Victims of asbestos exposure or their family members can file a mesothelioma claim to obtain compensation from asbestos products manufacturers. Such claims involve medical claims review and other key processes to obtain crucial evidence to prove asbestos exposure. Typically, the types of claims filed include personal injury, wrongful death or asbestos trust fund claim. Mesothelioma is a deadly cancer and those who become ill from asbestos are usually those who are exposed to it regularly. This could either be through working directly with asbestos products or working near another person working with asbestos products. The risk is there for the family members as well if these workers carry the asbestos fibers home with them on their clothes.
Medical Record Review Is an Important Requirement
The medical history of the patient and medical records are very important considerations when developing a mesothelioma claim. The treating physician will diagnose the type of mesothelioma and also identify other related health problems. Pleural mesothelioma or pleural effusion is when fluid builds up around the lungs in the chest. Peritoneal mesothelioma or ascites is when fluid builds up in the abdomen, and pericardial mesothelioma or pericardial effusion occurs when the fluid builds up in the sac around the heart. In rare cases, this disease can develop in the groin and resemble a hernia. These conditions are usually identified during the physical exam, and the healthcare provider documents them in the medical chart. Apart from the history and physical exams, imaging tests, blood tests, and biopsies may be conducted to make an accurate diagnosis of mesothelioma. Review of the medical chart by a provider of medical review solutions reveals these details and the attorney can use the data to develop the case.
Types of Medical Tests Performed
Let us look at the various mesothelioma tests that may be ordered by the physician, and the related medical records that need to be reviewed to obtain medical evidence for the mesothelioma lawsuit or claim.
- Imaging tests: These are performed to identify suspicious areas inside the body that might be cancer; determine if the cancer has spread and how far; see if the treatment provided is working; and look for signs that show the return of the cancer after treatment.
- Chest X-ray: This would reveal findings such as abnormal thickening of the pleura, fluid in the space between the lungs and chest wall, calcium deposits on the pleura, or signs in the lungs that show the damage caused by asbestos exposure.
- Echocardiogram: This imaging test is ordered if the physician suspects pericardial effusion, and to see how well the heart is functioning.
- CT (Computed Tomography) scan: The images obtained show the exact location of the cancer and help determine its stage or extent. CT scans also help find out if treatments like chemotherapy have reduced the growth of the cancer.
- MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan: It shows detailed images of the soft tissues in the body. It could help identify the exact location and extent of a tumor.
- PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scan: The images obtained help the doctor determine whether the pleural or peritoneum thickening shown on a CT scan is more likely cancer or scar tissue. It also becomes useful when the doctor suspects whether the cancer has spread but doesn’t know where.
- Blood tests: For mesothelioma patients, the blood levels of certain substances such as Fibulin-3 and soluble mesothelin-related peptides (SMRPs) are often higher. The doctor may order blood tests to find out about the patient’s overall health and how well the organs in the body are functioning.
- Fluid and tissue samples tests: The actual diagnosis of mesothelioma is made through a biopsy. The biopsy can be done on the fluid sample taken from the affected part of the body, the chest, belly, or from the sac around the heart.
- Needle biopsy: Sometimes biopsy is done on tiny pieces of tumor removed through needle biopsy. Needle biopsy also helps determine if the cancer has spread into the space between the lungs.
- Endoscopic biopsy: This is the most common biopsy used to diagnose mesothelioma. When a thorascope is used to look inside the chest and take tissue samples for biopsy, the procedure is called thorascopy. Laparascopy involves using a laparascope to look inside the abdomen and find any tumors there. Mediastinoscopy is advised when imaging tests suggest that the cancer may have spread to the lymph nodes between the lungs. Another test is the endobronchial ultrasound needle biopsy, which lets the doctor view the nearby lymph nodes.
- Surgical biopsy: This is more invasive in nature, and the surgeon removes a larger sample of tumor or the entire tumor.
- Lab tests: The fluid and biopsy samples are sent to a pathology lab to test for cancer. Special lab tests are often done to obtain an accurate mesothelioma diagnosis.
- Pulmonary function tests (PFTs): If mesothelioma is diagnosed, the doctor would request PFTs to see how well the lungs are functioning. This test is more significant if surgery is recommended as a treatment option for mesothelioma cancer. A PFT informs the surgeon whether surgery is a safe option and if safe, how much lung can be safely removed.
Once the mesothelioma diagnosis is confirmed, the claim can be filed with the support of a mesothelioma attorney. Compensation from the claim will help cover lost wages, medications, surgeries, and travel costs. Medical records are crucial to the claim, and these will be reviewed by the attorney with the support of medical review solutions. The review will enable the attorney to make a strong case as to why the victim deserves the compensation. The medical record review will prove when the patient first started experiencing the symptoms, and when he/she was formally diagnosed with mesothelioma. Mesothelioma victims can also receive financial support from various types of insurance claims – health insurance, disability insurance, social security disability insurance (SSDI), life insurance, and workers’ compensation.