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How Long Does It Take for Mesothelioma to Develop?

Legally Reviewed by Joseph P. Williams on May 28, 2020

Mesothelioma is a unique type of cancer that can develop decades after exposure to a toxic substance. Asbestos – the carcinogen behind most cases of malignant mesothelioma – typically lays dormant inside the body for years before eventually causing enough tissue irritation or inflammation for noticeable health problems and symptoms to arise. The unusually long latency period for mesothelioma can make it difficult for patients to pinpoint the source of the original asbestos exposure without assistance from a mesothelioma attorney.

How Does Asbestos Cause Mesothelioma?

Latency refers to the time it takes from the moment of exposure to a known carcinogen to the date of a patient’s diagnosis. Different types of diseases have different latency periods. The mechanics of how asbestos affects the body explains the especially long latency period for mesothelioma.

Asbestos works by lodging inside the organs or their outer linings, such as the pleura of the lungs, and slowly causing irritation and inflammation. It can take years for asbestos fibers and particles to irritate the inside of the body enough to develop cancers or cause other asbestos-related diseases. A patient with an asbestos-related disease may not notice the first symptoms of a problem until decades after initial exposure.

How Long Does It Take for Symptoms to Appear?

The average latency period for mesothelioma is 35 to 40 years after asbestos exposure. This is the typical timeframe for a mesothelioma diagnosis. However, the latency period for mesothelioma can range from 10 years to as long as 70, in some cases. A patient’s exact latency period will depend on the symptoms experienced, amount and duration of asbestos exposure, type of asbestos fibers, location of the cancer, the individual’s health, the type of asbestos-related disease, the patient’s age, gender, and many other factors. Most patients diagnosed with mesothelioma are in their 60s and 70s.

What Are the Symptoms of Mesothelioma?

A patient’s prognosis and ability to recover can depend greatly on how soon a doctor diagnoses mesothelioma. Delayed diagnosis contributes to poor prognoses for survival in many cases of terminal malignant mesothelioma. A patient has the greatest odds of surviving mesothelioma or extending his or her lifespan when he or she recognizes common symptoms of the disease early.

  • Trouble breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Chronic or persistent cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Swelling of the neck and face

The location of the cancer can alter the symptoms the patient experiences. Peritoneal mesothelioma (in the abdomen), for example, can cause stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting. It is critical for a patient to see a doctor as soon as he or she notices any potential symptoms of mesothelioma.

What to Do If a Doctor Has Diagnosed You With Mesothelioma

The long latency period affects mesothelioma lawsuits in many ways. Making a diagnosis can be difficult, as many patients do not connect asbestos exposure from decades prior to their current health problems. The long latency also creates the need for a thorough investigation of the patient’s occupational history to pinpoint the time and location of exposure. The best way for a patient to identify the source of exposure, name the correct defendant(s) and prove liability is to hire a mesothelioma attorney.

If a doctor in New York recently diagnosed you or a loved one with mesothelioma, act quickly. You have three years from the date of the diagnosis (or two years from the date of a loved one’s death) to file a claim before New York’s statute of limitations bars you from recovery. Hire a mesothelioma attorney who can investigate your case, look back through your latency period and identify the defendant(s). Then, your lawyer can help you fight for compensation from one or more parties. Hiring a lawyer as soon as you receive a mesothelioma diagnosis can help you build as strong a case as possible from the beginning.

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