surrounding environment.

Workers most at risk from developing Mesothelioma

Professions where asbestos was commonplace

At Thompsons Solicitors, we have helped many victims of asbestos to make mesothelioma claims.  Due to the fact that we have dealt with so many of these mesothelioma claims we have seen a pattern develop showing the workers most at risk from developing mesothelioma and some of these are listed below.
Boilermakers and Laggers - It was commonplace for boilers to be insulated with asbestos lagging. Boilermakers also work alongside the contractors (laggers) who install and renew asbestos boiler insulation. This type of work has put boilermakers and laggers at a particularly high risk of developing mesothelioma.
Electricians - are at risk of developing mesothelioma because they also worked alongside laggers. Electricians also often have to cut or drill through asbestos insulation to install cable trays, instruments, switches and wiring systems.
Joiners and Carpenters and Builders - are also at risk of developing mesothelioma as a result of sawing, drilling and fixing or replacing asbestos cement board often used in partition walls, suspended ceilings, flooring, roof tiles and thermal insulation.
Motor Mechanics - may have been exposed to asbestos as it was frequently used in brake pads and clutches.  This has put some Motor Mechanics at risk of developing mesothelioma.
Pipe Fitters and Plumbers - install, maintain and repair pipes, boilers and heating systems. The nature of their work means that they have to cut or drill through walls as well as cutting and assembling sections of pipe, removing and replacing damaged sections of pipe, valve and flanges etc. All of these tasks put them at risk of developing mesothelioma as pipes frequently used to be covered with asbestos lagging. As the pipes were cut, fibres from the asbestos lagging were released into the air and inhaled by the pipefitter or plumber.
Victims of mesothelioma are certainly not limited to the professions mentioned above. Our specialist mesothelioma solicitors have helped victims of this asbestos related disease with their mesothelioma claims who have worked in many other professions including fire fighters, teachers, police officers, managers and a professor.

What is asbestos?

How asbestos was used

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral and its name is derived from a Greek word meaning inextinguishable.  It was mined and used by the Ancient Greeks and the Romans then became increasingly popular during the 19th century.
Due to its resistance to heat, electricity and chemical damage, together with its ability to absorb sound, asbestos was commonly used by the building trade as an additive to cement, by the car industry as brake shoes and in the engineering industry as a lagging for pipes and boilers.
Asbestos was used heavily after the Second World War in 1945 and was not completely banned from use in the UK until 1999.

Example of a Mesothelioma Compensation Claim we have dealt with

Pipe Fitter and Plumber exposed to asbestos

A former shipyard worker who was exposed to asbestos was awarded more than £150,000 incompensation with help from Thompsons Solicitors.
Charles Cochran, 67, was awarded the compensation after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung. There is no cure for the disease and sufferers often have just months to live following diagnosis. Charles’ case was settled within four months by Thompsons.
He began his working life as an 16-year-old apprentice at Walker Naval Yard where he was exposed to asbestos used by shipyard contractors. He was never warned it was dangerous and remembers workmates playing football with it during their lunch break.
Charles, who is married to Beryl and has four stepchildren, three children, and 15 grandchildren, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in June 2007 after going to his doctor complaining of flu-like symptoms.   He said: “This compensation is not going to bring my health back. But it will make sure my wife will be looked after. It’s a big relief for me to know that.”
Andrew Venn, from Thompsons Solicitors, said: “Mesothelioma is a devastating disease for all involved. It is important that asbestos victims and their family members obtain proper compensation quickly from the insurers of the companies who caused the disease.

Symptoms of Mesothelioma

Seeking Medical help

Mesothelioma can develop between 15 and 40 years or more after an exposure to asbestos.  If you have been exposed to asbestos in the past and you start to suffer from any of the following symptoms you should visit your GP and mention your concerns:
  • Pains in the lower back, abdomen or chest
  • A persistent cough
  • Breathing difficulties, shortness of breath or a feeling of tightness in the chest
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Problems with appetite or difficulty swallowing
  • Sweating, fevers, diarrhoea or constipation
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Swelling of the abdomen
Some people with mesothelioma have no symptoms at all in the early stages; therefore, if you know that you have been exposed to asbestos in the past and believe it may be the cause of your symptoms, it is always a good idea to visit a doctor for medical advice. Any damage caused by asbestos may be possible to detect with a scan or x-ray.
For more information about mesothelioma, read our mesothelioma leaflet.

Mesothelioma Compensation Claim Advice

Thompsons Solicitors and Mesothelioma Claims

If you or someone you know has developed mesothelioma or any other asbestos related disease, telephone us now for accurate and free compensation claim advice.
Thompsons Solicitors have a history of fighting for the rights of all workers and in particular for those who have been negligently exposed to asbestos by their employers.  We won the first ever successful compensation claim in the UK for asbestos related disease in 1972. We have been involved in numerous campaigns to ensure that victims of asbestos receive the medical care and compensation they are entitled to.

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