My Parent Has Been Diagnosed With Mesothelioma. What Do I Do Now?

Practical Answers To Common Questions

Learning that your father, mother, or any family member, has been diagnosed with mesothelioma is devastating, made more so by the fact that it is a preventable disease for which there are few treatment options. In addition to shock, confusion and sadness, you are probably wondering how to deal with this new reality going forward while ensuring your loved one gets the best care and support possible.

While some questions are best answered in the doctor’s office, others are not and you may be at a loss to know what to do next. At Shepard O’Donnell, we have worked with many families in your situation and can offer some guidance about the weeks and months ahead. While preparing hundreds of successful mesothelioma lawsuits, we often act as a resource for our clients and offer support whenever we can. 

Here are some of the most common questions we are asked:

Q: Can I Get Financial Help To Pay The Bills?
A: Investigate All Options, Including Filing A Lawsuit.

As a first step, educate yourself about all available programs and assistance, including VA benefits if your parent qualifies, and start the application process. This disease often requires aggressive intervention in the form of surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy and your parent will need care and support to help him or her through. While cost might not initially be your main concern, the bills will soon start adding up. 

Insurance and other benefits may only cover a portion of your medical bills. We encourage you to contact a local attorney or firm, such as Shepard O’Donnell, to determine if you have a potential mesothelioma legal case. 

Q: How Can I Help Build A Legal Case?
A: Talk To Your Parents About Their Work History Now.

We understand that your priority is educating yourself about the disease and treatment plan, but we also urge you to talk to your parent about how he or she might have developed mesothelioma. Since the only known cause of the disease is asbestos exposure, it is important to establish how and when that exposure occurred, particularly if you plan to pursue a lawsuit. 

We encourage our clients to talk to their parents about their work history as soon as possible; unfortunately, once diagnosed, this disease progresses relatively quickly, and treatment and medications can impact memory and the ability to communicate later on. Ask questions about whether they remember working with asbestos, what employers they worked for, which job sites they worked at, what equipment or tools they may have used, who their co-workers were and whether they have contact information for anyone associated with that job. To successfully pursue compensation from companies that willfully ignored the dangers of asbestos, you will need to provide as much specific information as possible about your parent’s exposure. (If your parent is a military veteran, you can reassure him or her that we will not pursue damages from the military, rather, we seek compensation from the manufacturers of the asbestos-containing products themselves.)

Q: What Other Documents Should I Look For?
A: Gather Together All Important Information To See If Anything Is Missing.

In addition to collecting information about your parent’s detailed work history, there are a number of other documents you should start compiling and/or preparing. For example, does your parent have a current will and/or a living will? A designated health care proxy? Are bank accounts in both parents’ names? Is the house in both names? Unfortunately, the prognosis for this disease is often poor and having important documents at hand when you need them will ensure things run smoothly and quickly later on. Other paperwork to locate includes health and life insurance policies, banking information, social security information, and military records. Often overlooked, but also important, are passwords and PIN numbers for various accounts, and contact information for friends and family. Call us and we can help with these important documents.

Q: Do I Need to Worry About Getting Mesothelioma Myself?
A: Probably Not.

You may be wondering if you yourself should be concerned about developing this disease. There is no genetic or hereditary component to mesothelioma since it develops solely as a result of asbestos exposure. That said, there have been many cases in which individuals who were exposed at work unknowingly brought asbestos back into the home. While workers who have been in close contact with asbestos are at the highest risk, it is critical to let your doctor know as early as possible if there’s even a small chance you may have been exposed to asbestos. If you aren’t currently experiencing any symptoms, but are concerned about possible past exposure, ask your doctor to set up regular monitoring. However, keep in mind that not everyone who has been exposed to asbestos will get mesothelioma or other cancers.

If you or a loved one does develop mesothelioma through asbestos brought into the home, you too could have a case. For example, we were able to secure a significant settlement for a client who developed mesothelioma as a result of  laundering the clothing of her husband, who worked at a facility that coated and cut asbestos paper for use in making gaskets. 

Q: What Can I Do To Support Both My Parents?
A: Sometimes Little Things Go A Long Way. 

Talk to the doctor to see how you and your family can keep your loved one as healthy and strong as possible, for as long as possible. This includes providing balanced meals to maintain a healthy weight so they are better able to tolerate treatment. The American Cancer Society has useful information about the importance of good nutrition during treatment. If preparing meals seems like a daunting task, there are several meal delivery services available in Massachusetts, including Community Servings whose mission it is to actively engage the community to provide medically tailored, nutritious, scratch-made meals to chronically and critically ill individuals and their families. We have also developed some recipes for healthy and nourishing smoothies that our clients enjoy.

Practical actions such as decluttering the house or bringing items necessary for daily living – including hobbies and diversions – onto one level, will be helpful in the long run. Identifying which supports may be required in the future and whether hospice or palliative care might be required are some things you can look into now to ensure peace of mind later. If possible, prepare for the future together so you can understand your parent’s goals and wishes for the end of life. Also, understand that each person’s stress, anxiety, and fear will manifest in different ways: some people retreat into themselves, some lash out. Remember not to take potential bad behavior personally.

While this is certainly a serious time, allow your parents permission to be happy during the last months. If they’re up for it, plan fun events and allow some time to laugh and enjoy life together.

Q: How Am I Going to Manage It All?
A: Be Sure To Take Care of Yourself, Too.

After the initial shock of the diagnosis, you are probably wondering what this means for your daily life. Your days are likely already full with work and other obligations such as driving the kids to practice, managing your own household and upholding various commitments. How will you find the time to deal with everything that needs to be done? 

Talk to your employer about whether you qualify for some time off under the Family Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, to give you some breathing room. Above all, we urge you and all family members to take care of themselves: eat right, try to fit in some physical activity every day, get good quality sleep, and perhaps start a meditation or mindfulness practice. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends or extended family and consider joining a support group for mesothelioma victims, such as these in-person and virtual options offered through Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Or contact us and ask us to connect you with family members of mesothelioma victims that you can talk to about tips for coping with this difficult situation.

We Are On Your Side

​​You and your family are undoubtedly experiencing emotional stress and trauma as you deal with this painful time in your lives. Make sure you find an attorney for whom you are not just a number on a spreadsheet or a docket. We are responsive, compassionate, and sincere. If you have any other questions, we are ready to help you find answers. 

At Shepard O’Donnell, we have helped hundreds of individuals and their families get justice for their injuries, regularly obtaining settlements and verdicts in the millions. We are happy to offer you a free case evaluation and will tell you honestly if we think you have a viable claim. Read more about the importance of hiring a local attorney.

How Can Veterans With Mesothelioma Seek Financial Help?

Nearly one-third of all mesothelioma victims in America are veterans, most of whom served in the United States Navy. This heartbreaking statistic is a reality we wrestle with daily. Until the mid-1970s, almost all ships built by the Navy were constructed with materials that contained asbestos–the inhaled fibers of which cause mesothelioma. The closed environment of the ship meant that almost all personnel were in close contact with airborne asbestos particles. Those who served in the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, Merchant Marines, and Army National Guard also may have been exposed since asbestos was regularly used in the construction and operation of military bases and facilities. 

These brave men and women fought for our country and dedicated their service to protecting our freedoms in times of crisis. It is unconscionable that they were routinely exposed to harmful levels of asbestos during the course of their service. If you or someone you know is a veteran diagnosed with mesothelioma, they deserve compensation to help them through this very difficult diagnosis. 

There are two main avenues through which veterans can pursue financial help: government benefits and legal claims, and we encourage you to explore both options.

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Benefits

The Department of Veterans Affairs is one of the most valuable organizations for veterans diagnosed with mesothelioma. Military service members diagnosed with this disease who can directly tie their diagnosis to their service may be eligible for VA disability compensation, VA pension, VA healthcare, and a number of other benefits. Once diagnosed, we recommend submitting a claim as soon as possible. You can do this yourself, either in person or online, or with the help of a VA Environmental Health Coordinator who can walk you through the claim process and help you gather the evidence you need.

This evidence typically includes supporting documents such as VA medical records and hospital records, private medical records and hospital reports, military service records, and possible supporting statements from family members, friends, or people you served with. You will also need a doctor’s statement linking your mesothelioma diagnosis to your military service. Generally, if you can provide sufficient proof that your mesothelioma is related to your time in the service, you will be granted benefits. While historically this has been easiest for Navy personnel, Army, Air Force, or Marine veterans may still be able to link their diagnosis to their service. 

Read more about how to file a VA disability claim, or watch the VA’s disability claims video on YouTube.

Legal Claims Against Asbestos Manufacturers

Following a mesothelioma diagnosis, medical bills can start adding up quickly and insurance and other benefits may not cover the mounting costs. Veterans across Massachusetts who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma deserve compensation for their suffering. Regardless of whether you have begun a claim or currently receive VA benefits, we encourage you to explore the possibility of a legal claim against asbestos manufacturers, which, if successful, can lead to significant financial payouts for you and your family. 

The standard of proof required for a successful lawsuit, however, is considerably higher than it is to receive VA benefits. Much more detail is required to fight a case in the courtroom, including proof that specific products were used and specific timelines of exposure. While it may seem daunting to try to pull these pieces together yourself, an experienced mesothelioma lawyer who has won cases for veterans in the past, will know exactly what to look for and understand the legal strategies required to win your case. They will work closely with you and your family to identify the dangerous products you may have worked with and the manufacturers and/or asbestos trust funds that have already been forced to pay compensation to veterans. Typical products that caused asbestos exposure in veterans include:

  • boilers
  • pumps
  • valves
  • pipes 
  • main propulsion turbines
  • ship service generators
  • galley equipment
  • laundry equipment
  • deck coverings
  • protective equipment 
  • and more.

Don’t miss out on the compensation you and your family deserve. If you think you might have a mesothelioma case in Massachusetts, we encourage you to reach out to Shepard O’Donnell for a free consultation during which we will evaluate your case and determine if you have a viable claim. We have helped hundreds of individuals and families get justice for their injuries, regularly obtaining settlements and verdicts in the millions. And you will never pay unless we deliver results for you. Read more about the importance of hiring a local law firm for your mesothelioma case. 

Note: We pursue compensation from the manufacturers of the asbestos-containing products that injured our veterans, not from the government or the military.

Shepard O’Donnell Named a Top-Tier Personal Injury Law Firm by Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” 2024

Shepard O’Donnell, one of the top asbestos personal injury law firms in Massachusetts for 25 years, received top-tier designation in the Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” 2024 edition. The firm was ranked “Tier 1” in personal injury litigation and was highly rated in mass tort litigation and class actions. Law firms included in the “Best Law Firms” rankings are recognized for professional excellence and consistently strong ratings from clients and peers. Below are the firm’s complete rankings.

Metropolitan Tier 1 (Boston) 

  • Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs

Metropolitan Tier 3 (Boston) 

  • Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions  – Plaintiffs

The Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” rankings are determined by an exhaustive evaluation process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys in their field and review of additional information provided by law firms as part of the formal submission process. To be eligible for a ranking in a particular practice area and metro region, a law firm must have at least one lawyer included in Best Lawyers in that particular practice area and metro. Three Shepard O’Donnell attorneys were recognized in The Best Lawyers in America® 2024 edition. 

Three Shepard O’Donnell Attorneys Recognized in the 2023 Edition of Massachusetts Super Lawyers

Shepard O’Donnell, one of the top asbestos personal injury law firms in Massachusetts for 25 years, announces that three of its attorneys were selected for inclusion in the 2023 edition of Massachusetts Super Lawyers, with two included on the Super Lawyers list and one on the Rising Stars list.

Founder Michael Shepard and Co-Managing Partner Erika O’Donnell were recognized on the 2023 Massachusetts Super Lawyers list in the Personal Injury – Products: Plaintiff practice area. 

Partner Michael McCann was recognized on the 2023 Massachusetts Rising Stars list in the personal Injury – Products: Plaintiff practice area. The Rising Star designation recognizes lawyers under the age of 40 years old or those in practice for less than ten years. Each year, no more than 2.5% of lawyers in each state are selected for inclusion on the Rising Star list. 

Super Lawyers is a research-driven, peer-influenced rating service for lawyers who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The mission of Super Lawyers is to bring visibility to attorneys who exhibit excellence in practice. The selection process, as detailed on the Super Lawyers website, is multi-phased and includes independent research, peer nominations and evaluations that identify a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.

Plaintiffs Liaison Counsel

What is it and why does it matter?

The roles of Plaintiffs’ Liaison Counsel and Defendants’ Liaison Counsel have existed in the Massachusetts State Court Asbestos Litigation Docket for over 30 years. The Plaintiffs’ Liaison Counsel, sometimes called Lead Plaintiffs’ Counsel or Lead Counsel, helps determine what cases get trial dates, ensures the Judge has everything needed to get cases through the system, and liaises with defense counsel.

Roles and responsibilities

The attorneys appointed to serve as Plaintiffs’ Liaison Counsel by the Court are responsible for working with the Court and the Special Master on global docket management issues, including establishing and implementing pre-trial orders, setting cases on yearly trial lists, communicating the Court’s directions to the many litigants on the Plaintiff and Defense side, and managing the needs, expectations, and complaints of the lawyers who practice in the Asbestos Docket. In short, Plaintiffs’ Liaison Counsel is responsible—especially post-covid—for managing the backlog of cases and ensuring that things run smoothly.

Why it’s important

The Plaintiffs’ Liaison Counsel is crucial to the management of the Massachusetts Asbestos Litigation docket and is a central player in the organization and timeliness of the docket. They communicate on behalf of plaintiffs and coordinate all necessary discovery requests, motions, and subpoenas on a case. In a case such as a class action, this plays an important role in keeping the Plaintiffs and appropriate parties organized and on schedule. The Plaintiffs’ Liaison Counsel also manages the complexity of collaborating with the Defendants’ Liaison Counsel and works to find common ground to keep the docket on track.

How Plaintiffs’ Liaison Counsel is selected

The Plaintiffs’ Liaison Counsel can be court-appointed or selected by the plaintiffs. In many cases, each court or docket has appointed a Lead Counsel who should be available in the event of a case where they are needed. Typically, the attorney appointed is committed to their cases and the local and national court systems.

Benefits to our clients

Shepard O’Donnell team members have held the role of Plaintiffs’ Liaison Counsel for the Massachusetts Asbestos Litigation docket since 2017, positioning the firm as a leader in asbestos litigation in Massachusetts. Knowing that someone on your side will be there to represent the case within the court system should serve as peace-of-mind.

Mike Shepard – 2017-2022
Erika O’Donnell – 2022-present

Erika O’Donnell Receives 2023 “Top Women of Law” Honor

Shepard O’Donnell, one of the top asbestos personal injury law firms in Massachusetts for 25 years, announces that Co-Managing Partner Erika O’Donnell has been named to the 2023 Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly “Top Women of Law” list. This highly competitive honor celebrates the exceptional accomplishments of women attorneys as leaders, educators and mentors. The award also recognizes attorneys for their pro bono, social justice, advocacy and business efforts.

O’Donnell’s practice focuses on asbestos litigation, management of the firm, and more recently, her position as Plaintiffs’ Liaison Counsel in the Massachusetts Asbestos Litigation (MAL) docket. Throughout her nearly 20-year career, she has achieved numerous multi-million-dollar settlements and verdicts in cases involving mesothelioma, lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases, smoking-related cancers and pharmaceutical drugs and devices. Additionally, O’Donnell is a role model and mentor to other attorneys and paralegals at the firm. In recognition of her many contributions, O’Donnell was named co-managing partner in 2023, and the firm rebranded to Shepard O’Donnell. 

“Erika has been an instrumental component of our success, and I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this prestigious honor,” said Founder Michael Shepard. “For the many years I have known her, Erika takes initiative and dives into the complexity of asbestos and toxic tort litigation without hesitation, all while mentoring the next generation of legal professionals. She is everything you want a personal injury lawyer and a partner to be. Congratulations on this amazing achievement!”

As an active member of the Boston legal community, O’Donnell is a member of the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Worcester Bar Association, the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys and the American Association for Justice. O’Donnell is a founding member of a prestigious national group of female toxic-tort litigators, Women of PALS. In addition to her recognition as a “Top Women of Law,” she has been recognized by Massachusetts Super Lawyers and The Best Lawyers in America.

Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly reports decisions issued by all the state and federal courts in Massachusetts, as well as changes to court rules, verdict and settlement reports, bar-discipline notices, and all other news vital to attorneys in the commonwealth. It also covers hundreds of rulings from state and federal trial courts in Massachusetts.

Why You Need Legal Advice When Diagnosed With Mesothelioma

MESO Series: Part III

Why You Need Legal Advice When Diagnosed With Mesothelioma

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: The fact that mesothelioma patients and their families have had to endure pain and suffering, both financial and emotional, as a result of the callous actions of manufacturers of asbestos-containing products is unconscionable. Companies that knowingly perpetuated the use of this harmful material for decades after it was known to be dangerous should be held accountable. Today, many victims are successfully filing lawsuits in Massachusetts to get the compensation they deserve. 

Following a mesothelioma diagnosis, medical bills can start adding up quickly. From initial doctor consultations, to chemotherapy or radiation, to surgery and at-home care, even the best insurance won’t cover the mounting costs. You and your family deserve the peace of mind that comes with knowing an experienced attorney is on your side and will fight for your right to financial compensation to secure your family’s future.

Mesothelioma law firms typically offer a free consultation to discuss a potential case and most firms will only require a fee or out-of-pocket expenses once they win. Legal proceedings will not affect your medical care, insurance, or benefits like Social Security, Medicare, disability, veterans benefits, or retirement. 

There is no downside to seeking legal advice and there may well be a significant financial upside.

Whom To Contact for Help

Almost 2,000 mesothelioma lawsuits were filed nationwide in 2022 against a broad range of manufacturers of asbestos-containing products. Although many corporate entities have since declared bankruptcy to avoid paying for their actions, an estimated $30 billion is available from asbestos trust funds that have been established to help compensate victims. 

If you were exposed to asbestos during the course of your employment – including service in the U.S. military – and have since developed mesothelioma, we encourage you to contact a mesothelioma lawyer as soon as possible to determine whether or not you are eligible for compensation. If you are a U.S. mIlitary veteran with mesothelioma, you may also be eligible for VA benefit programs and we encourage you to reach out to your local VA for assistance.

How to Choose the Right Law Firm 

Before deciding which firm to choose to represent you in your mesothelioma lawsuit, you should do some research to maximize your potential compensation. These types of cases are highly specialized and only a few legal professionals in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts have experience with mesothelioma lawsuits. 

As we outlined in a previous post, there are a number of questions you should ask before hiring a lawyer to defend your rights in a Massachusetts mesothelioma case:

  1. Do they understand Massachusetts law?
  2. Do they know all potential defendants to include in your suit?
  3. Have they tried a case exactly like yours before?
  4. Are they part of the local legal community?
  5. Do they have “boots on the ground” in MA?
  6. Are they personally available to you and your family?
  7. Who will pay for their travel costs (especially if they are out of state)?
  8. Do they truly care about you and your family?
  9. Do they win?

Learn about the answers you should be looking for and why local experience matters most when hiring a mesothelioma litigation firm in Massachusetts in our blog post here

Don’t Miss Out On The Compensation You Deserve

The litigation process can be intimidating and confusing. At Shepard O’Donnell, we take the time to explain the process from beginning to end, setting realistic expectations and timelines. If you are unable to come to our offices due to health or other reasons, we will come to you to listen to your story (even if you live in another state) and tell you honestly if we think you have a viable claim. We want you to be comfortable with the process and learn enough about it so you aren’t surprised by the many steps involved. The legal process does not have to take over your daily life. Our attorneys work diligently in the background, dealing with all the hassles of the litigation process so you don’t have to, allowing you to concentrate on what’s most important—your health and your family.

If you think you might have a mesothelioma case in Massachusetts, we encourage you to reach out to Shepard O’Donnell. We have helped hundreds of individuals and families obtain justice for their injuries, regularly obtaining settlements and verdicts in the millions. And you will never pay unless we deliver results for you. 

Mesothelioma Diagnosis, Prognosis, and Treatment Options

MESO Series: Part II

Diagnosis, Prognosis, and Treatment Options

The typical mesothelioma patient is a man around retirement age with a blue-collar or military background. The relatively advanced age of patients is due to the long latency period of this disease, which typically manifests between 20-50 years after exposure to asbestos. Cruelly, it is just as workers are set to enjoy their retirement years, that they are diagnosed with mesothelioma. While workers who have been in close contact with asbestos are at the highest risk, family members can also be at risk via exposure to fibers brought home on the clothing of the primary individual.

If you or someone you know has experienced any of the symptoms outlined in our previous post, we encourage you to seek medical attention right away. It is critical to let your doctor know as early as possible if there’s even a small chance you may have been exposed to asbestos during your working years. If you aren’t currently experiencing any symptoms, but are concerned about possible past exposure, ask your doctor to set up regular monitoring. However, keep in mind that not everyone who has been exposed to asbestos will get mesothelioma or other cancers.

How Do You Diagnose Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma can be difficult to diagnose because it often looks like other types of cancer, or even benign illnesses such as pneumonia, flu, or intestinal issues. Your doctor will likely use a variety of diagnostic tools, including a physical exam, blood and tissue tests, x-rays and other imaging scans, and biopsies to determine whether or not mesothelioma is present. If mesothelioma is diagnosed, these tests also help determine how far it has progressed and whether it has spread to other parts of the body. The cancer can spread via tissue, the lymph system, or the blood.

The process used to find out if cancer has spread outside the pleura (lungs) or peritoneum (abdomen) is called staging. As with other cancers, there are four stages of the disease. Doctors will ask questions such as: How far has cancer spread in the pleura? Has it spread into other nearby pleura or structures? Can it be removed with surgery? Has the cancer spread to nearby lymph nodes? Has the cancer spread to distant organs, like the bones, liver, lungs, or pleura (lining of the lung) on the other side of the body, or the peritoneum (lining of the abdomen)?

Depending on the answers, pleural mesothelioma, for example, can be divided into four stages: 

  • Stage 1: Cancer is only in the pleura. At this stage, you may be a candidate for treatments like surgery to remove the cancer.
  • Stage 2: Cancer may have spread beyond your pleura, but it’s still near the original site. At this stage, surgery plus chemotherapy or radiation may be indicated.
  • Stage 3: Cancer has spread to nearby organs and lymph nodes. A cancer at this stage likely requires aggressive treatment and includes a combination of treatment approaches.
  • Stage 4: Cancer has spread to other organs, or metastasized. Aggressive treatment and possibly palliative care is recommended at this stage of the disease.

It is important to know what stage the cancer is in order to plan the correct treatment. For a more detailed breakdown of each stage of pleural mesothelioma, please view the outline on If you are facing a positive mesothelioma diagnosis, we encourage you to get a second opinion to be certain that your symptoms are indeed associated with mesothelioma. 

What Is The Prognosis for Mesothelioma?

According to the National Cancer Institute, the prognosis and treatment options for mesothelioma depends on a number of factors, including the stage of the cancer, the size of the tumor, the patient’s age and activity level, as well as his or her general health, including lung and heart health. 

Mesothelioma has historically had a poor prognosis, and the current life expectancy of a patient diagnosed with the disease, with treatment, is around 18-36 months. Treatment for early-stage disease with surgery and radiation can extend a patient’s life expectancy, but many patients either are too ill to undergo aggressive surgery or present with advanced disease. Palliative care remains an important component of the management of this devastating illness.

However, there is some good news. Early detection, advancements in treatment options, as well as new, targeted treatments are cause for optimism, with many patients outliving their prognosis by years.

What Are The Treatment Options for Mesothelioma?

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you will work closely with a specialist to develop a treatment plan specific to your situation. It is very important to establish strong relationships with a team of experts able to provide support and guidance in all aspects of the management of mesothelioma.

As mentioned, there are four stages of meso with progressively aggressive treatment options, including: 

  • Surgery 
  • Radiation 
  • Chemotherapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Targeted therapy

For some patients, taking part in a clinical trial may be the best treatment choice. Clinical trials are part of the cancer research process. Clinical trials are done to find out if new cancer treatments are safe and effective or better than the standard treatment. Detailed information on each of these treatment options is available at It is important to discuss all available options with your doctor to be sure you’re getting the right treatment for your particular disease. 

We are not medical experts and urge you to speak with your doctor or specialist regarding your diagnosis and potential treatment options. Over decades of successfully fighting for financial compensation for mesothelioma victims, we have worked with many excellent specialists in this field and are happy to provide you with a list of local mesothelioma medical experts. 

Contact Us For Help

You and your family are undoubtedly experiencing emotional stress and trauma as you deal with this painful time in your lives. Make sure you find an attorney for whom you are not just a number on a spreadsheet or a docket. We are responsive, compassionate, and sincere. 

If you think you might have a mesothelioma legal case in Massachusetts, we encourage you to reach out to us. We have helped hundreds of individuals and families get justice for their injuries, regularly obtaining settlements and verdicts in the millions. We are happy to offer you a free case evaluation. If you like, we will come to your house to listen to your story and will tell you honestly if we think you have a viable claim. 



For more information on mesothelioma and its various treatment options, including some new targeted therapies, please read Mesothelioma: a Review by Frank E. Mott, MD, FACP on the National Library of Medicine website. 

Detailed stages:


For more on the stages: ​​ 

What is Mesothelioma? 

Mesothelioma Series: Part I

What is Mesothelioma? 

We’ve all seen the commercials about mesothelioma on TV, but unless it has affected us personally, few of us know what mesothelioma is and how devastating this disease can be for individuals and their families.

Mesothelioma is an insidious disease with a long latency period, meaning it often takes decades to develop—typically 20-50 years from initial exposure. It is a form of cancer that affects the mesothelium, the lining that protects the lungs, abdomen, heart, and other major organs in the body. A malignant tumor of the mesothelium is called a malignant mesothelioma, often shortened to simply, mesothelioma. There are four main types of mesothelioma:

  1. Mesothelioma of the lungs: the most common form of mesothelioma affecting about 80% of patients, is called pleural mesothelioma
  2. Mesothelioma of the abdomen: known as peritoneal mesothelioma.
  3. Mesothelioma associated with the heart: called pericardial mesothelioma, referring to the pericardial cavity around the heart. 
  4. Less common forms of the disease (less than 1% of cases) are papillary and testicular mesothelioma, affecting the ovaries and testicles. 

A mesothelioma diagnosis is a life-changing event with emotional, physical, and financial consequences. Learn more about the medical aspects of mesothelioma at the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association and read more about diagnosis and treatment options here.

How Do You Get Mesothelioma?

The only known cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. 

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral that is both durable and fire-proof and has been used for decades in the manufacture of various commercial and industrial products, including textiles for clothing. Asbestos was first used in construction in the mid-1800s, and it was as early as the 1930s that harmful effects associated with its use were first documented. It wasn’t until 1989, however, that the EPA announced it would phase out the use of asbestos in almost all products in the U.S., but by that time, millions of workers had been exposed. 

Asbestos fibers create dust or powder when handled, which is then inhaled or ingested during a workday. These fibers can lodge in internal organs, leading to the development of tumors. Workers across a range of industries have been exposed regularly to asbestos-containing materials, including those in: 

  • Shipping
  • Plumbing
  • Construction
  • Aircraft Maintenance 
  • Auto Shops
  • Paper Mills
  • Pipefitting 
  • Powerhouses
  • and other workplaces

Unfortunately, many individuals diagnosed with mesothelioma are Veterans

Common products used and handled during a typical workday include:

  • Construction materials such as sheetrock and wallboard
  • Roofing, shingles, and siding
  • Flooring and tiles
  • Pipe covering and insulation
  • Electrical cables and wire
  • Boilers, pumps, and generators
  • Gaskets, valves, and packing material
  • Rope, wick, and cord
  • Protective clothing and textiles
  • Automotive materials such as brake pads and transmission plates
  • Adhesives, cement, and sealants
  • Raw asbestos

Despite the early warnings, manufacturers and installers of these materials continued to sell and install asbestos products for decades without warning workers of the terrible dangers they faced. The EPA estimates that from 1940 to 1980, 27.5 million Americans were exposed to asbestos at work. While those exposed at work are at the highest risk, family members can also be at risk via exposure to fibers brought home on the clothing of the primary individual.

What Are The Symptoms of Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma develops years, often decades, after the initial asbestos exposure. Since many of the symptoms are similar to other less dangerous illnesses, such as pneumonia, flu, or intestinal issues, it often goes undiagnosed until it has reached the later stages of the disease. 

Symptoms can vary based on where the tumor is located and at what stage the cancer is but can include:

Pleural mesothelioma (lungs)

  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Chest pains
  • Lower back pain
  • Coughing blood
  • Sensory loss
  • Cough (regular or dry)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sweating (profusely)
  • Weight loss
Peritoneal mesothelioma (abdominal)

  • Weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Hernia
  • Swelling of the abdomen
  • Abdominal pain
  • Feeling full early
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain (any form)
Pericardial mesothelioma (heart)

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Dry cough
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fatigue
  • Right shoulder pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling of the legs or lower extremities

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms we strongly encourage them to seek medical advice, especially if you suspect they’ve been exposed to asbestos in their lifetime. 

Stay tuned for the next installment of our blog series on mesothelioma, which focuses on the diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment options for this disease.

Contact Us For Help

Companies that knowingly perpetuated the use of this harmful material for decades after it was determined dangerous should be held accountable. If you think you might have a mesothelioma case in Massachusetts, we encourage you to contact us. We have helped hundreds of individuals and families obtain justice for their injuries, regularly reaching settlements and verdicts in the millions. We are happy to offer you a free case evaluation. If you like, we will come to your house to listen to your story and will tell you honestly if we think you have a viable claim. 

Michael Shepard Quoted in Law360 article on Asbestos Claims

Michael Shepard’s insights were featured in Law 360’s article, Mass. Lawmakers Weigh Ending Asbestos Claims Time Limit.”

“The Massachusetts Legislature is eyeing a sweeping change to the state’s construction tort statute of repose by eliminating an ironclad six-year limit on certain construction-related asbestos claims, something proponents say would fix a “draconian” interpretation of the law that leaves many families without legal options.”

Michael Shepard Law 360 , “The statute of repose was never designed to insulate companies that knowingly and intentionally used a toxic product … knowing that product won’t cause an injury to people until after the statute of repose has expired,” said Mike Shepard of Shepard O’Donnell, whose firm represented the Oliver estate before the SJC in a suit against General Electric and Metropolitan Life Insurance.

“A company like GE could install asbestos products today and be fully free, because no one will get an injury within the statute of repose time frame. It takes decades for your injury to manifest,” Shepard added. “We don’t see any downside to changing this law.”

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