What is mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that affects the membrane that lines certain internal organs, including the lungs, heart and abdominal cavity. The majority of mesothelioma cases are caused by asbestos exposure, so mesothelioma is often referred to as an ‘asbestos-related cancer’.
What types of mesothelioma are there?
There are various different types of mesothelioma named for the areas of the body they affect. The main types are:
- Pleural mesothelioma – affecting the pleural membrane that lines the chest cavity and lungs.
- Peritoneal mesothelioma – affecting the peritoneal membrane that lines the abdomen.
- Pericardial mesothelioma – affecting the pericardium that lines the heart.
There are also three different types of cancerous cells associated with mesothelioma:
- Epithelioid mesothelioma – the most common type, this is also usually slower growing than the other types and tends to respond best to treatment.
- Sarcomatoid mesothelioma – rarer and more aggressive, tends to be less responsive to treatment.
- Biphasic mesothelioma – where both epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells are present.
What causes mesothelioma?
Almost all cases of mesothelioma are caused by exposure to asbestos, a group of minerals that were once widely used in the construction industry. Asbestos minerals are made up of microscopic fibres that are easily inhaled and, if this happens, the fibres can become lodged in different areas of the bodies.
When asbestos fibres become lodged in the body, our immune systems attack them, but as the fibres cannot be destroyed, this only results in damage to the surrounding tissue. As this tissue heals, gets damaged again and heals again, it increases the rate of cell division in the affected area of the body.
The more cell division that occurs, the higher the likelihood of errors when the cells copy themselves, which is what ultimately leads cancerous cells to form.
What are the symptoms of mesothelioma?
Common symptoms of pleural mesothelioma (affecting the lungs) include:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Fatigue (extreme tiredness)
- High temperature and sweating
- Persistent cough
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Clubbed (swollen) fingertips
Common symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma (affecting the abdomen) include:
- Stomach pain
- Swelling of the abdomen
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
How is mesothelioma diagnosed?
If you have any of the symptoms above and have previously worked in an industry where asbestos exposure is a common risk, your GP should recognise the potential for a mesothelioma diagnosis. You will then be referred to hospital for tests such as:
- CT scan
- Fluid samples (extracted from the affected area)
- Endoscopy (using a small camera to look inside your body)
- Biopsy (of the affected tissue to look for cancerous cells)
How is mesothelioma treated?
This will depend on how advanced the mesothelioma is and how well it responds to treatment. Sadly, this disease is often only caught at a late stage, meaning treatment is often focused on easing symptoms and extending life, rather than curing the disease.
Treatments for mesothelioma include:
- Chemotherapy (using medicine to shrink the cancer)
- Radiotherapy (using radiation to kill cancer cells)
- Surgery (operating to remove the cancerous tissue)
How long after asbestos exposure does mesothelioma occur?
This varies, but if often takes around 20 years after the initial asbestos exposure for mesothelioma to be diagnosed.
Can you get compensation for mesothelioma?
If your mesothelioma was caused by someone else’s negligence, then you will be entitled to compensation. In most cases, this will be where an employer did not take reasonable precautions to protect you from the risk of asbestos exposure.
Common examples of such failings include where an employer did not carry out appropriate risk assessments and/or provide proper personal protective equipment (PPE) in relation to asbestos.
Even if your former employer is no longer trading, you will still normally be able to claim as the claim will be against whoever their insurers were, rather than the employer themselves. In most cases, the insurer will still be in business even if your old employer isn’t.
How much compensation can you get for mesothelioma?
This will entirely depend on your circumstances as the goal of compensation is to ‘make things right’ as much as possible. The available damages will be calculated based on mesothelioma’s impact on your life, taking into account issues such as:
- The financial impact e.g. lost income, medical fees, care costs etc.
- The personal impact e.g. pain and suffering, not being able to do the things you used to be able to do (referred to ‘loss of amenity’)
Compensation will take into account the impact on you and your loved ones so far, as well as the expected future impact. Our team will be happy to give an estimate of the likely damages available when you contact us.
Is there a time limit for claiming mesothelioma compensation?
As with other types of personal injury claims, there is a three-year time limit for bringing a claim.
However, it is important to understand that this time limit is not counted from the date when the exposure occurred, but rather from the date on which you were first aware that you had mesothelioma and that someone else was likely to blame. This date is referred to as the ‘date of knowledge’.
As it typically takes decades after the initial exposure for the symptoms of mesothelioma to appear and a diagnosis to be confirmed, the date of knowledge is often a long time after the original asbestos exposure. This can mean you are still able to claim, even if you were exposed to asbestos a long time ago.
Can you claim mesothelioma compensation for someone who has died?
Yes. If you were a dependant of the deceased or a representative of their estate, you can usually start a mesothelioma compensation claim within three years of the date of death. If the deceased had already started a claim before they passed away, you may be able to take over their claim.
Compensation for fatal mesothelioma can cover costs such as:
- Funeral expenses
- Loss of income from the deceased
- Loss of services (e.g. if the deceased was a carer)
- Normal household costs
- Medical costs
- Childcare costs
Find out if you are entitled to mesothelioma compensation
If you or a loved one have been affected by mesothelioma and you want to find out if you are owed compensation, our expert asbestos claims team
We offer a free initial consultation to discuss your situation and answers your questions, including whether you are entitled to compensation and how the claims process works.
Most of our clients work with us on a “No Win, No Fee” basis, allowing you to avoid any upfront cost or financial risk when starting a claim. We resolve most claims outside of a court, making the claims process faster, less costly and less stressful.
To arrange an initial consultation about claiming mesothelioma compensation, please contact our specialist asbestos solicitors today.