Lung Cancer Lawsuits: The Questions

Being diagnosed with lung cancer can be a difficult thing to hear—and an even more difficult one to deal with. You are (rightfully so) laser-focused on the treatments for your lung cancer that can potentially save your life. You may not feel as though you have the necessary time to look into the financial aspect of your lung cancer. Filing a lawsuit against the company that is responsible for your lung cancer in order to recoup your losses may feel like an overwhelming task. This is where an experienced lung cancer attorney comes in. You can keep your focus where it needs to be—on getting better—while your attorney works for a settlement from the negligent party. 

How Prevalent is Lung Cancer? According to the Go2 Foundation for Lung Cancer, about 237,000 Americans are diagnosed with lung cancer every year. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. yet receives the least amount of federal research funding. As many as 20 percent of those diagnosed with lung cancer have never smoked a cigarette. Because lung cancer is rarely found early, the survival rate is lower than that of the other top four cancers with a 22.9 percent five-year survival rate. For reasons not clearly understood, women who have never smoked are more than twice as likely to get lung cancer as men who have never smoked.

What Are the Different Types of Lung Cancer? The lungs are sponge-like organs with three sections, known as lobes. The left lung has 2 lobes and is smaller than the right lung because the heart takes up more room on the left side. Surrounding the lungs is a thin lining known as the pleura that protects the lungs, helping them slide easily back and forth against the chest wall. There are two main types of lung cancer: non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer. Between 80 and 85 percent of all lung cancers are non-small cell, and may be further classified as adenocarcinoma, large cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma.

The treatment and prognosis are often very similar between these three sub-types of non-small cell lung cancer. Non-small cell lung cancer occurs primarily among those who formerly smoked or who are current smokers but can also be found among those who have never smoked. Non-small cell lung cancer occurs more often in younger adults and in women than small-cell lung cancer. About 15 percent of all lung cancers are small cell lung cancer, sometimes known as oat cell cancer.

Small-cell lung cancer grows more quickly, spreading throughout the body. By the time small-cell lung cancer has been detected, it is likely it has already spread, however small-cell lung cancer does tend to respond well to chemotherapy and radiation. Less than 5 percent of lung tumors are known as lung carcinoid tumors. The type of lung cancer you are diagnosed with can make a difference in your treatments and outcome.

What Are the Most Common Symptoms of Lung Cancer? Every person diagnosed with lung cancer will have somewhat different symptoms. Far too often, these symptoms are subtle and can be mistaken for other health issues, so may not be checked out as soon as they should be. The most common symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • A cough that doesn’t seem to go away and slowly begins to worsen
  • Weight loss with no known cause
  • Shortness of breath that increases in severity
  • Chest pain
  • Worsening headaches
  • Wheezing in the chest
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Coughing up blood
  • Bone pain
  • Repeated bouts of pneumonia
  • Swollen or enlarged lymph nodes inside the chest and in the area between the lungs

Can Lung Cancer Be Cured? Screening for lung cancer definitely saves lives. When caught in the early stages, lung cancer is treatable. For those with small, early-stage lung cancer, the cure rate can be as high as 80 percent, however, that rate drops dramatically as the tumor advances and involves lymph nodes or other organs. When screened with a low-dose spiral computed tomography scan, there was a 20 percent reduction in deaths from lung cancer.

These CT scans can give false positive results, so are generally recommended only for those that are considered to be high risk. About 25 percent of lung cancer tumors carry a genetic mutation. This is a type of “glitch” that drives the growth of the tumor and can be targeted in some instances with specific treatments. Some of the newer oral medications have been found to be highly effective, shrinking tumors and providing a better quality of life for those diagnosed with lung cancer. Immunotherapy has also been found to help those with lung cancer live longer following their diagnosis.

Immunotherapy boosts the immune system, causing it to recognize and kill cancerous cells. A combination of immunotherapy and chemotherapy undergone quickly after the diagnosis may improve the overall life expectancy. The newer options for treating lung cancer have fewer side effects than traditional chemotherapy, allowing those diagnosed with lung cancer a higher quality of life.

Those diagnosed with stage 1, 2, or 3 non-small cell lung cancer who have surgery to remove the lung cancer tumor, can have a five-year survival rate of 77 percent or higher. Once the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, it becomes more difficult to surgically remove the tumors without removing the lymph nodes as well. For some, radiation therapy may be as effective as surgery for those with early-stage lung cancer.

Are There Other Carcinogens That Cause Lung Cancer Besides Cigarette Smoke? Although cigarette smoke is the number one cause of lung cancer, there are many more carcinogens that can also cause lung cancer. Exposure to radon gas—a tasteless, odorless, invisible gas that results when uranium breaks down in soil and rocks—is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and the leading cause of lung cancer among those who do not smoke. Radon can be concentrated indoors, particularly in basements. Breathing in this radon gas can expose the lungs to small amounts of radiation, increasing the risk of lung cancer.

Those who work with asbestos—in mines, mills, textile plants, shipyards, and places where insulation is used—are many times more likely to die of lung cancer than those who are not exposed to asbestos. Those who smoke and are exposed to asbestos have an even higher risk of being diagnosed with lung cancer. While short-term exposure of low levels of asbestos is generally not a factor in lung cancer, those who are exposed for longer periods of time and at higher concentrations definitely have an increased risk of lung cancer.

Other carcinogens found in some workplaces that can increase lung cancer include diesel exhaust, and inhaled chemicals from coal products, chromium compounds, nickel compounds, vinyl chloride, silica dust, cadmium, beryllium, and arsenic. There are some risk factors for lung cancer that cannot be alleviated, including radiation therapy to the chest for other types of cancers, air pollution, and a personal or family history of lung cancer.

Is There a Trust Fund for Lung Cancer Caused by Asbestos? Exposure to asbestos not only causes mesothelioma, but it can cause lung cancer as well. Those who worked in close proximity to asbestos inhale the microscopic fibers. The toxic fibers reach deeper into the small airways of the lungs or penetrate the outer lining of the lung and chest wall. Eventually, these tiny fibers irritate the lung cells, eventually triggering cancer-causing cellular changes. Being a current or former smoker does not rule out your ability to file a claim with a trust fund or file a lawsuit.

Asbestos lung cancer can be diagnosed by the level of asbestos fibers found in your lungs. For this reason, it is essential that you have an experienced asbestos lung cancer attorney who has a deep understanding of the complex medical diagnoses—and can use this knowledge to make the strongest case on your behalf. Trust funds have been established that allow asbestos lung cancer victims to file a claim for compensation through these trusts rather than suing the negligent company.

Currently, there are about sixty trust funds set up with an estimated $30 billion available to compensate those who have developed an asbestos-related illness like lung cancer. Each trust fund has a statute of limitations that governs the amount of time you have in which to file your claim.  Veterans have been found to be particularly vulnerable to asbestos lung cancer, likely because the military used products in transportation and the construction of military bases that contained asbestos.

How Can an Experienced Lung Cancer Attorney Help? If you’ve developed lung cancer after being exposed to asbestos through your workplace, you may be eligible to file a claim through a trust fund, or a lawsuit. When you have a highly skilled lung cancer attorney who will fight for your rights and your future, the outcome is likely to be much more positive.

DISCLAIMER: Statutes of Limitations limit the amount of time that an individual has to file a lawsuit, and not only vary from state to state, but also vary by cause of action. The information provided above and in the state-specific pages in this section is meant as a general guide, and is for informational purposes only. Each client’s case is unique, and the specific circumstances of any individual case can have significant bearing on the applicable statute of limitations. Any person who believes they may have a viable cause of action is strongly encouraged to consult with an attorney about the statute of limitations for his or her case. Attorney Andrew Sullo is licensed to practice law in Texas, and can prosecute cases that are part of a federal multi-district litigation. Andrew Sullo does not practice law in any other state, and is not certified by the Boards of Legal Specialization in any state. Not all states have board certifications. This information is not intended to solicit clients for matters outside of the State of Texas. Our firm is not accepting cases in any state where it would be impermissible for it to do so. Sullo & Sullo, LLP maintains its principal office in Houston, Texas.

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