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Mesothelioma: What it is and what it means to Inland Empire residents

Mesothelioma or, malignant mesothelioma, is a form of cancer that develops from cells of the mesothelium, the protective lining that covers many of the internal organs of the body. Mesothelioma is most commonly caused by exposure to asbestos.

People who develop mesothelioma typically have a history of employment where they inhaled or ingested asbestos fibers, or where they were exposed to airborne asbestos dust and fibers in other ways. Even washing clothes of a family member who worked with asbestos also creates a risk for developing mesothelioma.

It appears, from information learned in prior mesothelioma litigation, that the health risks were known in the asbestos industry, but the government still allowed companies to build with these dangerous materials. Asbestos fibers can be inhaled or ingested and then latch onto the tissue that lines the lungs (pleura) or the abdomen (peritoneum) and negatively affect cell growth. The affected cells malfunction, creating cancer cells, and eventually develop into mesothelioma.

Signs and symptoms of mesothelioma include shortness of breath due to fluid between the lung and the chest wall, chest wall pain and signs such as unexplained weight loss. The diagnosis may be suspected based on chest X-ray and CT scan findings, but must be confirmed either by examining serous effusion cytology or with a biopsy (removing a sample of the suspicious tissue).

People who discover they are suffering from mesothelioma due to working with asbestos (or, if they are deceased, their spouse) have a good chance of recovering compensation for these damages, either from the company that manufactured or installed the asbestos, or from an insurance company or asbestos victims’ trust fund that has assumed liability for the company. This is true even if the original manufacturer has long since closed down or even declared bankruptcy, due to the formation of asbestos victims’ trust funds.

As of 2013, it is estimated that there is more than 30 billion dollars set aside in trust funds for mesothelioma patients. About 27.5 million people were exposed to asbestos while working. Of those 27.5 million, only 730,000, or 2.5%, have filed for compensation. From the years 1980-2002 there was a $70 billion dollar pay out to victims of asbestos-related illnesses.

If you or a loved one suffers from mesothelioma, you should consult with an attorney to explore your options with respect to filing a lawsuit or presenting a claim.

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