The first thing to know about asbestos exposure is that ill effects from this exposure have a long latency period. It is not unusual for someone exposed to asbestos to not develop mesothelioma for 25-40 years after exposure. Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that affects the Mesothelium, a protective lining that covers most of the body?s protective organs. Asbestos fibers that are breathed in become lodged in the linings of the lungs and eventually cause the cells to mutate and become cancerous. About 70-80% of Mesothelioma cases are estimated to be caused by various degrees of asbestos exposure.
The amount of exposure that causes disease in people is up for debate. While there are many cases of factory or other workers that have had heavy exposure to free, friable exposure for many years developing disease, there are also cases where exposure has been as short as several months or just a few weeks. Intensity of exposure is most likely as relevant as length of time. If you think you were exposed to asbestos dust it is a good idea to write down as much as can be remembered as to length of time, intensity, where and how you were exposed. Frequently asbestos litigation can be pursued if you can prove you worked in an industry or work setting or lived in an environment where there was exposed friable asbestos that affected you.
One of the reasons it is so important to document as much as possible how much asbestos exposure you might have had is because the disease of Mesothelioma is notoriously hard to detect and quite often is mistaken for other cancers. It is important to detect the initial signs of asbestos disease both to receive early treatment as well as to clearly identify the cause for possible litigation later. The two primary types of Mesothelioma are Pleural (chest) and Peritoneal (abdominal). In Pleural a lung?s membrane will thicken a fluid will collect. Both of these cause difficulty in the contractions of the lungs and make breathing difficult. In Peritoneal similar symptoms appear but around the abdominal region leading to fluid accumulation and pain in the area.
It is unknown how many people have died from Mesothelioma that might have been mis-diagnosed with another type of cancer. Therefore it is important to educate youself on the differences and causes of each.