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Mesothelioma: Risks and Notable Casualties

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Mesothelioma is a very aggressive cancer that most often attacks the membrane lining of the lungs and/or abdomen. This disease is uncommon, but not rare.

Most cases of Mesothelioma are caused by occupational exposure to asbestos. Exposure to asbestos from a family member’s soiled clothing can also put someone at risk. Smokers who were exposed to asbestos were at higher risk for developing the disease. The cancer can also be attributed rarely to non-asbestos related causes, which include radiation exposure, carbon nanotubes, erionite exposure, taconite exposure and simian virus 40.

It’s often difficult to pinpoint the exact source of exposure because the latency period is so long. It’s not uncommon for ten years to elapse between the first exposure and significant enough symptoms to appear for a diagnosis to be made. More often, the latency period is actually closer to 35 or 40 years. When symptoms do appear, they’re frequently similar to everyday ailments— often ignored by patients who lack an investment in their health, such as having medical insurance HCCMIS.

Symptoms of Pleural Mesothelioma (the most common occurrence) include chest pains, dyspnea (shortness of breath), dry cough, wheezing, pleural effusions (excess fluid between the pleural layers) and reduced expansion of chest.

Stages of Mesothelioma

Stage I: Limited to the lung and diaphragm.

Stage II: Has affected some or all of the following: chest wall, mediastinal structures, lymph nodes in the chest, esophagus, heart or opposite pleura.

Stage III: Tumor has penetrated the diaphram. Peritoneum and opposite pleura are involved as are the lymph nodes outside the chest.

Stage IV: Metastasized into parts of the body and has become blood borne.

Famous Casualties

Steven McQueen

Steven McQueen
Steven McQueen

McQueen was famous for his roles in “The Thomas Crown Affair,” “Bullitt,” “The Blob” and “The Magnificent Seven.” In December of 1979, he was diagnosed with an advanced peritoneal Mesothelioma. The tumor was so advanced that doctors in the United States would not offer him chemotherapy or surgery. McQueen sought treatment in Mexico and underwent surgery in Mexico in November of 1980. He died of a heart attack the day after his surgery. McQueen believed his exposure occurred while he served with the U.S. Marine Corps, though he may have also been exposed on movie soundstages or from wearing auto racing suits with asbestos insulation.

Merlin Olsen

Olsen was a well-known football player, football commentator and actor. He played 15 seasons in the NFL and went to the pro bowl 14 times. He worked on the television hit “Little House on the Prairie” for several seasons as well as several other shows. He was a commentator for NFL games throughout the 80s and early 90s. His peritoneal Mesothelioma was diagnosed in 2009, he filed a lawsuit in December of that year alleging NBC and 20th Century Fox had exposed him to asbestos and therefore caused his condition. As he had worked with drywall in his youth, Sherwin Williams and Lennox Industries were also named in the lawsuit. He passed away in March of 2010 after three rounds of chemotherapy.

Paul Gleason

Gleason is perhaps best known for his role in the 1985 Brat Pack hit “The Breakfast Club” in which he played Principal Richard Vernon. He also acted on television and in several other notable films. He was diagnosed with pleural Mesothelioma and died in May of 2006. Gleason believed he had been exposed to asbestos as a teenager while working for his father.

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