Many of the most deadly job hazards pose an imminent risk to workers. Construction crews working at significant elevations will immediately feel the effects of a fall. The same is true of a road worker and the pressing risk of a traffic collision, or a chef and injuries caused by kitchen equipment.
However, when it comes to those who worked in factories, shipyards or any other career that involves asbestos exposure, the risk usually doesn’t manifest until long after they retire. Although it does happen, it is not common for workers to develop mesothelioma while still working with asbestos. Instead, they will instead start showing symptoms of this severe and incurable form of cancer long after they change jobs or retire.
Why do workers have such a delayed onset for mesothelioma after workplace asbestos exposure?
Mesothelioma is an extremely slow-growing form of cancer
Some forms of cancer develop and metastasize, or spread to other parts of the body, very quickly. Someone can go from being completely asymptomatic to having stage 4 cancer spreading throughout much of their body and just a few months.
While mesothelioma is aggressive and deadly, it does not develop quickly at first like many other forms of cancer. Cancer research shows that most people only have diagnosable symptoms years after the exposure that caused the cancer. Researchers estimate that the average person will not show symptoms until somewhere between 20 and 50 years have passed since their exposure.
By that point, they will probably no longer be an employee of the same company. The company itself may no longer be in business.
What slow onset means for workers with mesothelioma
The slow development of mesothelioma means that a worker exposed to asbestos on the job will need to monitor themselves for signs of mesothelioma for the rest of their lives.
It also means that workers may have to take a few extra steps to secure compensation when they do develop symptoms and get diagnosed with mesothelioma. You may need help for suing compensation if the business has changed ownership or closed since you left the company.
Regardless of how long it has been, you typically still have the right to ask for compensation when your mesothelioma is the result of your employment.