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Information About New Jersey Asbestos and Mesothelioma Cases

Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer caused by asbestos exposure.  Although at one time rare, this type of asbestos disease has inflicted tens of thousands of unsuspecting workers and military retirees, who decades after their exposure are left crimpled by this deadly disease. Many people have been stricken with mesothelioma as a result of previous exposure to asbestos.  Asbestos can still be found today in old homes, commercial/industrial buildings, schools and other places.  The asbestos industry continued to use asbestos even though they knew it was a deadly mineral.  As a result unfortunately, many more victims of mesothelioma will surface in the coming years.  “Since asbestos guidelines were issued in 1979, approximately 45,000 Americans have died of asbestos-related diseases, including asbestosis and mesothelioma.  Ten thousand Americans will die this year of asbestos-related diseases (including lung cancer and mesothelioma cancer) and 200,000 are currently living with asbestosis.”

Asbestos manufacturers have, and will continue to be, held accountable and responsible for victim’s expenses and pain and suffering related to their asbestos cancer / mesothelioma diagnosis. If you have been the victim of an asbestos exposure injury, contact the NJ injury attorneys at the Clark Law Firm, PC.  Their attorneys have the knowledge and experience to assist you in obtaining compensation to make up for the harms and losses you have suffered from asbestos exposure.  These personal injury cases have unique challenges and the mental anguish you and your family may be experiencing.  The personal injury attorneys at the Clark Law Firm, P.C., will vigorously protect your rights and fight hard to hold accountable those who needlessly jeopardise public safety by marketing known dangerous products.

What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer.  Approximately 2,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the United States each year.  The average life expectancy for someone diagnosed with mesothelioma is usually between 8 to 24 months from the date of diagnosis.  There is presently no known cure for mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is commonly associated with asbestos exposure[i].  Asbestos is the only widely used commercial product which is known to cause mesothelioma.  All types of asbestos fibers are associated with the causation of malignant mesothelioma.  A continuous exposure to asbestos fibers is not necessary for the onset of the tumor to occur.  Mesothelioma is commonly observed between 20 to 35 years after the first exposure to asbestos, although mesothelioma has been diagnosed in cases where the first exposure to asbestos was as little as 7 years prior.  Minimal exposures to asbestos are capable of causing mesothelioma.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral used in a variety of products.  Asbestos minerals break down into smaller particles that remain in the air or stick to clothing, making it easy to inhale or swallow.   This characteristic is known as friability.  People who breathe in asbestos particles are at a risk of developing life-threatening illnesses such as mesothelioma[ii].

What is Asbestosis?

Asbestosis is a respiratory disorder caused by inhaling large amounts of asbestos fibers.  If these fibers accumulate in the lungs, damage occurs.  Symptoms will not usually appear for decades after exposure (usually 20 to 40 years after exposure)[iii].

After fibers enter the air sacs of the lungs, an inflammatory reaction starts.  The scar tissue reduces the amount of oxygen transferred into the blood therefore, lung capacity is reduced[iv].

People that develop asbestosis usually experience the following symptoms:

Shortness of breath

Cannot perform physical activity

Heavy/persistent coughing

Mild to severe chest pain

Who may have been exposed to asbestos?

For many years, asbestos fibers were commonly found in a variety of products, from materials used in heavy industry such as thermal insulation and conduit (piping) to such household items as hair dryers and ironing board covers.  Some products such as automotive brakes may still contain asbestos fibers today.  Most individuals never knew that the products they were using contained asbestos fibers.  The following list identifies some of the people who routinely worked directly with or around asbestos-containing products.  This list is not all-inclusive.  If you worked in any of these trades, especially during the time frame 1940 to 1980, you may have been exposed to asbestos-containing products[v].

Industry and Workplace Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos Workers

Aerospace Workers

Auto Mechanics

Black Smith

Boiler Makers

Brick Masons

Building Engineers

Building Inspectors

Building Managers

Bulldozer Operators

Carpenters

Chemical Technicians

Clothing Ironers

Construction Workers

Contractors

Crane Operators

Custodians

Demolition Workers

Drafters

Drywall Tapers

Electricians

Fire Fighters

Floor Coverers

Former US Navy Personnel

Furnace Technicians

Gas Station Attendants

Glass Factory Workers

Insulation Workers

Home Improvement Workers

Hospital Workers

Laborers

Loading Dock Workers

Machinists

Manufacturing Workers

Masons

Merchant Marines

Material Movers

Molders

Mine Workers

Oil Refinery Workers

Painters

Paper Mill Workers

Pipe Fitters

Plasterers

Plumbers

Power Plant Workers

Railroad Workers

Rubber Workers

Sanders

Servicemen

Sheet Metal Workers

Ship Builders

Shipyard Builders

Steam Fitters

Teachers

Textile Workers

Tile Setters

Warehouse Workers

Wood Workers

Types of Mesothelioma and Common Symptoms

Mesothelioma Symptoms

Because Mesothelioma symptoms are not specific, it often leads to delay in diagnosis.

Pleural Mesothelioma

Pleural Mesothelioma is the most common type of mesothelioma.

Mild Symptoms

Fever

Night sweats

Weight loss/ Loss of Appetite

Severe Symptoms

Chest Pain

Persistent Cough/Hemoptysis (coughing Up blood)

Hoarseness

Dysphagia (Difficulty swallowing)

Horner’s Syndrome

Pleural Effusions*

*Pleural effusion is a common symptom of pleural mesothelioma.  Pleural effusion is a buildup of fluid within the chest cavity which interferes with the normal functioning of the lung, causing shortness of breath.

Note: Only a doctor can make a definitive diagnosis. 

Peritoneal (Abdominal) Mesothelioma

An estimated 100 to 500 cases of peritoneal mesothelioma occur annually.

Symptoms:

Shortness of breath

Hoarseness

Difficulty Swallowing

Coughing up blood

Pleural Effusions

Chest pain

Weight Loss

Pain or Swelling in the Abdomen

Bowel Constrictions

Diarrhea

Anemia

Blood Clotting

Swelling around the neck and face

* Note: Only a doctor can make a definitive diagnosis. 

Pericardial Mesothelioma

Pericardial Mesothelioma is the rarest form of mesothelioma.  It affects the lining of the heart.  It is often too late to treat effectively[vi].

Symptoms:

Persistent Coughing

Coughing up blood

Shortness of breath

Chest pain

Palpitations

Nausea/ Vomiting

Weight loss/ Loss of Appetite

Note: Only a doctor can make a definitive diagnosis. 

Stages of Mesothelioma

The following charts may be used by medical professionals to identify the severity of the mesothelioma tumor as an aid in prescribing the appropriate treatments.

Butchart System

The Butchart System is the oldest system used to describe the stages of mesothelioma[vii].

Stage I – Mesothelioma is present in the right or left lung, including part of the diaphragm.

Stage II – During this stage of mesothelioma, the chest wall, esophagus, heart and/or lymph nodes in the chest may become involved.

Stage III – Mesothelioma has penetrated the diaphragm and moved into the lining of the abdominal cavity or peritoneum.  The surrounding lymph nodes may also become involved.

Stage IV – During this stage, metastasis has spread through the bloodstream and vital organs.

TNM System

The TNM system shows tumors spreading through the lymph nodes[viii].

Stage I – This stage involves the lining of the lung, pericardial area, or diaphragm.  The lymph nodes have not been affected yet[ix].

Stage II – This stage starts when mesothelioma spreads from the lining of the lung and moves to the lymph nodes on the same side.  Cancer may begin to spread to the lungs, pericardium, or diaphragm[x].

Stage III – This stage begins in the chest wall, muscle, ribs, heart, esophagus, and other organs in the chest.

Stage IV – During this stage, mesothelioma spreads to the lymph nodes in the chest, but is located on the opposite side of the tumor connecting to the abdomen or neck[xi].

The Brigham System

The Brigham System is the most up to date system.  It detects whether or not the mesothelioma can be surgically removed.

Stage I – The lymph nodes are not affected.

Stage II – The tumor can be removed, but the mesothelioma started to affect the surrounding lymph nodes.

Stage III – During this stage, the tumor cannot be removed.  It extends from the chest wall, heart, through the diaphragm into the peritoneum.

Stage IV – During this stage, the disease has spread to the vital organs such as the liver, brain, or bloodstream[xii].

Diagnosis of Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is diagnosed by conducting assessments to find abnormalities in tissue.  A medical professional will review a patient’s medical history, followed by a complete physical examination, including x-rays of the chest or abdomen.  A biopsy must be completed to confirm the diagnosis of Mesothelioma.

The following procedures are commonly used to aid medical professionals in reaching a definitive diagnosis:

X-rays

Chest x-rays can show pleural effusions.  60 to 65% of the time, the pleural effusion is present in the right lung, while 40 to 45% of the time, it is present in the left lung[xiii].  Pleural thickening, the thickening of the lung’s lining, is also detected in chest x-rays[xiv].

Computed Tomography (CT Scan)

Computed tomography scans use x-rays to show images of the human anatomy and disease[xv].

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

An MRI is a pain-free medical procedure containing a magnetic field that provides 3-dimensional images of the body.  This procedure creates a cross-sectional view of the body without using radiation[xvi].

Needle Biopsy

A needle biopsy is conducted by removing the tissue or fluid around the infected area.  Often times, these samples are not adequate in determining different cell types because fluid diagnosis can be unreliable.

Pleural Biopsy (Thoracoscopy)

A pleural biopsy is the surgical removal of a sample of the tissue that lines the area of the lungs and interior chest wall. A thoracoscope, an instrument with a lighting tube, is used to examine the chest cavity.  It is inserted through an incision in the chest wall.  If fluid buildup is present, it is drained with a needle (thoracentisis)[xvii].

Peritoneal biopsy (Laparoscopy)

A peritoneoscopy (laparoscopy) is conducted by inserting a peritoneoscope into the abdominal cavity.  If fluid buildup is present, it is removed by a procedure known as paracentesis.  If abnormal tissue is found, a small piece of the abnormal tissue is removed and analyzed[xviii].

Pericardial Biopsy

A pericardial biopsy is conducted by a needle or catheter. It is inserted into the sac around the heart.  If fluid buildup is present, fluid is removed (pericardiocentesis)[xix].

Video Assisted Thoracic Surgery

Video Assisted Thoracic Surgery is an alternative process to a thoracoscopy.  The examiner makes small incisions and inserts a camera into the pleural space to obtain tissue for analysis.

Mediatinoscopy

Mediatinoscopy is a lit tube is inserted into the chest cavity under the breast bone.  Lymph nodes in the area are analyzed because of the threat of cancer.

Treatments of Mesothelioma

At this time there is no known cure for mesothelioma.  The average life expectancy for someone diagnosed with mesothelioma is usually between 8 and 24 months from the date of diagnosis.  However, some treatment centers have reported survival rates of up to five years from the date of diagnosis of mesothelioma.

Traditional Care for Malignant Mesothelioma

  • Surgery
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Chemotherapy

Surgical Treatments

Pleuratomy/Decortications – During the earlier stages of mesothelioma, there is an attempt to remove all tumors.  If the tumor cannot be removed without the lung’s surface, then the whole lung must be removed, known as a pneumonectomy[xx].

Extra Pleural Pneumonectomy – This is the surgical removal of the entire lung.  Many health care professionals say this is the best treatment for survival, but the side effects are internal bleeding and respiratory failure [xxi]

Other Treatments

Radiation Therapy – this treatment involves the use of high-dose radiation to eliminate or reduce malignant tumor cells. The radiation used can be high-energy x-rays, neutrons, photons, cobalt or other sources of radiation. Radiation can be administered by way of internal radiation therapy, external-beam radiation therapy, or radioisotopes. Internal radiation treatment delivers radiation through, needles, wires, or catheters and placed nearby or directly into the tumor being targeted.[xxii]

Radiation therapy may be used exclusively or in combination with chemotherapy and/or surgery.  As with all forms of cancer treatment, radiation therapy can produce side effects. Possible side effects from radiation treatment include temporary or permanent hair loss in the targeted area, skin irritation, temporary change in skin pigmentation in the treated area, and fatigue.[xxiii]

Chemotherapy – this treatment uses specific chemical agents or drugs that are supposed to kill malignant cancer cells and tissue. Alimta® (pemetrexed), plus cisplatin is used for malignant mesothelioma.  It is an injection that reduces cellular protein stimulation in cancer cells. [xxiv]

The purpose of chemotherapy is to regulate cancer cells by preventing them from spreading into other parts of the body or slow its growth rate.  It is used to decrease the size of tumors prior to surgical treatment.  It is also used to kill the remaining cancerous cells.  Any symptoms of pain are relieved too[xxv].

The Possible Side Effects of Chemotherapy are:

Fever usually higher than 101 degrees

Nausea or Vomiting

Diarrhea

Constipation

Fatigue

Tingling or Numbness

Bruises

Rashes

Sores in the mouth and throat

Hair Loss

Infertility

Anemia

New Mesothelioma Treatment Approaches

Photodynamic Therapy

Photodynamic Therapy utilizes photosensitizers and light to form oxygen to kill infected cells.  The photosensitizer is injected into the bloodstream.  Then it is absorbed by the cells, staying in the infected cancer cells for approximately 24 to 72 hours.  After, the tumor is exposed and absorbs light that forms oxygen attacking the surrounding cancer cells[xxvi].

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy was developed to repair, rejuvenate, and enhance the body’s immune system through the function of biological response modifiers.  Biological response modifiers influence the body’s immune system, which improves the ability to fight disease.  They contain various hormones, antioxidants, and cytokines aiding in the functions of the immune system[xxvii].

Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy

Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy can be used for treatment. Regulated doses of radiation are delivered to the malignant tumor site. It conforms to the shape and the size of the tumor, while minimizing exposure to the surrounding healthy tissue.  It also reduces the side effects[xxviii].

Gene Therapy

Gene Therapy is a newer form of treatment that contains the introduction of a new gene into a cell.  The new gene is used to replace the functions of the older and defective genes[xxix].

Palliative Care

Palliative care is focused on alleviating all pain symptoms rather than curing the disease.  It helps contribute to the quality of life for the patient[xxx].

There are two different types of treatment for pain relief: pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments.

Pharmacological treatment is controlled through the use of opiods, non-opiod pain relievers, topical ointments and gels, and other treatments.

Non-Pharmacological treatment is controlled through non-drug related treatments such as deep breathing, relaxation techniques, imagery, meditation, acupuncture, and massage therapy[xxxi].

Mesothelioma Research Foundations and Centers

  • The National Institute of Cancer offers comprehensive research on the symptoms, diagnostic tools, and treatment of Mesothelioma. They offer information to the public as well as health professionals on a wide range of cancer topics and research programs.   <http://www.cancer.gov/>

 

  • Mesothelioma Research Foundation of America is an organization that funds research for developing cures for mesothelioma. The organization funded the opening of the Mesothelioma Laboratory in 2001.   http://www.mesorfa.org/index.html

 

  • American Cancer Society is a national-based health organization that tries to eliminate cancer by preventing the onset of cancer in healthy patients, reducing those suffering from cancer, and reducing the amount of patients that die annually from the debilitating disease through research, education, and service. This organization is the largest private not for profit cancer research in the United States. <http://www.cancer.org/docroot/home/index.asp>

 

  • The Alliance for Lung Cancer Advocacy, Support, and Education is a not for profit organization committed to advocating for lung cancer patients or those that are risk. They offer a hotline and Lung Cancer Awareness programs.  http://www.lungcanceralliance.org>

 

  • Cancer Hope Network is a not for profit organization that provides comprehensive information on the disease. They also offer one on one support to cancer patients and their families.  Trained volunteers provide support to those that experienced similar diseases.   http://www.cancerhopenetwork.org>

 

Cancer Centers listed by State:

  • Alabama

University Alabama Birmingham Comprehensive Cancer Center

Patient: (800) 822 0933

  • Arizona

Arizona Cancer Center

Patient: (800) 622 2673

  • Colorado

University of Colorado Cancer Center

Patient Information Center (800) 473 2288

  • California

Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

Patient (714) 456 8200

University of California San Francisco Cancer Center

Patient Information Center: (415) 885 3882

University of Los Angeles Surgery and Trauma Center

Patient (310) 794 7333

  • Connecticut

Yale Cancer Center

Patient: (203) 785 4095

  • Florida
  1. LEE MOFFITT CANCER CENTER & RESEARCH INSTITUTE

Patient (888) 860-2778

  • Illinois

University of Chicago, Cancer Research Center

Patient Information Center: Karen Wendling, 773-834-7424

Northwestern University Hospital

Patient information center: (312) 908 5250

  • Maryland

John Hopkins Oncology Center

Patient (410) 614 3891

  • Massachusetts

Dana Farber Cancer Institute

Patient Information Center: (866) 408- 3324

Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Patient Information Center: 617-732-5922

  • New York

Cancer Research Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

(718) 430 2302

Memorial Sloan Kettering cancer center integrative medicine outpatient center

Patient Information Center: 800-525-2225

New York University Comprehensive Center

(212) 263 7417

Roswell Park Cancer Institute

Patient Information Center: 1-877-275-7724

  • Michigan

University of Michigan Cancer Center

Patient: (734) 936 5281

  • Minnesota

University of Minnesota Cancer Center

(612) 624 8484

  • North Carolina

Comprehensive Cancer Center, Wake Forest University

Patient (800) 446 2255

Duke University Medical Center

Patient Information Center: (919) 668 8413

  • Ohio

The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (The Ohio State University Medical Center)

Patient Information Center: 1-800-293-5066

  • Pennsylvania

Fox Chase Cancer Center

Patient Information Center: 1 888 Fox-Chase

University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute

Patient Information Center: 1-800-237-4PCI/ 412 647- 2811

University of Pennsylvania

Patient Information Center: 1-800-789-PENN

  • Texas

San Antonio Cancer Institute

Patient Information Center: (210) 616 5590

The University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center

Patient Information Center: (800) 392-1611 or (713) 794-1477

  • Washington

University of Medical Center

Patient Information Center: (206) 598 4477

  • Washington DC

Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center

(202) 784 4000

  • Wisconsin

Comprehensive Cancer Center

Patient Information Center: (800) 622 8922

 

Endnotes/References

[i] National Cancer Institute: US National Institutes of Health. (2002).  http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Sites-Types/mesothelioma

[ii]National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Department of Health and Human Services. Center for Disease and Control Prevention. (2006).  Washington DC http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/asbestos/

[iii] Allen J. Blaivas, D.O., Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, Newark, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. US National library of Medicine: National Institutes of Health (2006). Bethesda, MD

[iv] Allen J. Blaivas, D.O., Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, Newark, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. US National library of Medicine: National Institutes of Health (2006). Bethesda, MD

[v] National Cancer Institute: (2001).  Mesothelioma Fact Sheet.  Bethesda, MD http://www.cancer.gov/PDF/FactSheet/fs6_36.pdf

[vi] Richard Alexander. (2003). Analysis of Factors Associated With Outcome in Patients With Malignant Peritoneal Mesothelioma Undergoing Surgical Debulking and Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy.  Bethesda, MD

[vii] Cancer Research Institute of United Kingdom (2006).  The Stages of Mesothelioma.  London, England.

[viii] Cancer Research Institute of United Kingdom (2006).  The Stages of Mesothelioma.  London, England.

[ix] Cancer Research Institute of United Kingdom (2006).  The Stages of Mesothelioma.  London, England.

[x] Cancer Research Institute of United Kingdom (2006).  The Stages of Mesothelioma.  London, England.

[xi] Cancer Research Institute of United Kingdom (2006).  The Stages of Mesothelioma.  London, England.

[xii] Cancer Research Institute of United Kingdom (2006).  The Stages of Mesothelioma.  London, England.

[xiii] University of Chicago Cancer Research Program. (2006). Chicago, IL        http://www.uccrc.org/about/

[xiv] University of Chicago Cancer Research Program. (2006). Chicago, IL        http://www.uccrc.org/about/

[xv] University of Chicago Cancer Research Program. (2006). Chicago, IL        http://www.uccrc.org/about/

[xvi]University of Chicago Cancer Research Program. (2006). Chicago, IL        http://www.uccrc.org/about/

 

[xviii] National Cancer Institute. (2005). Mesothelioma: Questions and Answers. Bethesda, MD.

[xix] The Cleveland Clinic Heart Center, Heart and Vascular Institute. (2006).  http://www.clevelandclinic.org/heartcenter   

[xx] National Cancer Institute (2006). General Information About Malignant Mesothelioma. Bestheda, MD.  http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/malignantmesothelioma/patient

[xxi] National Cancer Institute (2006). General Information About Malignant Mesothelioma. Bestheda, MD.  http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/malignantmesothelioma/patient

[xxii]  Bucci M, Bevan A, Roach M (2005). “Advances in radiation therapy: conventional to 3D, to IMRT, to 4D, and beyond.”. CA Cancer J Clin 55 (2):

[xxiii] National Cancer Institute (2006). General Information About Malignant Mesothelioma. Bestheda, MD. http://www.cancer.gov/Templates/db_alpha.aspx?CdrID=44971 

[xxiv] Eli Lilly and Company (2006). Information For Patients and Caregivers Sheet: Altima.  Indianapolis, IN

[xxv] National Cancer Institute (2006). General Information About Malignant Mesothelioma. Bestheda, MD.  http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/malignantmesothelioma/patient

[xxvi] National Cancer Institute (2006). Photodynamic Therapy for Cancer:    Questions and Answers. Bethesda, MD. 

[xxvii] National Cancer Institute (2006). Photodynamic Therapy for Cancer:    Questions and Answers. Bethesda, MD. 

[xxviii] The International Mesothelioma Program (2006).  Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). Boston, MA http://www.impmeso.org/IMRT/c77_p24/Mesothelioma_Treatments/Recent_Innovations/Intensity-modulated_Radiation_Therapy.html

[xxix] University of Oxford: Division of Public Health and Primary Health care (2006).  Oxford, England http://www.dphpc.ox.ac.uk/events. UK Cystic Fibrosis Gene Therapy Consortium. “What is gene Therapy?” http://www.cfgenetherapy.org.uk/genetherapy.html

[xxx] National Coalition for cancer survivorship (2006).  Palliative Symptoms for Pain Management. Silver Spring, MD

[xxxi] National Coalition for cancer survivorship (2006).  Palliative Symptoms for Pain Management. Silver Spring, MD

Disclaimer

The attorneys at Clark Law Firm, PC have created the Mesothelioma Online Center to provide mesothelioma patients and their loved ones with comprehensive and up-to-date information about the disease.  Although Mesothelioma is a rare disease, it can drastically change the lives of those afflicted by the disease as well as those close to them.  In addition to learning about Mesothelioma and the role asbestos plays in the development of mesothelioma, you will also learn who is at risk of developing mesothelioma as well as the symptoms of mesothelioma, medical procedures used to diagnose mesothelioma and the various options available for treating mesothelioma.  We hope you find it helpful.

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