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Questions to Ask After a Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Oct 9, 2007
The days and weeks after a mesothelioma diagnosis can be a frightening, confusing time. Whether you're a patient or a family member, you're bound to have many questions about what to expect, what treatment options are available to you and how your disease will affect your life. It's very important that you ask these questions and get the answers that you need in order to plan for the future. If your doctor has suggested that you might have mesothelioma, here are some of the questions that you should ask.

What exactly is mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a virulent form of cancer with only one known cause - exposure to asbestos fibers. Hundreds of thousands of people were exposed to asbestos fibers in the past sixty years. Many of them have developed lung problems over the years, including asbestosis and pleural plaques. A small percentage of them develop mesothelioma, which is caused by asbestos fibers lodged in the pleural, pericardial or abdominal lining.

How did you reach a mesothelioma diagnosis?
While your doctor may have done many tests to find out what was wrong with you, the most accurate test for determining a mesothelioma diagnosis is a tissue biopsy. Your doctor may have performed a fluid biopsy to look for cancerous cells in the fluid surrounding your lungs or heart, but fluid biopsies are not considered reliable because of the high rate of false negative results. Ask your doctor about the reliability of the tests used in arriving at your mesothelioma diagnosis.

Should I get a second opinion?
Getting a second opinion on a life changing diagnosis like mesothelioma is always a good idea. Getting a second opinion isn't the same as getting a second diagnosis. In most cases, there will be no need to repeat the tests you've already had - the second doctor will generally review the results of tests ordered by your first doctor. Occasionally, the doctor giving a second opinion may order other tests to clarify the results he's reading, or that he feels should be taken to be certain.

What treatments are available for mesothelioma?
Your doctor should be your first resource for the best and latest treatments for mesothelioma, but you can and should be an active participant in researching and making decisions about your care. Many of the treatments available for mesothelioma are standard treatments for other more common types of lung cancer, but there are new treatments being developed, and some surprising and hopeful breakthroughs in the treatment of mesothelioma and other cancers.

Discuss all your options with your doctor, and don't be afraid of asking about treatments that he or she may not have mentioned but of which you've heard. Your doctor may have specific reasons why a particular treatment isn't appropriate in your case, but there is always the possibility that your doctor may not have heard of a new clinical trial or treatment yet. It's always better to ask than to wonder.

What are clinical trials?
Because of some very active advocacy groups consisting of doctors, patients and lawyers who work with people given a mesothelioma diagnosis, there is an upsurge of research into treatments for mesothelioma. Clinical trials are one of the final steps in testing a new treatment before the treatment is approved. Often, clinical trials offer treatments that are not yet available to the general public but which show a great deal of promise in treating disease. Pharmaceutical companies and research groups seek out patients with a particular set of conditions like a mesothelioma diagnosis to participate in "real life" testing in order to confirm the effectiveness of the new treatment, determine side effects and establish safe and effective dosages, among other things.

How am I going to pay for my treatment?
Finances are often a major concern for a patient who has been given a mesothelioma diagnosis. Many health insurance policies cap benefits for those with cancer or mesothelioma in particular. If your health insurance doesn't cover the necessary treatment for your illness, you may be eligible for care through the Veterans Administration if you are a veteran, or get assistance from the Social Security Administration.

If you have a mesothelioma diagnosis, you may also have the right to bring suit against the companies that were responsible for your exposure to asbestos. There are a number of funds that have resulted from mesothelioma lawsuits, and you may be eligible for benefits from one of those, or you may be able to bring an individual suit against a company. Because mesothelioma is almost always traceable to asbestos exposure, you should consult a skilled mesothelioma lawyer as soon after your mesothelioma diagnosis as possible. You have rights to recover medical expenses and damages under the law, and a lawyer skilled in asbestos litigation and settlement is your best source of information on those rights.
About the Author
Nick Johnson is lead counsel with Johnson Law Group. Johnson represents plaintiffs in many states and focuses on injury cases involving Fen-Phen and PPH, Paxil, Mesothelioma and Nursing Home Abuse. Call Nick Johnson at 1-888-311-5522 or visit http://www.johnsonlawgroup.com
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