cancer_patientDeveloping in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart, mesothelioma is an aggressive and rare type of cancer most often caused by working with or exposure to asbestos. It can take between 20–50 years for mesothelioma to appear after exposure.

According to a 2017 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 2,400 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with this cancer every year,

If you suffer from mesothelioma, it’s not as difficult to get a disability claim approved for this illness as it is for some other conditions. Mesothelioma is listed in the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Blue Book of impairments under 13.15 Pleura or mediastinum in the Cancer section. However, it’s helpful to hire a disability attorney to assist you with your claims application.

Types of Mesothelioma

Doctors most often classify mesothelioma based on the location where it develops in the body. This type of cancer forms in the mesothelium—the spaces within the body or lining of certain organs.

Mesothelioma most often develops in one of these three areas:

  • Lungs. This is known as pleural mesothelioma. Caused by inhaling asbestos fibers, it’s the most common type of this cancer. Symptoms may include fever, fatigue, chest pains, and breathlessness. The abundance of research shows that most people who suffer from pleural mesothelioma will be eligible for radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and chemotherapy—possibly adding years to their life expectancy.
  • Abdomen. This is known as peritoneal mesothelioma. It develops if someone inhales or swallows asbestos fibers and those fibers become trapped in the peritoneum—the abdomen’s lining. Patients with this type of cancer often experience distention of the abdomen, abdominal pain, bloating, and bowel changes. Less research has been done on this type of cancer, but the prognosis for peritoneal mesothelioma is better than for patients with pleural mesothelioma.

Approximately 50 percent of people who undergo surgery with heated chemotherapy (HIPEC) treatment live longer than five years. Peritoneal mesothelioma is more common in women than in men.

  • Heart. This is known as pericardial mesothelioma and a rarer form of this cancer. People suffer from pericardial mesothelioma when asbestos fibers get wedged in the lining around the heart cavity—known as the pericardium. Patients with this type of cancer often experience difficulty breathing, coughing, chest pain, and irregular heartbeat. Pericardial mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer, with only about 200 cases ever reported.

The Emotional and Physical Toll of Living With Mesothelioma

Because there's not a cure for mesothelioma and it has such a poor prognosis, being diagnosed with it can be extremely stressful and overwhelming, and the emotional toll can negatively impact your overall health.

Patients diagnosed with mesothelioma may have any number of negative psychological responses, including sadness, anger, anxiety, fear, and confusion. They may also bottle up those responses in an effort to keep loved ones from worrying about them. But research has shown that when people keep their feelings inside and don’t talk about them, they may experience higher blood pressure and a decrease in their body’s immune response.

Improving overall health may have a positive impact on your cancer prognosis. Staying healthy and keeping a positive attitude can help patients better cope with their situation. Some of these improvements include:

  • Exercise
  • Improved diet
  • Support groups
  • Self-care

Physical trainers and registered dietitians are often available through cancer centers, and they can tailor meal plans specific to your particular cancer, as well as teach you exercises that help you maintain energy and muscle mass while you go through cancer treatment. Additionally, most cancer centers make available a mental health specialist who can provide tools for handling a rough diagnosis. 

Some patients with mesothelioma may go through chemotherapy and radiation treatments, which can be difficult on the body. Daily activities such as showering, cooking, or housework and chores may be more challenging due to a loss of appetite, stomach pain, and exhaustion. Both chemotherapy and radiation can be used independently or with surgery, and the goal is to destroy the cancer cells present in the body. It may take multiple rounds of treatment to fight the disease, but both approaches can be used with all stages of mesothelioma.

Additionally, self-care techniques such as massage, deep breathing, and meditation combined with proper medication can help reduce the pain if you undergo surgical procedures to treat pleural mesothelioma.

We Can Help

If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma and need SS benefits, hiring a disability lawyer can be the key to getting the financial support you need. Contact Cuddigan Law to help you fill out your claims application and help increase your chances of getting a claim approved. We also handle SS disability claims for clients who need help with their applications, or the appeals process if their claim was denied. Fill out our online form today.


Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska