Imagine this: You went to the doctor after experiencing symptoms you thought were signs of a common illness. Maybe you had chest pain. Or a fever. Or persistent coughing and difficulty breathing. However, your doctor ran through some tests and noticed a mass located in the space between your chest wall and nearby vital organs. You received additional tests, all showing the same mass. Finally, you had a biopsy, which confirmed what doctors feared: You have a rare cancer called mesothelioma.
If you’re a mesothelioma patient, you don’t have to imagine the above sequence of events. It’s likely exactly what happened to you.
The experts at Mesothelioma Guide have worked with numerous victims of asbestos exposure and helped them through the difficult days and weeks following their diagnoses. Our patient advocates understand the stressors involved in receiving the news — and know how difficult it is to emotionally and mentally respond.
However, for you and your family’s well-being, there are specific actions you should take immediately following your mesothelioma diagnosis. Even if you were diagnosed months or years ago, complete these tasks if you haven’t. The potential benefits range from achieving financial stability for you and your family to prolonging your life.
Receive a Second Opinion
Mesothelioma is one of the most challenging diseases to diagnose, mainly due to its rarity. There are approximately 3,000 new cases in the United States each year. Many general oncologists — while skilled in their practice — do not have the experience with mesothelioma to provide an accurate assessment of your cancer’s stage or your overall prognosis.
After you receive a diagnosis, meet with a mesothelioma specialist for a second opinion. Doing so may reveal your cancer to be in a different stage — and could open up additional treatment options, such as surgery. If this occurs, you may prolong your life by months or even years.
If you need an example of a second-opinion success story, look to mesothelioma survivor Jodi Page.
“What a huge difference a second opinion was for me,” said Page, who received her diagnosis in 2000 and was originally told she had a late-stage mesothelioma.
Page’s second opinion, which said she had Stage 2 mesothelioma, contradicted her initial diagnosis of a late-stage cancer and brought her “from an absolute death sentence to a possibility of life.”
Discuss Treatment Options With a Mesothelioma Specialist
Even if the second opinion is the same as your initial diagnosis, there are numerous benefits to meeting with a mesothelioma specialist. They can provide extensive information regarding mesothelioma treatment options and emerging trends in the cancer-treatment field.
The most common and effective mesothelioma treatment methods involve a combination of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. However, you could participate in clinical trials to test outside-the-box options, such as gene therapy or immunotherapy. Some specialists will suggest ongoing clinical trials as a potential avenue, while most local oncologists will not mention or have much knowledge of these studies.
Talk With Your Family About the Diagnosis
A step likely for newly diagnosed patients, this discussion probably will be one of the toughest of your life. Regardless, be upfront and clear with your loved ones about the disease. They should know of the trying times to come, and they also likely want to know how they can support you during treatment.
Let your family know as soon as you’re sure of your mesothelioma diagnosis. You can also let them know of your asbestos exposure history and any legal options they have if you pass away due to the disease (such as a wrongful death lawsuit). Having this discussion allows you and your family to move on from the shock of the news at the same time — and as a unified front.
Coordinate With Your Insurance
Having health insurance will decrease your and your family’s financial burden, but you’ll likely still have to cover some out-of-pocket expenses. Additionally, some plans do not cover the cost of receiving a second opinion or meeting with a mesothelioma specialist. If there is no specialist within your insurance’s network, ask for an out-of-network referral.
You should also discuss whether your plan covers the drugs from a clinical trial you may participate in. In general, it’s important to contact your health insurance provider to review your plan as it relates to mesothelioma, including what procedures and treatments are covered and what bills you’re responsible for.
Contact a Lawyer to Discuss Legal Options
Asbestos exposure is the only scientifically accepted cause of the disease, which means your diagnosis directly ties to companies that produced and sold the substance. These companies manufactured asbestos with few, if any, regulations for most of the 20th century, and the construction and insulation industries relied on asbestos-inclusive building materials.
Even if you didn’t work in these industries, you might have inhaled or ingested asbestos due to living or working in an old building. Other ways you could have interacted with asbestos include: being around someone who came into direct contact with the substance; and using cosmetic or health products as a child or an adult.
Regardless of how you interacted with asbestos, the negligence of a corporation caused you to develop mesothelioma. For that reason, you can seek financial compensation from these businesses. An experienced mesothelioma lawyer can explain the legal process for mesothelioma cases and guide you and your family toward financial stability.
Some mesothelioma patients choose not to file a lawsuit against these companies for numerous reasons. However, there is usually little risk or stress involved in the process. Most mesothelioma cases end in a settlement, which means you’ll likely avoid drawn-out courtroom proceedings and trials. Additionally, if you hire a lawyer from a national mesothelioma firm, you’ll have little work to do in the legal process and can focus on your treatment and spending time with loved ones.
More than anything, you should seek compensation because you deserve indemnity for medical bills, lost wages due to job loss and mounting debt caused by your disease. No mesothelioma patient should endure the financial strain associated with the cancer without any assistance from the responsible party or parties. Contact a lawyer immediately after your diagnosis to learn if your case qualifies for compensation — and if so, to begin the process.