This is part of Mesothelioma Awareness project by Mesothelioma.Com
We often hear about breast cancer or lung cancer, but one type of cancer that deserves some extra attention is Mesothelioma cancer. This type of cancer is far more challenging to treat, and can need extremely aggressive therapy.
What is Mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer of the mesothelium, a membrane which forms the protective lining that surrounds the internal body organs. It is primarily caused by asbestos exposure – either inhaled or swallowed. The most common anatomical sites affected are: the pleura (the outer lining of the lungs and internal chest wall), the peritoneium (the lining of the abdominal cavity) and the pericardium (the lining that surrounds the heart).
This type of cancer is also known to be aggressive and invasive. Frequent exposure, particularly through inhalation, the fiber can easily penetrate body tissue where they can remain undetected for years. Unfortunately, mesothelioma is often found at a stage in which a cure is unobtainable. Patients who are diagnosed with this disease are given an average of 10 months to live.
Asbestos Exposure and Mesothelioma
Exposure to asbestos fibers – most commonly, through inhalation – can cause permanent damage to the lungs and other internal organs. Asbestos has been a part of the modern built world for more than a century because it is strong, yet flexible, and is famous for its ability to resist flame and heat. Veterans who were military members and civilians are at most risk of having Mesothelioma because many products that were used to build and maintain military facilities contain asbestos. If your home was built before 1970’s it is likely to have asbestos components. Water tanks, ceiling tiles, pipe insulations, and textured coatings are some common materials that contain/made of asbestos.
Where can you find asbestos?
These construction materials are often found in older homes, schools, factories, and commercial buildings.
- Asbestos cement products
- Textured coatings
- Floor tiles, textiles and composites
- Sprayed coatings on ceilings, walls and beams/columns
- Asbestos insulating board
- Loose asbestos in ceiling or floor cavity
Types of Asbestos Exposure:
- Occupational – exposures of workers who are using or handling asbestos fiber, or working in an area where asbestos fibers are present
- Second-hand – exposure of family members of asbestos-exposed workers, carried home on the worker’s clothes, transferred on furniture, or through contact
- Nonoccupational – living in environments where asbestos fibers are present
How much exposure does it take?
As little as one or two can result to Mesothelioma, signs and symptoms often appears 20-30 years after being exposed.
Signs and Symptoms
Just like most forms of cancer, it take decades to develop and it doesn’t make an impact on someone’s life until after the tumors have metastasized. Sign and symptoms of, particularly of the pleural mesothelioma, are often confused with other respiratory diseases such as pneumonia or asthma.
When to see a doctor?
A simple cough may not warrant a visit to your doctor but if it lingers, or if any of these symptoms persist or seem unusual, it’s best to consult a health professional so that necessary tests can be performed to get accurate diagnosis. Inform your doctor if you’ve been exposed to asbestos fibers in order to rule out other ailments.
Is the risk of contracting Mesothelioma preventable?
Yes! If you’re working in an environment where presence of asbestos is suspected, protective gear should be worn at all times. Wearing of asbestos-covered clothing outside of work is discouraged. Follow necessary procedures when disposing asbestos-containing materials.
If you suspect asbestos exists in a home, it won’t impose any threat as long as it’s intact, exposure happens during home renovations (asbestos fibers circulate through the air). If it needs to be removed, you should hire a qualified contractor to do this.
If you have been exposed to asbestos, it is necessary to schedule regular physical examinations with a health professional in order to detect any early signs of the condition or prevent further complications. Remember, prevention is better than cure.
Cancer is tough but not as tough as those who fought it with so much courage, just like Heather Von St. James, a mesothelioma survivor. She was diagnosed with having this rare and aggressive type of cancer and was given just 15 months to live. She survived and is now an advocate of Mesothelioma awareness.
Click here to know more about Heather and her fight against Mesothelioma.