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Why Is Mesothelioma So Hard To Diagnose?

Mesothelioma - Diagnosis written on a piece of white paper with medication injection, syringe and pills

Mesothelioma symptoms often mimic those of more common illnesses

Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of lung cancer that develops after prolonged exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a mineral once widely used by manufacturers, construction companies, and the U.S. military. Today, it's often found in insulation, ceiling tiles, paint, and thousands of other products.

Despite the well-documented risks, millions were exposed to asbestos before the early 1980s, which led to a significant number of mesothelioma cases.

During much of the 20th century, many people succumbed to mesothelioma without ever knowing the cause of their illness. Asbestos was a silent killer. More alarmingly, manufacturers concealed the link between asbestos exposure and the resulting diseases, which left many workers unprotected and uninformed.

Today, significant strides have been made in recognizing and addressing the dangers of asbestos. Mesothelioma victims and their families now have legal avenues to seek compensation and support through mesothelioma lawsuits. However, early diagnosis remains a critical challenge.

How does mesothelioma develop?

One of the most chilling parts of mesothelioma is the lengthy period it takes for symptoms to manifest. After asbestos fibers enter the body, mesothelioma can take 20 to 50 years to develop. This extended latency period means many people are diagnosed only after the cancer has advanced. This often limits treatment options and reduces survival chances.

The symptoms of mesothelioma include chest pain, cough, and shortness of breath. However, they're often mistaken for common respiratory illnesses such as the flu or pneumonia. This misdiagnosis can delay appropriate treatment and worsen the prognosis.

Why is mesothelioma so difficult to diagnose?

Despite increased awareness and research, mesothelioma remains challenging to diagnose. In addition to long latency periods and symptom overlap, here are other reasons why:

  • Pleural effusion: Pleural effusion, often referred to as "water on the lungs," is the buildup of excess fluid between the layers of the pleura outside your lungs. This condition is common in mesothelioma patients and can be mistaken for other illnesses.
  • Unawareness of asbestos exposure: Many people are unaware they were exposed to asbestos, especially those who worked in industries like construction or the military. Secondhand exposure, where asbestos fibers are brought home on clothing, also poses significant risks.
  • Inexperience among doctors: With only about 3,000 cases diagnosed annually in the U.S., many doctors lack experience with mesothelioma. Misinterpretation of test results can lead to incorrect diagnoses and delayed treatment.
  • Complex diagnostic process: Diagnosing mesothelioma requires multiple tests, including imaging scans and biopsies, which can be invasive and expensive. In some cases, health insurers may deny coverage for these procedures.
  • High misdiagnosis rate: Mesothelioma is misdiagnosed in about 14% of cases, often mistaken for conditions such as bronchitis, pneumonia, or heart disease.
  • Ongoing risk of exposure: Asbestos is still not fully banned in the U.S., and many older buildings contain asbestos materials. Renovations and demolitions can release asbestos fibers, which poses a continued risk.

Why are second opinions important in mesothelioma diagnoses?

Given the challenges in diagnosing mesothelioma, seeking a second opinion from a medical specialist is a must. Getting a second opinion can help accurately identify mesothelioma and get a recommendation for appropriate treatments.

To get a second opinion on a mesothelioma diagnosis, start by gathering all relevant medical records, including imaging scans, biopsy results, and pathology reports. Schedule an appointment with a specialist and ensure they review your existing records and conduct additional tests.

Can I pursue compensation if I suffer from mesothelioma?

If you were diagnosed with mesothelioma, pursuing legal compensation can help cover the costs of treatment and provide financial stability. The battle against mesothelioma is ongoing, but with the right support and resources, you can get the compensation you need during these difficult times.

Contact the Ferrell Law Group, a national asbestos mesothelioma and lung cancer law firm with over 30 years of experience, for a free consultation to determine if you qualify for compensation. With no obligation or upfront fees, our experienced attorneys will evaluate your case, explain your legal options, and fight to secure the compensation you deserve.

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