What is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that forms on protective linings of the chest, the abdomen, the heart and the testicles. Many of the 3,000 new cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year can be traced to job-related asbestos exposure.
Mesothelioma takes anywhere from 10 to 50 years to develop. Unfortunately, there is no cure for mesothelioma, and the risk of developing the deadly cancer does not diminish over time, even after the exposure to asbestos ends.
Who Gets Diagnosed with Mesothelioma?
Weitz & Luxenberg attorneys advocate for men and women whose lives were ruined or altered by asbestos. Many of them are spouses of someone with mesothelioma, and sometimes they are veterans who encountered asbestos while serving in the U.S. military. Though asbestos use in the U.S. has dropped dramatically in recent decades, asbestos is still present in older homes and buildings, including some schools. Asbestos is also still used in products such as automobile brakes and roofing materials.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has estimated that more than one million employees in construction and general industries “face significant asbestos exposure on the job.” People at risk for asbestos disease due to exposure in the workplace include some miners, factory workers, insulation manufacturers and installers, railroad and automotive workers, ship builders, gas mask manufacturers, plumbers, firefighters, and construction workers.
Symptoms & Treatment of Mesothelioma
By the time symptoms of mesothelioma surface and an oncologist can make a definitive diagnosis, the disease is often advanced. That’s because people may mistake the early symptoms of mesothelioma, such as pain, weight loss, or fever, for common ailments.
Mesothelioma can be very hard to treat — regardless of the stage of the cancer. Doctors typically turn to four types of standard treatment: surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. Clinical trials are testing new types of treatment, such as biologic therapy.
New Treatments and Research
Because mesothelioma is very hard to control, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) is sponsoring clinical trials (research studies with people) that are designed to find new treatments and better ways to use current treatments. Before any new treatment can be recommended for general use, doctors conduct clinical trials to find out whether the treatment is safe for patients and effective against the disease. Participation in clinical trials is an important treatment option for many patients with mesothelioma.
People interested in taking part in a clinical trial should talk with their doctor. Information about clinical trials is available from the Cancer Information Service (CIS) (see below) at 1–800–4–CANCER. Information specialists at the CIS use PDQ®, NCI’s cancer information database, to identify and provide detailed information about specific ongoing clinical trials. Patients also have the option of searching for clinical trials on their own. The clinical trials page on the National Cancer Institute’s website provides general information about clinical trials and links to PDQ.
People considering clinical trials may be interested in the NCI booklet Taking Part in Clinical Trials: What Cancer Patients Need To Know. This booklet describes how research studies are carried out and explains their possible benefits and risks.
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