A mesothelioma diagnosis is not the end: information on confirming your mesothelioma diagnosis and steps to take afterwards
“The shock is incredible,” said Ian Hall recalling his mesothelioma diagnosis. “To know that your life term is probably less than 18 months.”
There is a line that bisects individuals, like yourself, who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma. 50% of the individuals diagnosed live less than a year, and 50% live longer. Redefine which side of the line you are on. Breakthroughs such as Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (or IMRT) are helping those even in stage IV mesothelioma. IMRT is a more precise form of radiation therapy that has shown potential to extend the lifespan of a mesothelioma sufferer 3 to 4 months even in the worst cases of mesothelioma cancer.
Prominent paleontologist and prolific science writer Stephen Jay Gould was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 1982. Stephen lived for 20 years until ultimately succumbing to lung cancer. Upon looking at the statistics about mesothelioma showing that he had a fifty percent change of living less than one year, he decided to write an essay. This essay was entitled The Median Isn’t the Message, and it has inspired hope in individuals diagnosed with this disease for many years. The essay talks about how just because the statistics look grim on the surface, it does not mean that your prognosis will be grim, as well. Gould proved statistically that he was a part of the other side of the fifty percent – the side that lives much longer than expected. He was right, and through aggressive treatment Stephen was able to knock his mesothelioma into remission.
Stephen describes his essay as “a personal story of statistics, properly interpreted, as profoundly nurturant and life-giving. It declares holy war on the downgrading of intellect by telling a small story about the utility of dry, academic knowledge about science. Heart and head are focal points of one body, one personality.”
The words “you have mesothelioma” are heard by 3,000 Americans every year. If you, or your father, uncle, mother, cousin, or grandparents receive a mesothelioma diagnosis, it is important to know you are not alone. Options are available to you. Weitz & Luxenberg has been helping people with mesothelioma for over two decades, and we can help you, as well.
Dr. Daniel DuPont, a medical expert in the field of mesothelioma treatment, was asked by a Weitz & Luxenberg attorney, Len Feldman, what an individual should do after receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis:
“First off if they’re diagnosed with mesothelioma they should seek multiple opinions. There are centers of excellence that are more experienced than others in taking care of mesothelioma. [Second] it is my routine [to tell patients] that they have legal rights. This is a disease that’s going to involve a lot of care, a lot of cost, a lot of discomfort. And it’s a disease that not only do they need to attend to their medical needs, but they have to attend to the needs of their family.”
On this page, we have laid out how mesothelioma is diagnosed and what you should do after receiving a diagnosis.
Treatments such as IMRT and those that helped Stephen Jay Gould beat his mesothelioma are, unfortunately, not cheap, but you do have legal options that can help. Mesothelioma sufferers, like yourself, have the option to pursue financial compensation that can cover all treatment, travel, and lodging costs.
For more information on mesothelioma legal options, contact Weitz & Luxenberg today.
Symptoms that point to mesothelioma
The number one thing to ask yourself is “have I been exposed to asbestos?” If you worked in a factory, in construction, home maintenance, or an asbestos mine prior to the 1970’s you probably were exposed to asbestos.
Physical symptoms that point to mesothelioma include a persistent cough, chest pain, congestion, and constipation. With mesothelioma, as opposed to the common cold, these symptoms do not go away.
Confirming your mesothelioma diagnosis
A mesothelioma diagnosis is usually twofold:
- Your doctor will ask you a series of questions relating to your past. These are supposed to give your doctor an idea of whether you have had the chance of being exposed to asbestos. If you have never been exposed in your life, then the test ends there. You do not have mesothelioma. If you have been exposed to asbestos (even if it was over 60 years ago), he will administer the second part of the test.
- A complete physical examination is performed, which includes x-rays of the chest and lung function tests. A CAT scan or an MRI is often employed to obtain detailed pictures inside the body that can be analyzed on a computer monitor. To rule out heart disease the doctor will also request an echocardiogram, which creates an image of the heart muscle using high-frequency sound waves. Results of these diagnostic tests are reviewed and, if warranted, the doctor will then arrange for a lung biopsy to be performed. This physically intrusive procedure is conducted under general anesthesia and involves the removal of internal tissue samples for examination under a microscope.
A new diagnostic test is being developed where you simply blow into a tube. The tube collects volatile hydrocarbons from your breath into a filter, and then it analyzes them. The result is a more accurate detection of mesothelioma earlier.
Even if you have already been diagnosed, it is helpful to seek out experts in the field of mesothelioma and hear their opinion of your diagnosis.
After the diagnosis: what lies ahead
Typical treatments for mesothelioma include:
- Radiation therapy
- Palliative care (pain medication, draining fluids, etc.)
The only upside is the knowledge that you can pursue compensation that will cover all of these treatments and more. If this disease were not caused by asbestos, and happened spontaneously for instance, you would not have the option to pursue compensation. You then would then need to rely on health insurance. Mary Jane Williams, who received a mesothelioma diagnosis in 2003, said “for the rest of our lives [sufferers of mesothelioma] we’re going to be going and getting CAT scans and your insurance doesn’t pay for everything. So, you need the compensation.” Mesothelioma is caused by asbestos, which means that there are companies who are responsible for your developing the disease. Those companies can be held financially accountable for their negligence.
“All I can say is ‘Get mad’ because [these companies] knew…[asbestos] caused cancer,” says Mary Jane Williams.
I was just diagnosed with mesothelioma – what should I do?
The first thing you should do is seek a second or even third opinion. Because mesothelioma is a rarer form of cancer, not every medical facility in the United States is equipped to help you as best as they could be. There are top doctors, some of which may live in your area, who specialize in mesothelioma. Seek out the best you can find.
- MSKCC, New York
- Columbia, New York
- Mt. Sinai, New York
- NYU Langone, New York
- Brigham and Women’s, Boston
- University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
- University of Vermont, Burlington
- Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia
- University of Chicago, Chicago
- Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa
- Johns Hopkins, Baltimore
- MD Anderson, Houston
- UCSF, San Francisco
- UCLA, Los Angeles
- University of Washington, Seattle
- University of Hawaii, Honolulu
The second thing you can do is contact Weitz & Luxenberg. Mesothelioma is a disease caused asbestos. The companies that mined, manufactured, distributed, and sold asbestos knew that it was dangerous, but kept it a secret from the public for over 100 years. Anyone who develops mesothelioma has the right to pursue compensation from these companies. Weitz & Luxenberg has the experience and resources to find out exactly which companies are responsible for your illness. We can also dig up old work history records, asbestos order forms, and other documentation that can provide hard evidence to prove your case.
If you are interested in pursuing legal compensation for your mesothelioma, it is important to get started right after your diagnosis.
How do I contact Weitz & Luxenberg?
You can either call us at (800) 476-6070, or fill out the form on this page. The form asks for very basic information – all of which is kept confidential. Once you send the form, a representative from Weitz & Luxenberg will be in touch with you within 24 hours.