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What You Need To Know About Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is one of the most significant illnesses that people who have been exposed to asbestos can develop. The only known cause for mesothelioma in Australia is exposure to asbestos.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer which affects the cells that cover the lining around internal organs, usually the lungs. When the cancer develops in the lining of the lungs or chest wall this is known as pleural mesothelioma. There are other types of mesothelioma, for example peritoneal mesothelioma which is a cancer of the lining of the abdomen.

A diagnosis of mesothelioma is a terminal diagnosis. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma it is important to focus on medical treatment, but also to be aware of your legal options. People with mesothelioma are generally entitled to receive some form of compensation and financial support.

Mesothelioma: causes

The only known cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos – specifically, exposure to asbestos fibres. When the fibres are inhaled, they can become lodged within the lining of the lungs. Overtime, the inflammation and scaring which develop around the deposited fibres turn into malignant (cancerous) cells. This is mesothelioma.

There are two kinds of asbestos products: friable and non-friable. Friable products contain loose asbestos fibres and usually give off asbestos dust, containing asbestos fibres, when touched. Non-friable products contain asbestos bonded with other materials, like cement – they only give off asbestos dust when they are cut, drilled, weathered or otherwise disturbed.

Up until the late 1980s, asbestos had an incredibly wide variety of uses in Australia and was a common product in many industries. People most likely to be diagnosed with mesothelioma are those who regularly worked with asbestos products as part of their occupation. However, there are increasingly diagnoses related to domestic exposure, for example prior to the mid-1980s it was common in Australia to use bonded asbestos products (fibro) in home renovations. It is estimated that two out of three homes built between the 1950s and the mid-1980s contain fibro asbestos products.

There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos and even those with minimal exposure may go onto to develop mesothelioma.

Signs and symptoms of mesothelioma

Symptoms of mesothelioma typically develop between 20 to 40 years after initial exposure. Very often people who have previously been in good health become ill and within weeks to months receive an unexpected diagnosis of mesothelioma.

In the early stages of its development, there might not be any signs that something is wrong. It is only months or years later when the cancer develops to cover large parts of the lining of the lung, spreads into other tissue or causes fluid to leak into the lungs or abdomen that people notice symptoms. Mesothelioma symptoms at this stage can include shortness of breath, fatigue, a persistent dry cough and pain in the chest abdomen or shoulders. It may take some time before a doctor is able to rule out other causes of illness and provide a conclusive diagnosis of mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma treatment options

Unfortunately, to date, there is no cure for mesothelioma and the life expectancy following diagnosis is in the area of weeks to months, with the average prognosis from diagnosis to death being nine to twelve months.  Treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and, more recently, immunotherapy, attempt to slow the development of the illness and manage symptoms such as severe pain, severe breathing difficulties, problems swallowing, hoarseness and coughing up mucus or blood.

Legal assistance

The effects of asbestos were well known by manufacturers, like James Hardie, for decades before they ceased to make and sell asbestos products.

If you have received a diagnosis of mesothelioma you may be entitled to make a claim for compensation. Segelov Taylor Lawyers can advise you of your legal options and help you commence proceedings if you chose to do so.

In New South Wales common law claims for mesothelioma are brought in the Dust Diseases Tribunal (DDT). The DDT is a specialist court that was established in 1989 to hear claims for persons suffering from dust diseases such as mesothelioma. Most claims are brought against former employers and manufacturers of asbestos products.

Further, if you were exposed to asbestos as a worker in New South Wales and you develop mesothelioma you may also have a right to claim a pension and have all your medical, hospital, pharmaceutical, nursing and nursing aids and equipment costs paid by the Dust Disease Authority (DDA) as well as your dependant receiving a lump sum and ongoing pension if you die as a result of your condition of mesothelioma. This is in addition to a claim for damages at common law within the DDT.

If you are successful in your claim in the DDT you will be awarded a lump sum payout to compensate you for your pain and suffering, loss of expectation of life, medical and other expenses (if you are not covered by the DDA), the commercial cost of care provided by your friends and family, loss of earnings and superannuation and in some cases the commercial cost of replacing services you provided to others such as young children or a sick or elderly child, spouse or parent. Most mesothelioma claims resolve for between $350,000 and $500,000 clear in your hand (after all costs and disbursements are paid) plus medical expenses (if you are not covered by the DDA), economic loss and replacement services.

Segelov Taylor Lawyers are experts in mesothelioma compensation. Segelov Taylor principal, Tanya Segelov has more than 20 years’ experience in dust disease litigation and will personally handle your case if you are diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos related disease. Call (02) 8880 0500 or email tanya@segelovtaylor.com.au today. 

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