Balkinization  

Saturday, February 05, 2005

The NY Same Sex Marriage Case

JB

In Hernandez v. Robles a New York State trial court judge held that the New York State constitution prohibited restricting marriage to opposite sex couples.

The court held that prohibition on same sex couples violated the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clauses of the New York State Constitution. The court did not remand to the legislature to fix the law, as the Vermont Supreme Court did in Baker v. State. Instead, the Court noted that the specific provision of the Domestic Relations Law which governs marriage licenses did not specifically exclude same sex couples by its language, but that other accompanying statutes did refer to husbands and wives, brides and grooms. Therefore, the appropriate remedy, the court argued, was to read the accompanying New York statutes so "that the words `husband', `wife', `groom', and `bride', as they appear in the relevant sections of the Domestic Relations law are and shall be construed to mean `spouse' and all personal pronouns, as they appear in the relevant sections of the Domestic Relations Law, are and shall be construed to apply equally to either men or women."

Hernandez is a puzzling case on two counts. First, the Due Process argument is that the right of privacy under the New York State Constitution includes a right to marry, which the Court says is the right to choose whom to marry. But the problem is that this would undermine state laws regarding incest and polygamy as well, and the court makes no attempt to distinguish those cases from the case of same-sex marriage. Indeed, at one point in the opinion (p. 45), the court uses the example of polygamy to show that marriage has meant different things at different times and in different places. Perhaps the court really means to say that as applied to same sex couples, the state has provided no compelling reasons for restricting who may marry, leaving to another day the question of whether there would be compelling reasons in cases of incest and polygamy. But if that is the holding of Hernandez-- and perhaps it is the best reading of the case-- the point is nowhere clearly expressed. And what is puzzling about the opinion is that the court does not even seem to spot the difficulty.

The court also says that prohibition on same sex marriages violates New York's Equal Protection Clause. The court does not hold that the prohibition violates sex equality because it restricts the choice of a person's marital partner on the basis of one's sex. Rather, the court holds that the restriction violates the prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The New York Court of Appeals has not held that discrimination based on sexual orientation requires heightened judicial scrutiny. Nevertheless, the court in Hernandez argued that the state of New York did not offer even a rational basis for excluding same sex couples from marriage. This part of the opinion is quite short and, because it is so short, it is not very convincing. At least the Massachusetts court in Goodridge spent some time trying to explain why the state's reasons failed the test of rational basis. What the court says in Hernandez is mostly conclusory.

I have no idea whether this case will be affirmed by the New York Court of Appeals. But if it is affirmed, it will have to be for somewhat different reasons than the court gives here. The court has not given the New York Court of Appeals very much to work with. It will pretty much have to start from scratch.

I strongly support same sex marriage, but my decided preference is for legislatures to adopt reform of the marriage laws rather than have courts impose the reform. If courts are going to get involved, I greatly prefer the approach of the Vermont Supreme Court in Baker v. State-- hold that the current law is unconstitutional, explain the rough contours of the constitutional principles that a statute would have to satisfy, and send the issue to the legislature to come up with a solution. That is not the same thing as having the legislature take the issue up on its own, but it does have the advantage of giving the result some degree of democratic ratification. My view is that this is probably what the U.S. Supreme Court should have done in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton as well.

For this reason, I would argue that if the New York Court of Appeals decides to uphold this case (although it will have to be on different grounds), it should reverse the trial court's remedy and give the New York Legislature 90 days to come up with a statutory solution.


Comments:

It would be nice if we could get some judges to put out some better reasoned opinions when they are tackling such epic legal questions. Earlier this year an Arkansas state judge struck down a ban on adoptions by gay couples based upon a legal technicality rather than any constitutional issue. While the case was a "victory" it was also a cop-out.
Further comments here: http://www.jurispundit.com
 

Having linked to Prof. Balkin's spot-on analysis, I find myself wondering why trial courts are handling constitutional challenges in the first place. I think trial judges are more prone to sweeping, conclusory rulings based on legal hunches, because that's how so much of the work of a trial judge does (and must) go. (See old joke at end of comment.)

Would there be any loss in rewriting the rules of the game so that pure constitutionality challenges go straight to an appellate court?

Old joke:

Three hunters go out duck hunting at a private game reserve: a law prof, an appellate judge, and a trial judge. The guide took them out to the blinds and stationed them there, and told them "Now there’s just one thing I need to tell you before I leave. You’re here to shoot ducks. And this reserve has very strong, strict rules here. If you shoot anything but a duck, you will be asked to leave."

The guide left, and the three, were out there, and pretty soon things started appearing on the horizon, flying toward them. So, they looked at each other, the judges said to the law professor, “I think you ought to take the first shot.” So, the law professor says, “OK!” He stood up, and a bird started flying towards him and looked at it and he said, “Well, I’ve spent many years studying the law and written many a learned treatise on it, and I would say by the speed and conformation of that fowl, that’s probably a duck.” By that time the bird was gone.

The next one started flying, and the trial judge turned to the appellate judge and said, “Well, I think you ought to take the shot.” The appellate judge says, “OK!” The appellate judge stood up and said, “Well, I see from the color and the markings of this bird and based upon my many years on the bench and studying briefs and writing learned opinions, I’d say that’s probably a duck.” By that time the bird was gone.

The trial judge stood up, next one came, he raised his shotgun and--bamm!--shot it, and said, “Damn, I hope that was a duck!”
 

It seems that Professor Balkin prefers a form of "dialogue" between the court and legislature on this point. I agree. It is certainly preferable in these circumstances for the legislature, rather than the courts, to write new laws that are consistent with the principles as articulated (though, this decision appears to lack analysis on this point). The Courts should articulate principles and the legislature should be writing the laws.

In Canada, various Supreme Court of Canada decisions have invoked the metaphor of a "Charter dialogue" (Charter being the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms) between legislatures and courts, wherein elected representatives "reply" to constitutional rulings of the Court by enacting new legislation that supposedly reflects the representatives' view on what is required by the constitutional principles articulated by the Court.
 

The courts should articulate principles and the legislature should be writing the laws? That's a strange way to separate powers. It reduces the legislature to the status of clerks for the judiciary.

Principles are revealed or determined by debate in the legislature (in theory, anyway). That is why legislatures have enough members to stage debates. The judiciary has, among other things, the responsibility for resolving conflicts between laws. In constitutional cases, the Constitution is one of the laws - the supreme law of the land - and the court determines whether or not there is a conflict, and if so, strikes down the conflicting law.

And as a practical matter, I would expect any legislature to be a bit huffy if presented with "guidance" from a mere judge.
 

Perhaps I should clarify my comments. Obviously, there are certain principles that underly a given legislative or constitutional provision that will help understand the purpose or object of that provision. Courts have always attempted to discern the purpose of a provision, often using both legal and constitutional principles.

The idea of "dialogue" means that not just the Courts but also the legislature play an active role in articulating principles, be it constitutional or otherwise; not leaving such tasks for only courts to embark upon.

So, when you say that principles are articulated during debates in the legislature, I certainly agree with you; I just think those principles are to be clearly delineated in a piece of legislation that responds to a given constitutional ruling of a court.
 

The right to marry, including deciding who to marry (is this supposed to be a strange statement on the judge's part?), has long been held to bea fundamental right by the Supreme Court. "Fundamental" means there must be a compelling reason, especially if the law discriminates. Cases of incest provide said reason. Also, when the Supremes spell out why a law invades this right, it tends not to distinguish (surely not in much detail) incest etc. each time.

Just because a ruling is "short" does not make it necessraily unconvincing. In fact, Lawrence v. Texas, which Prof. Balkin (though one might not know it from the temper of his remarks here) throughly praised, was at times rather short in analytical detail. Did he find it "unconvincing?" Some might argue that finding the current regime "irrational" is not too hard at any rate.

Also, this is only a district court ruling. Prof. Balkin's bottom line is reasonable, but shouldn't it be left to the highest court to settle on such a remedy? In fact, the judge here did justify her particular remedy, backing up her reasoning with precedent (respecting a gender specific rape law). Anyway, who listens to district court rulings on subjects destined to be appealled anyway?

Also, as to his Roe remarks, was that generally done in 1973? It might be worth mentioning that the district court basically left the state to handle the details, not even supplying an injunction. The state continued to prosecute.

Trouble accessing the .pdf file leads me to be unable to read the whole ruling, but the Professor's remarks are a bit strange as well.
 

The punch line of the "duck hunting" joke may have been the basis for the torture memos on the treatment of the Gitmo prisoners not covered by the Geneva Convention.
 

I think the reason the court's explanation is poor is because they did not set out to actually make a sound decision, but rather to justify the decision they sought to make. The problem the courts are running into is that they are trying to ignore the entire concept of the institution of marriage. The argument that marriage was not defined as between a man and a woman is ridiculous; that is exactly what the term meant at the time the statutes were written. Nobody at the time was confused about that aspect, and probably couldn't conceive of future generations being uncertain. It is intelectually dishonest to pretend the statutes are somehow ambiguous. Let the legislatures introduce gay "marriage" as a new institution, becuase that is what it is. What is happening right now is that the courts are impatient and want gay marriage legalized now, so they are writing poor opinions with the goal of bypassing the legislature. The end results is that the body of law legalizing gay marriage will be weak and easily overturned by future courts who will recognize the failure of constitutional judgement. Judges need to be more technocratic and less philosophical about their judgements. As I recall, the original purpose of the judiciary was to prevent the legislature from creating new laws that violated the constitution. What we have now is a judiciary that is making up its own laws by dishonestly claiming that a word like "marriage" was not carefully defined. What about the precedent this sets for future reasoning? What other terms can we claim were not properly defined? We could change the definition of citizenship, the military, or even the judiciary itself.
 

The weakness of the entire argument on marriage (both sides) is that nobody really seems willing to stake out what are the compelling reasons to insert the state into the entire mess in the first place. You could go through every one of the 1049 laws mentioning marriage in the federal code and strike them out entire and not have a reasonable Constitutional challenge. You could do the same thing to the state code in every 50 states.

Once you have wiped out marriage law in its entirety, you could introduce a bill to give some privilege to some relationships over others in the law. Why would any of it pass muster? The hard truth is that there are state purposes to marriage in the continuance of society and in the stability of the social order that people aren't comfortable advocating in today's environment.

Let me take up the case for incest for a moment. Why is it banned? It can't be for genetic reasons. We don't ban marriage between any sort of couple that has the same or higher rates of genetic abnormality as an occasional 1st cousin pairing would provide. So why are 1st cousin marriages banned in so many states? You could extend the argument to any level of consanguinity and not encounter anything that would offend the judge in Hernandez v Robles. Tripartite lesbian relations are even at the edge of Hernandez as some of the plaintiffs are lesbian couples who have essentially rented a man's gonads to get a child. If the rest of the man comes along for the ride and wants to raise the child, what's the rationale stopping a more involved father from becoming part of a group marriage?

This is an awful decision.
 

"Perhaps the court really means to say that as applied to same sex couples, the state has provided no compelling reasons for restricting who may marry, leaving to another day the question of whether there would be compelling reasons in cases of incest and polygamy. But if that is the holding of Hernandez-- and perhaps it is the best reading of the case-- the point is nowhere clearly expressed."

Actually the court says, "Defendant has articulated no legitimate State purpose that is rationally served by a bar to same-sex marriage, let alone a compelling State interest in such a bar."
 

Excellent post, one which this gay person agrees fully. It's a shame the court's decision failed to distinguish same-sex marriage from polygamy and incest. It's an oversight that (as I argue on my blog) the religious right is already exploiting.
 

I'm not really sure how one does distinguish same-sex marriage from incest, assuming that the individuals involved are consenting adults. If you limit marriage to two people who love one another and need not procreate, then that includes a brother and sister or two sisters or a grandparent and grandchild, or what-have-you. If you limit marriage to erotic love between two persons, that eliminates polygamy, but not incest. But if marriage is about erotic love, then I'm not sure why six people can't have sex with each other and have their sex acts sanctioned by the state. And if marriage is not about erotic love, but is about distributing property rights between persons who love one another, I'm not sure why two brothers or five brothers can't spread their insurance costs amongst each other by getting married. Where to draw the line and how to draw the line is quite problematic and consequential, which is perhaps why only legislatures instead of courts should handle re-defining "family." But I don't think it is obvious that incest and polygamy do not follow from same-sex marriage at a high enough level of generality, which is perhaps why the omission of discussion of these issues was so remarkable in the NY opinion. It's like the judge who wrote it never went to law school.
 

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Most people who develop
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chest wall pain
pleural effusion, or fluid surrounding the lung
shortness of breath
fatigue or anemia
wheezing, hoarseness, or cough
blood in the sputum (fluid) coughed up hemoptysis
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jaundice, or yellowing of the eyes and skin
low blood sugar level
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severe ascites
A
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Working with asbestos is the major risk factor for mesothelioma. A history of asbestos exposure exists in almost all cases. However, mesothelioma has been reported in some individuals without any known exposure to asbestos. In rare cases, mesothelioma has also been associated with irradiation, intrapleural thorium dioxide (Thorotrast), and inhalation of other fibrous silicates, such as erionite.
asbestos
is the name of a group of minerals that occur naturally as masses of strong, flexible fibers that can be separated into thin threads and woven.
asbestos
has been widely used in many industrial products, including cement, brake linings, roof shingles, flooring products, textiles, and insulation. If tiny asbestos particles float in the air, especially during the manufacturing process, they may be inhaled or swallowed, and can cause serious health problems. In addition to mesothelioma, exposure to asbestos increases the risk of lung cancer, asbestosis (a noncancerous, chronic lung ailment), and other cancers, such as those of the larynx and kidney.
The combination of smoking and
asbestos exposure significantly increases a person's risk of developing cancer of the airways (lung cancer bronchial carcinoma). The Kent brand of cigarettes used
mesothelioma in its filters for the first few years of production in the 1950s and some cases of
. have resulted. Smoking modern cigarettes does not appear to increase the risk of mesothelioma.
Some studies suggest that simian virus 40 may act as a cofactor in the development of mesothelioma.
Asbestos was known in antiquity, but it wasn't mined and widely used commercially until the late 1800s. Its use greatly increased during World War II Since the early 1940s, millions of American workers have been exposed to asbestos dust. Initially, the risks associated with
. exposure were not publicly known. However, an increased risk of developing mesothelioma was later found among shipyard workers, people who work in asbestos mines and mills, producers of asbestos products, workers in the heating and construction industries, and other tradespeople. Today, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets limits for acceptable levels of
. exposure in the workplace, and created guidelines for engineering controls and respirators, protective clothing, exposure monitoring, hygiene facilities and practices, warning signs, labeling, recordkeeping, and medical exams. By contrast, the British Government's Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states formally that any threshold for
mesothelioma must be at a very low level and it is widely agreed that if any such threshold does exist at all, then it cannot currently be quantified. For practical purposes, therefore, HSE does not assume that any such threshold exists. People who work with
asbestos wear personal protective equipment to lower their risk of exposure. Recent findings have shown that a mineral called erionite has been known to cause genetically pre-dispositioned individuals to have malignant mesothelioma rates much higher than those not pre-dispositioned genetically. A study in Cappadocia, Turkey has shown that 3 villiages in Turkey have death rates of 51% attributed to erionite related
mesotheliomaExposure to
asbestos fibres has been recognised as an occupational health hazard since the early 1900s. Several epidemiological studies have associated exposure to asbestos with the development of lesions such as asbestos bodies in the sputum, pleural plaques, diffuse pleural thickening, asbestosis, carcinoma of the lung and larynx, gastrointestinal tumours, and diffuse mesothelioma of the pleura and peritoneum.
The documented presence of
asbestos fibres in water supplies and food products has fostered concerns about the possible impact of long-term and, as yet, unknown exposure of the general population to these fibres. Although many authorities consider brief or transient exposure to
asbestos fibres as inconsequential and an unlikely risk factor, some epidemiologists claim that there is no risk threshold. Cases of mesothelioma have been found in people whose only exposure was breathing the air through ventilation systems. Other cases had very minimal (3 months or less) direct exposure.
Commercial
asbestos mining at Wittenoom, Western Australia, occurred between 1945 and 1966. A cohort study of miners employed at the mine reported that while no deaths occurred within the first 10 years after crocidolite exposure, 85 deaths attributable to mesothelioma had occurred by 1985. By 1994, 539 reported deaths due to mesothelioma had been reported in Western Australia.
Family members and others living with
asbestos workers have an increased risk of developing
mesothelioma and possibly other asbestos related diseases. This risk may be the result of exposure to
asbestos dust brought home on the clothing and hair of
asbestos workers. To reduce the chance of exposing family members to asbestosMany building materials used in both public and domestic premises prior to the banning of
asbestos may contain
asbestos Those performing renovation works or activities may expose themselves to asbestos dust. In the UK use of Chrysotile asbestos was banned at the end of 1999. Brown and blue
asbestos was banned in the UK around 1985. Buildings built or renovated prior to these dates may contain asbestos materials.
For patients with localized disease, and who can tolerate a radical surgery, radiation is often given post-operatively as a consolidative treatment. The entire hemi-thorax is treated with radiation therapy, often given simultaneously with chemotherapy. Delivering radiation and chemotherapy after a radical surgery has led to extended life expectancy in selected patient populations with some patients surviving more than 5 years. As part of a curative approach to
mesothelioma radiotherapy is also commonly applied to the sites of chest drain insertion, in order to prevent growth of the tumor along the track in the chest wall.
Although
mesothelioma is generally resistant to curative treatment with radiotherapy alone, palliative treatment regimens are sometimes used to relieve symptoms arising from tumor growth, such as obstruction of a major blood vessel.
Radiation Therapy when given alone with curative intent has never been shown to improve survival from
mesothelioma The necessary radiation dose to treat mesothelioma that has not been surgically removed would be very toxic.
Chemotherapy is the only treatment for
mesothelioma that has been proven to improve survival in randomised and controlled trials. The landmark study published in 2003 by Vogelzang and colleagues compared cisplatin chemotherapy alone with a combination of cisplatin and pemetrexed (brand name Alimta) chemotherapy) in patients who had not received chemotherapy for malignant pleural mesothelioma previously and were not candidates for more aggressive "curative" surgery. This trial was the first to report a survival advantage from chemotherapy in malignant pleural
mesothelioma showing a statistically significant improvement in median survival from 10 months in the patients treated with cisplatin alone to 13.3 months in the combination pemetrexed group in patients who received supplementation with folate and vitamin B12. Vitamin supplementation was given to most patients in the trial and pemetrexed related side effects were significantly less in patients receiving pemetrexed when they also received daily oral folate 500mcg and intramuscular vitamin B12 1000mcg every 9 weeks compared with patients receiving pemetrexed without vitamin supplementation. The objective response rate increased from 20% in the cisplatin group to 46% in the combination pemetrexed group. Some side effects such as nausea and vomiting, stomatitis, and diarrhoea were more common in the combination pemetrexed group but only affected a minority of patients and overall the combination of pemetrexed and cisplatin was well tolerated when patients received vitamin supplementation; both quality of life and lung function tests improved in the combination pemetrexed group. In February 2004, the United States Food and Drug Administration approved pemetrexed for treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma. However, there are still unanswered questions about the optimal use of chemotherapy, including when to start treatment, and the optimal number of cycles to give.
Cisplatin in combination with raltitrexed has shown an improvement in survival similar to that reported for pemetrexed in combination with cisplatin, but raltitrexed is no longer commercially available for this indication. For patients unable to tolerate pemetrexed, cisplatin in combination with gemcitabine or vinorelbine is an alternative, although a survival benefit has not been shown for these drugs. For patients in whom cisplatin cannot be used, carboplatin can be substituted but non-randomised data have shown lower response rates and high rates of haematological toxicity for carboplatin-based combinations, albeit with similar survival figures to patients receiving cisplatin.
In January 2009, the United States FDA approved using conventional therapies such as surgery in combination with radiation and or chemotherapy on stage I or II Mesothelioma after research conducted by a nationwide study by Duke University concluded an almost 50 point increase in remission rates.
Treatment regimens involving immunotherapy have yielded variable results. For example, intrapleural inoculation of Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) in an attempt to boost the immune response, was found to be of no benefit to the patient (while it may benefit patients with bladder cancer.
mesothelioma cells proved susceptible to in vitro lysis by LAK cells following activation by interleukin-2 (IL-2), but patients undergoing this particular therapy experienced major side effects. Indeed, this trial was suspended in view of the unacceptably high levels of IL-2 toxicity and the severity of side effects such as fever and cachexia. Nonetheless, other trials involving interferon alpha have proved more encouraging with 20% of patients experiencing a greater than 50% reduction in tumor mass combined with minimal side effects.
A procedure known as heated intraoperative intraperitoneal chemotherapy was developed by at the Washington Cancer Institute. The surgeon removes as much of the tumor as possible followed by the direct administration of a chemotherapy agent, heated to between 40 and 48°C, in the abdomen. The fluid is perfused for 60 to 120 minutes and then drained.
This technique permits the administration of high concentrations of selected drugs into the abdominal and pelvic surfaces. Heating the chemotherapy treatment increases the penetration of the drugs into tissues. Also, heating itself damages the malignant cells more than the normal cells.

What is the mesothelium?
The mesothelium is a membrane that covers and protects most of the internal organs of the body. It is composed of two layers of cells: One layer immediately surrounds the organ; the other forms a sac around it. The mesothelium produces a lubricating fluid that is released between these layers, allowing moving organs (such as the beating heart and the expanding and contracting lungs to glide easily against adjacent structures.
The mesothelium has different names, depending on its location in the body. The peritoneum is the mesothelial tissue that covers most of the organs in the abdominal cavity. The pleura is the membrane that surrounds the lungs and lines the wall of the chest cavity. The pericardium covers and protects the heart. The
mesothelioma tissue surrounding the male internal reproductive organs is called the tunica vaginalis testis. The tunica serosa uteri covers the internal reproductive organs in women.
What is mesothelioma?
mesothelioma (cancer of the mesothelium) is a disease in which cells of the mesothelium become abnormal and divide without control or order. They can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs.
cancer cells can also metastasize (spread) from their original site to other parts of the body. Most cases of mesothelioma begin in the pleura or peritoneum.
How common is mesothelioma?
Although reported incidence rates have increased in the past 20 years, mesothelioma is still a relatively rare cancer. About 2,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the United States each year. Mesothelioma occurs more often in men than in women and risk increases with age, but this disease can appear in either men or women at any age.
What are the risk factors for mesothelioma?
Working with asbestos is the major risk factor for mesothelioma. A history of . exposure at work is reported in about 70 percent to 80 percent of all cases. However, mesothelioma has been reported in some individuals without any known exposure to
Asbestos is the name of a group of minerals that occur naturally as masses of strong, flexible fibers that can be separated into thin threads and woven. . has been widely used in many industrial products, including cement, brake linings, roof shingles, flooring products, textiles, and insulation. If tiny asbestos particles float in the air, especially during the manufacturing process, they may be inhaled or swallowed, and can cause serious health problems. In addition to mesothelioma, exposure to asbestos increases the risk of lung cancer, asbestosis (a noncancerous, chronic lung ailment), and other cancers, such as those of the larynx and kidney.
Smoking does not appear to increase the risk of mesothelioma. However, the combination of smoking and asbestos exposure significantly increases a person's risk of developing cancer of the air passageways in the lung.
Who is at increased risk for developing mesothelioma?
asbestos has been mined and used commercially since the late 1800s. Its use greatly increased during World War II. Since the early 1940s, millions of American workers have been exposed to asbestos dust. Initially, the risks associated with asbestos exposure were not known. However, an increased risk of developing mesothelioma was later found among shipyard workers, people who work in asbestos. Today, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets limits for acceptable levels of asbestos exposure in the workplace. People who work with asbestos wear personal protective equipment to lower their risk of exposure.
The risk o f asbestosrelated disease increases with heavier exposure to asbestos and longer exposure time. However, some individuals with only brief exposures have developed mesothelioma On the other hand, not all workers who are heavily exposed develop asbestos-related diseases.
There is some evidence that family members and others living with asbestos workers have an increased risk of developing mesothelioma, and possibly other asbestos-related diseases. This risk may be the result of exposure to
asbestos dust brought home on the clothing and hair of
asbestos workers. To reduce the chance of exposing family members to
asbestos fibers, asbestos workers are usually required to shower and change their clothing before leaving the workplace.
What are the symptoms of mesothelioma?
Symptoms of mesothelioma may not appear until 30 to 50 years after exposure to
asbestos Shortness of breath and pain in the chest due to an accumulation of fluid in the pleura are often symptoms of pleural mesothelioma. Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include weight loss and abdominal pain and swelling due to a buildup of fluid in the abdomen. Other symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma may include bowel obstruction blood clotting abnormalities, anemia, and fever. If the cancer has spread beyond the mesothelium to other parts of the body, symptoms may include pain, trouble swallowing, or swelling of the neck or face.
These symptoms may be caused by
mesothelioma or by other, less serious conditions. It is important to see a doctor about any of these symptoms. Only a doctor can make a diagnosis
How is
mesotheliomadiagnosed?
Diagnosing mesothelioma is often difficult, because the symptoms are similar to those of a number of other conditions. Diagnosis begins with a review of the patient's medical history, including any history of asbestos exposure. A complete physical examination may be performed, including x-rays of the chest or abdomen and lung function tests. A CT (or CAT) scan or an MRI may also be useful. A CT scan is a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body created by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. In an MRI, a powerful magnet linked to a computer is used to make detailed pictures of areas inside the body. These pictures are viewed on a monitor and can also be printed.
A biopsy is needed to confirm a diagnosis of mesothelioma. In a biopsy, a surgeon or a medical oncologist (a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancer) removes a sample of tissue for examination under a microscope by a pathologist. A biopsy may be done in different ways, depending on where the abnormal area is located. If the
cancer is in the chest, the doctor may perform a thoracoscopy. In this procedure, the doctor makes a small cut through the chest wall and puts a thin, lighted tube called a thoracoscope into the chest between two ribs. Thoracoscopy allows the doctor to look inside the chest and obtain tissue samples. If the
cancer is in the abdomen, the doctor may perform a peritoneoscopy. To obtain tissue for examination, the doctor makes a small opening in the abdomen and inserts a special instrument called a peritoneoscope into the abdominal cavity. If these procedures do not yield enough tissue, more extensive diagnostic surgery may be necessary.
If the diagnosis is mesothelioma, the doctor will want to learn the stage (or extent) of the disease. Staging involves more tests in a careful attempt to find out whether the cancer has spread and, if so, to which parts of the body. Knowing the stage of the disease helps the doctor plan treatment.
Mesothelioma is described as localized if the cancer is found only on the membrane surface where it originated. It is classified as advanced if it has spread beyond the original membrane surface to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes, lungs, chest wall, or abdominal organs.
How is
.treated?
Treatment for mesothelioma depends on the location of the
cancerthe stage of the disease, and the patient's age and general health. Standard treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Sometimes, these treatments are combined.
Surgery is a common treatment for
mesotheliomaThe doctor may remove part of the lining of the chest or abdomen and some of the tissue around it. For cancer of the pleura (pleural
mesotheliomaa lung may be removed in an operation called a pneumonectomy. Sometimes part of the diaphragm, the muscle below the lungs that helps with breathing, is also removed.
Stereo Tactic Radiation Therapy also called radiotherapy, involves the use of high-energy rays to kill
cancercells and shrink tumors Radiation therapy affects the
cancercells only in the treated area. The radiation may come from a machine (external radiation) or from putting materials that produce radiation through thin plastic tubes into the area where the
cancercells are found (internal radiation therapy).
Chemotherapy is the use of anticancer drugs to kill cancer cells throughout the body. Most drugs used to treat
mesotheliomaare given by injection into a vein (intravenous, or IV). Doctors are also studying the effectiveness of putting chemotherapy directly into the chest or abdomen (intracavitary chemotherapy).
To relieve symptoms and control pain, the doctor may use a needle or a thin tube to drain fluid that has built up in the chest or abdomen. The procedure for removing fluid from the chest is called thoracentesis. Removal of fluid from the abdomen is called paracentesis. Drugs may be given through a tube in the chest to prevent more fluid from accumulating. Radiation Therapy and surgery may also be helpful in relieving symptoms.
 

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