When asbestos dust is breathed in or swallowed, some of the microscopic particles lodge in the lungs, throat, esophagus, pleural linings and stomach linings in the body. The tiny fibers sit there for twenty to forty years, damaging the cells and causing scarring and inflammation, but the worst damage is not immediately apparent.
Decades later, researchers discovered that cancer attacks the cells of the mesothelium, a thin lining that encases the heart and lungs. The symptoms of mesothelioma are a result of a buildup of fluid in the area between the mesothelium and the lungs.
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer, with about 3,000 cases a year reported in the U.S. Although the most common form of mesothelioma, pleural mesothelioma, affects the membranes surrounding the lungs, this type of cancer is very different from lung cancer.
It is a much rarer and usually far more deadly form of cancer than lung cancer. Mesothelioma is unrelated to smoking and caused by exposure to asbestos dust and fibers.
If you or a family member has been diagnosed with asbestosis or mesothelioma, you have rights.