The handling of asbestos must be done with great care due to the toxic properties of this substance and its classification as a known carcinogen. It’s important to know that when asbestos is in good condition, it does not usually present a hazard. However, worn or damaged asbestos poses a great risk to the health and safety of humans as fibers may flake off and become airborne. At that point, it’s possible for anyone in the vicinity to inhale these toxic fibers, which in turn, can become embedded in the chest. Years later, victims of asbestos exposure can develop serious asbestos-related diseases, such as asbestosis or mesothelioma.


Any workplace where employees may encounter asbestos materials must, by law, have an asbestos management plan in place. These means that all asbestos materials are identified and will be properly maintained at all times, and that those individuals who work with the material will be instructed as to proper handling to avoid any asbestos cancer hazard.

Furthermore, employees should never be expected to handle the removal of asbestos or take part in any demolition that may disturb asbestos materials. As with asbestos in the home, any asbestos in the workplace should be handled by licensed asbestos professionals who are trained in management, abatement, and disposal of the toxic material.


Natural disasters such as hurricanes and tornadoes can result in significant damage to homes and commercial buildings. If these structures contain asbestos, the harmful particles may become friable, and can be inhaled by people, as well as pets. Often, those responsible for the recovery and clean up in the wake of a natural disaster, fire, or flood are exposed to harmful asbestos and are at risk for developing mesothelioma. But first responders and those assisting with rescue, recovery and rebuilding efforts are not the only individuals at risk of exposure following a natural disaster or other catastrophic event. All people who are present in a location where asbestos fibers have become airborne face the risk of asbestos inhalation. For this reason, it is important to exercise proper handling precautions after natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, fires and/or floods to ensure protection from possible asbestos exposure following these types of emergencies.


The following factors indicate that you are likely to face asbestos exposure after a natural disaster:

  • If your home was built before the mid-eighties and contains asbestos materials such as attic insulation, floor or ceiling tiles or piping insulation.
  • If you are participating in recovery efforts in an area where asbestos materials are known to have been disturbed or damaged.

In an emergency situation, it is often up to the individuals to protect themselves from asbestos inhalation. If you live in a part of the country where natural disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, or severe windstorms are the norm, it is recommended that you put together an emergency kit that includes a mask that adequately covers the nose and mouth. The mask will not only protect you from asbestos inhalation, but from inhalation of other airborne chemicals and toxins as well. At home, the kit should include a mask for each family member and pet, as well as additional masks just in case. At the office, masks for each employee should be on hand in the event of an asbestos emergency. Also included in the emergency kit should be bottles of water. Not only will the water keep individuals hydrated in an emergency, but it can also be used to wet asbestos products – when wet, asbestos materials are less likely to become airborne, thus reducing one’s risk of exposure in an emergency situation. An asbestos emergency kit should also contain the following items:

Gloves, protective eyewear, disposable clothing and booties:
Asbestos fibers can be transferred from one location to another on shoes, clothes, and other clothing items. It is imperative to wear disposable clothing items in an asbestos emergency to avoid this.

Garbage bags:
If you must remove some asbestos materials on your own, before a licensed abatement professional can arrive, it is important to first wet the asbestos products using the water bottles in your emergency kit. Then, while wearing protective gloves and other outerwear, carefully place the asbestos materials into a garbage bag, and seal it completely. Bags with hazardous asbestos should be clearly marked. They cannot be disposed of just anywhere; asbestos waste must be disposed of in a designated landfill. Contact local authorities before disposing this type of waste following a natural disaster or other damaging event.


Asbestos is highly toxic and was widely used in a large number of building materials including flooring, ceiling tiles, insulation, cements, joint compound and more. It is important, therefore to test for the presence of asbestos before initiating any building repairs or improvements on structures that were built prior to 1980. Not doing so can put you and others in the immediate vicinity at risk for inhaling airborne asbestos fibers during the repair or renovation. Asbestos has causal links to mesothelioma, a type of asbestos cancer.


An asbestos consultant is certified to perform accredited testing for asbestos. They are also equipped to make recommendations for the safe removal or containment of asbestos containing material and can monitor and certify the success of the work of an asbestos removal contractor.


Asbestos removal is typically required before an older building is demolished, prior to any maintenance or renovation that could disturb asbestos containing materials or when asbestos containing materials are damaged. An asbestos removal contractor will determine whether and HSE (Health and Safety Executive) license is required for the job. This type of license is usually necessary when there is a high probability that asbestos fibers will be released into the air during the scheduled work. The removal contractor will assess what is required for removal, perform the removal work and dispose of the hazardous material.

There are stringent requirements set by federal, state, and local authorities regarding the methods for asbestos handling, removal, and disposal. The asbestos removal regulations vary state-by-state so it is important to ensure that the hired removal professional is fully in compliance with all state laws and regulations.

We at American Restoration 24/7 are certified to remove and dispose of asbestos contianing materials. Call us for a free quote.


Asbestos and Mesothelioma

What Is Pleural Mesothelioma?

Pleural mesothelioma is a rare malignant cancer. Almost 75% of diagnosed mesothelioma cases form in the pleura, making it the most common of the four types.

The cause of pleural mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos fibers, which are inhaled into the lungs. It usually takes from 20 to 50 years for mesothelioma to develop after a person’s first exposure to asbestos. Because of this latency period, the disease usually affects people older than 75.

The average life expectancy for pleural mesothelioma is often less than 18 months, but it depends on many factors.

Although there is no cure for mesothelioma, some patients live much longer with treatments. Combining several treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, has helped some people live for years. Clinical trials offer access to new treatments such as immunotherapy.

Where pleural mesothelioma forms

Pleural Mesothelioma Facts

  • Most common type of mesothelioma

  • Forms on soft tissue covering the lungs

  • Symptoms: Shortness of breath, chest pain, dry cough and fatigue

  • Diagnostic Tools: Imaging scans and tissue biopsies

  • Treatments: Chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy, immunotherapy and experimental therapies

  • Life Expectancy: About 40% live at least one year

What Causes Pleural Mesothelioma?

Asbestos causes pleural mesothelioma. After inhaling the mineral’s needle-like fibers, they tend to lodge in the lungs and gradually migrate into the pleural lining.

Over a long period of time, these fibers cause irritation, chronic inflammation and genetic changes that turn cells cancerous.

These cancerous cells grow fast and uncontrollably, threatening the organs around them.

Plaque forming on the pleura after decades of asbestos exposure

Two layers make up the pleural lining. The outer layer lines the entire inside of the chest cavity (inside the ribs), and the inner layer covers the lungs.

A malignant tumor can develop on either layer and quickly spread to the other layer. As tumors develop on the pleural surface, they grow to form a mass around the affected lung. They also cause pleural fluid to accumulate in the chest cavity.

The combination of tumor mass on the lung and collection of pleural fluid prevents the lung from expanding, which causes breathing difficulties.

Symptoms of Pleural Mesothelioma

For many people, mesothelioma symptoms are not noticeable until the cancer is in a later stage.

  • Shortness of breath

  • Chest pain or painful breathing

  • Persistent dry or raspy cough

  • Coughing up blood

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Pain in the lower back or rib area

  • Unexplained weight loss and fatigue

  • Swelling of the face or arms

  • Night sweats or fever

  • Lumps under the skin on the chest

Patients rarely mention weight loss and fatigue during their initial doctor visit. These symptoms may show if the cancer is advanced. Some patients develop swelling of the face or arms, back pain or nerve pain.

Doctor talking to patients

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Pleural Mesothelioma Treatment Options

Standard pleural mesothelioma treatment options can include surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy is the most common type of pleural treatment. A combination of treatments can be used, which is known as multimodal therapy, if a patient is diagnosed early. These treatments can improve symptoms, such as chest pain and breathing difficulties, and improve survival.

Patients can access these therapies at top cancer centers across the nation that specialize in pleural mesothelioma treatment.

Dr. David Sugarbaker video on pleural mesothelioma treatment options.
Pleural Mesothelioma Expert Dr. David Sugarbaker explains the best treatment options available for mesothelioma.


Pleural mesothelioma patients diagnosed in the early stages benefit the most from surgery. The goal of surgery is to remove the cancer and prevent it from recurring as long as possible.

The two most common surgeries for pleural mesothelioma are the extrapleural pneumonectomy and pleurectomy and decortication. A mesothelioma specialist can determine if you are eligible for surgery and advise you on which procedure may be the best option for your diagnosis.

Extrapleural Pneumonectomy

A more aggressive surgical option, the extrapleural pneumonectomy removes the pleura, the entire cancerous lung, the diaphragm and the heart sac (pericardium).

Pleurectomy and Decortication

A pleurectomy and decortication, or radical pleurectomy, involves removing the tumors and affected pleura (lining of the lung).


The most common pleural mesothelioma treatment is chemotherapy. It uses one or more drugs, usually a combination of cisplatin or carboplatin and pemetrexed (Alimta), to kill cancer cells or prevent them from reproducing. Recent advances have improved how well patients respond to chemotherapy, but success rates remain low overall.

Radiation Therapy

Targeted radiation can destroy cancer cells and decrease tumor size. Radiation therapy cannot cure pleural mesothelioma, but it is an effective way to manage chest pain. Radiation can also help prevent cancer recurrence after surgery.

External beam radiation therapy is the most common form of radiation therapy for pleural mesothelioma. Sessions are fast, painless and only take a few minutes.

Emerging Treatments

Emerging treatments include the use of immunotherapy, gene therapy and photodynamic therapy to treat pleural mesothelioma. These treatments are designed to fight cancer more effectively, while causing fewer side effects for the patient.

You may be able to receive an experimental therapy through a mesothelioma clinical trial. Some patients may be eligible for immunotherapy drugs and other emerging treatments through compassionate use programs.

Mesothelioma Nutrition Guide

Improve Your Quality of Life

Our free mesothelioma nutrition guide has quick and easy recipes that can speed recovery, ease side effects of treatment and help improve your quality of life.


Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Some patients may benefit from combining complementary therapies, such as medical marijuana, dietary supplements or acupuncture, with conventional cancer treatment to ease symptoms and treatment side effects.

To avoid harmful drug interactions, always consult your medical team before starting any complementary medicine or therapy.

Top Pleural Mesothelioma Doctors in the US

Dr. Jacques Fontaine, pleural mesothelioma doctor and expert contributor for

Dr. Jacques Fontaine

H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center

Dr. Jacques Fontaine is the Director of the Mesothelioma Research and Treatment Center at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida. He specializes in minimally invasive thoracic surgery including robotic surgery. Fontaine became a pleural mesothelioma specialist while studying under Dr. Sugarbaker at the International Mesothelioma Program at Brigham & Women’s Hospital.

Dr. Robert B. Cameron, pleural mesothelioma doctor

Dr. Robert B. Cameron

UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center

Dr. Robert B. Cameron developed a lung-sparing surgery for pleural mesothelioma that not only extends survival but offers greater quality of life by preserving the lung. Cameron’s surgery has a lower risk of complications and studies report longer survival times.

Dr. Abraham Lebenthal, pleural mesothelioma doctor

Dr. Abraham Lebenthal

West Roxbury VA Hospital

Dr. Abraham Lebenthal is a respected thoracic surgeon who treats pleural mesothelioma patients at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Boston VA Hospital. Lebenthal worked alongside Dr. David Sugarbaker at Brigham and teaches at Harvard Medical School.

Did You Know?

The average cost of mesothelioma treatment is $11,000 to $12,000 a month.
An experienced mesothelioma lawyer can help you and your family get money to cover treatment costs, travel expenses and more.


Diagnosing Pleural Mesothelioma

The diagnostic process for pleural mesothelioma begins when a doctor evaluates the initial symptoms. Chest pain and breathing difficulty warrant a chest X-ray, which reveals fluid buildup or tumors around a lung. The patient must be referred to a specialist for further testing.

Specialists must use advanced imaging scans and tissue biopsies to confirm a pleural mesothelioma diagnosis. In addition to identifying the cancer, determining the cancer stage and cell type is vital to creating an effective treatment plan.

Pleural Mesothelioma CT Scan Pleural Mesothelioma with Effusion and Thickening in the Right Lung.

There are a number of conditions that may indicate a person’s history of asbestos exposure and the potential of a mesothelioma diagnosis, including pleural plaques, pleural effusions and pleural thickening.

Pleural Plaques

Small areas of thickening on the pleura are the most common sign someone has been exposed to asbestos in the past. Pleural plaques are not cancerous and usually do not cause symptoms, but they may indicate an elevated risk for cancer.

Pleural Effusion

Irritation from asbestos fibers can cause excess fluid to build up between the two layers of the pleura. This condition, called pleural effusion, is present in many pleural mesothelioma cases. A little fluid between the pleural layers is healthy. Too much puts pressure on the lungs, causing chest pain that worsens when you cough or take deep breaths.

Pleural Thickening

When large areas of the pleura stiffen because of scarring, it may become difficult and painful to breathe. Pleural thickening around both lungs is often a sign of significant asbestos exposure. Repeated episodes of pleural effusion can cause pleural thickening to worsen as scar tissue collects.

Pleural Mesothelioma Stages

Pleural mesothelioma staging Pleural Mesothelioma Stages

Pleural mesothelioma staging is how doctors determine the progression of cancer in a patient’s body. The stage influences what treatment options can be used.

The International Mesothelioma Interest Group created the most widely used staging system for pleural mesothelioma.

Stages 1 and 2, which are considered the early stages, indicate localized tumors. Stages 3 and 4, which denote the later stages, classify spreading tumors.

Mesothelioma Life Expectancy by Stage for Patients Eligible for Surgery
Stage Time Progression
Stage 1 22.2 months Tumors remain localized in and around the tissue lining of one lung
Stage 2 20.0 months Cancer cells are entering nearby lymph nodes
Stage 3 17.9 months Cancer has spread to nearby tissues and distant lymph nodes
Stage 4 14.9 months Cancer has spread to distant organs

Prognosis for Pleural Mesothelioma

The average pleural mesothelioma prognosis, or the expected course and outcome for the disease, is poor for most patients because this cancer progresses quickly and is resistant to many existing therapies.

Accurately forecasting an individual’s prognosis is challenging because this disease is complex. Each person responds differently to treatment.

Pleural Mesothelioma Survival Rate by Year
Year(s) After Diagnosis Survival Rate

Source: “Changing Pattern in Malignant Mesothelioma Survival,” Translational Oncology, 2015.

1 year 73%
3 years 23%
5 years 12%
10 years 4.7%

Factors That Affect Your Prognosis

  • Stage: The most important factor in a mesothelioma prognosis is the stage of the disease at diagnosis. An early-stage cancer offers a better chance of long-term survival than a late-stage cancer.

  • Cell type: The cell type of mesothelioma tumors also greatly influences prognosis.

  • Age: Younger patients tend to live longer.

  • Gender: Women tend to live longer with the disease than men.

  • Pleural Fluid: Higher amounts of pleural fluid in the chest are associated with a poorer prognosis.

  • Patient Activity Level: More active patients have a better prognosis.

  • Cancer Recurrence: A recurrence of mesothelioma is associated with a poorer prognosis.

Improving Your Prognosis

By taking proactive steps, it is possible to live longer and better with malignant pleural mesothelioma. Some patients even achieve remission after treatment and live for years with almost no cancer symptoms.

The inspiring stories of mesothelioma survivors reveal many different ways to confront the challenge of cancer. However, many survivors make the same basic choices to promote their well-being.

How Can People Live Longer with Pleural Mesothelioma?

  • Seek treatment from an experienced mesothelioma specialist

  • Improve your lifestyle to boost your overall health

  • Access the latest therapies through a clinical trial

  • Use palliative and complementary medicine to improve your quality of life

Hope for a Mesothelioma Cure

There is no definitive cure for pleural mesothelioma. However, a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy have allowed patients to improve their prognosis. Even patients who are not eligible for surgery have survived for years after their diagnosis thanks to experimental clinical trials and emerging treatments such as immunotherapy.

Researchers around the world have dedicated their careers to finding more effective treatments with the goal of curing pleural mesothelioma and diagnosing the cancer at an earlier stage.

  • Emily Ward was diagnosed in 2012 after working for 43 years as a registered nurse. She put her medical background to work as she found the top mesothelioma specialists available to treat her cancer, including the late Dr. David Sugarbaker. After a pleurectomy and decortication, three rounds of chemotherapy and now monthly Keytruda treatments, Ward is enjoying a good quality of life doing many of the things she did before her diagnosis.

  • Tim Crisler passed the 17-year mark as a pleural mesothelioma survivor in 2019. He credits his lung-removing extrapleural pneumonectomy surgery for his long-term survival. He still deals with residual pain, but he has been able to travel the country on his beloved Harley Davidson since his diagnosis in 2002. “I have absolutely no issues with mesothelioma cancer today,” he said. “That hasn’t touched me in a long time.”

  • Sallie Morton survived pleural mesothelioma for four years while foregoing conventional treatment. She wasn’t eligible for surgery when she was diagnosed in 2013 at the age of 87, and she declined chemotherapy after seeing too many friends deal with the harsh side effects of the drugs. She did it her way, surprising doubters and hosting events and parties to the end. “She’s one gutsy broad,” is how she often described herself.

Common Questions About Pleural Mesothelioma

What are the symptoms of pleural mesothelioma?

The symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include shortness of breath, chest pain, dry cough, wheezing, respiratory complications, fever and night sweats. Other symptoms may develop as the disease progresses.

Is pleural mesothelioma curable?

Pleural mesothelioma is incurable at all four stages. Clinical trials are providing hope for a cure as they test innovative treatments including immunotherapy and gene therapy.

How long do pleural mesothelioma patients live?

Most pleural mesothelioma patients have a life expectancy of one year. Patients who are diagnosed early and qualify for aggressive treatment live an average of 22.2 months, and some live for many years.



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