Common Questions about Mesothelioma and Asbestos

Mesothelioma is a rare, but significant illnesses that people who have been exposed to asbestos can develop. The only known cause for mesothelioma in Australia is exposure to asbestos.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer which affects the cells that cover the lining around internal organs, usually the lungs. When the cancer develops in the lining of the lungs or chest wall this is known as pleural mesothelioma. There are other types of mesothelioma, for example peritoneal mesothelioma which is a cancer of the lining of the abdomen.

A diagnosis of mesothelioma is a terminal diagnosis. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma it is important to focus on medical treatment, but also to be aware of your legal options. People with mesothelioma are generally entitled to receive some form of compensation and financial support.

Mesothelioma: causes

The only known cause of mesothelioma is inhalation of asbestos fibres. When the fibres are inhaled, they can become lodged within the lining of the lungs. Overtime, the inflammation and scaring which develop around the deposited fibres turn into malignant (cancerous) cells. This is mesothelioma.

There are two kinds of asbestos products: friable and non-friable. Friable products contain loose asbestos fibres and usually give off asbestos dust, containing asbestos fibres, when touched. Non-friable products contain asbestos bonded with other materials, like cement – they only give off asbestos dust when they are cut, drilled, weathered or otherwise disturbed.

Up until the late 1980s, asbestos was used in an incredibly wide variety of ways in Australia.  It was a common product in many industries. People most likely to be diagnosed with mesothelioma are those who regularly worked with asbestos products as part of their occupation. However, there are increasingly diagnoses related to domestic exposure, for example prior to the mid-1980s it was common in Australia to use bonded asbestos products (fibro) in home renovations. It is estimated that two out of three homes built between the 1950s and the mid-1980s contain fibro asbestos products.

There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos and even those with minimal exposure may go onto to develop mesothelioma.

Signs and symptoms of mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a very rare cancer, even for people who have been exposed to asbestos.

Symptoms of mesothelioma typically develop between 20 to 40 years after initial exposure.  It seldom develops less than 7 years after exposure.  Very often people who have previously been in good health become ill and within weeks to months receive an unexpected diagnosis of mesothelioma.

In the early stages of its development, there might not be any signs that something is wrong.  Mesothelioma symptoms at this stage can include shortness of breath, fatigue, a persistent dry cough and pain in the chest abdomen or shoulders. It may take some time before doctors are able to rule out other causes of illness and provide a conclusive diagnosis of mesothelioma.  Mesothelioma is usually diagnosed following a biopsy.

Mesothelioma treatment options

Unfortunately, to date, there is no cure for mesothelioma and the life expectancy following diagnosis is in the area of months to a few years .  Treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and, more recently, immunotherapy, can slow the development of the illness and manage symptoms such as pain, breathing difficulties, problems swallowing, hoarseness and coughing up mucus or blood.

Legal assistance

The effects of asbestos were well known by manufacturers, like James Hardie, for decades before they ceased to make and sell asbestos products.

Most people who are diagnosed with mesothelioma can obtain compensation. Segelov Taylor Lawyers can advise you of your legal options and help you commence proceedings if you chose to do so.

The processes for obtaining compensation vary from state to state.  Segelov Taylor Lawyers have experience in acting for individuals in all states.

The amounts of compensation (and the way they can be obtained) vary between states.  In very general terms most people with mesothelioma obtain between $350,000 and $500,000 clear (after all costs and disbursements are paid) plus medical expenses, economic loss and replacement services.  However, individual circumstances can mean that the overall compensation is substantially greater than these amounts.

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