Mesothelioma is a type of cancer of the mesothelial cells which affects those people unlucky enough to have breathed in asbestos or other risk factors for mesothelioma at some point in their past.
Mesothelial cells cover the outer surface of most of our internal organs and is the reason the cancer is so-called. Most often the cancer is associated with the lungs but it can also develop in the abdomen.
Common Forms of Mesothelioma
- Pleural mesothelioma malignant and affecting the chest
- Peritoneal mesothelioma malignant and affecting the abdomen
- Pericardial mesothelioma affects the tissues surrounding the heart
- Benign mesothelioma, this form is very rarely seen is non-malignant and affects either the chest or abdomen
Although mesothelioma mainly affects men, it can also affect women as the asbestos fibres stick to the clothes, shoes, hair and skin. As a result family members of people working with asbestos would likely have been exposed to some degree of asbestos.
Since the disease takes 15+ years to develop, the early symptoms of mesothelioma are often mistaken for less severe illnesses. If you think you are experiencing some of the symptoms of the disease it is very important that you mention it to your doctor particularly if you have ever been in contact with someone perhaps your father or grandfather who worked in an asbestos-contaminated environment, so that investigations and treatments can begin at the earliest opportunity.
Malignant mesothelioma is a term that refers to nearly every case of mesothelioma. Although previously some medical professionals used the term benign mesothelioma to refer to some forms of mesothelioma, this has changed in recent years. Conditions that were formerly called benign mesothelioma have now been reclassified as another separate condition.
In general malignant is a term used to describe conditions that are getting worse. For cancer this usually means that the tumor is growing affecting healthy tissue located nearby and that it may metastasize.
Mesothelioma is a cancer that affects the mesothelium, the tissues that supports and protects organs within the body. There are four types of malignant mesothelioma although testicular mesothelioma is so rare that less than one hundred cases have been reported The three more common forms of this cancer include pleural peritoneal and pericardial.
- Pleural mesothelioma affects the tissues around the lungs and the lungs themselves. This is the most common form of mesothelioma. About three out of every four cases of mesothelioma are classified as pleural mesothelioma
- Peritoneal mesothelioma affects the abdominal region of patients who are diagnosed with this disease. It is concentrated in the tissues surrounding these organs. Peritoneal is the second most common form of the disease comprising between 10 and 20 percent of all cases
- Pericardial mesothelioma the most rare of these three forms affects the tissues surrounding the heart. It is far less common than the other two forms but more common than testicular mesothelioma
Mesothelioma Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment
Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos.
Asbestos is a toxic compound used in a variety of industries and still found in buildings and workplaces in the United States. Patients are diagnosed with mesothelioma when they report symptoms of the disease to their doctors However the symptoms of malignant mesothelioma are similar to those of many other conditions so it is extremely important to tell your doctor if you have been exposed to asbestos so he or she will know to test for this form of cancer.
There are several forms of treatment for mesothelioma including surgery to remove tumors when possible chemotherapy and radiation. In general these treatments are more successful when the disease is caught earlier.
Work environments that use of asbestos
Work environments that are likely to have included the use of asbestos include:
- Shipyard industry
- Manufacturing construction
- Engineering insulation
- Textile electrical
- Car industries
Even in the present day some industries are still exposed to asbestos risks particularly during the renovation or demolition of buildings containing asbestos.
Types of Asbestos Exposure
Asbestos exposure can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime. It is present in the soil, in the air and sometimes even in the homes that we live in. We know asbestos to be a mineral mined by companies for its fire resistant properties. As such, it has been used in many applications usually in insulations, flooring and plumbing materials. Its popularity has resulted in a staggering number of asbestos-related illnesses and diseases among the many employees and workers engaged in the manufacture and handling of asbestos-related products.
How exactly does one become exposed to asbestos? Primarily, you need to be directly involved in handling the mineral. Say, you’re one of the workers tasked to mine the asbestos, you then become fully exposed and thus, have the highest risk of taking the mineral into your system. In fact, occupational exposure is the most common cause of asbestos-related illnesses.
Once, a person comes in contact with the asbestos fibers, he runs the risk of inhaling it. The most visible physical manifestation of asbestosis is shortness of breath resulting from the adherence of the asbestos fibers in the lungs. The longer you are exposed the harder it is for your body to resist the fibers, thus creating scarring and eventually inflammation in your lungs. This weakens your lungs making it harder and harder for you to breathe until later, you will constantly need oxygen therapy just to breathe.
Indirectly, if one or more of your family members is exposed to asbestos in his line of work and he happens to enter your home with contaminated clothing (asbestos fibers stick to the clothes and shoes), family members will also be affected.
You may also be exposed to asbestos because of environmental factors. Since asbestos is a mineral, it stands to reason that it can be found in the earth, in the soil. Some parts of the United States, like California, exhibit hazardous environmental asbestos threats because the asbestos is relatively found on the surface of the earth, thus making it easy to be blown away or transmitted into the air.
Prevention of asbestos-related illnesses is quite easy enough to do as long as you are aware that there’s asbestos in the air. When you are handling asbestos in your line of work, you need to make sure that you are protected. Safety gear is a necessity especially a safety mask that secures both your nose and mouth to prevent asbestos fibers from entering. As much as possible, never come home in the clothes that you’ve worn in your workplace. Shoes must be kept clean before bringing them into the home.
This prevents your other family members from getting exposed. Older homes used asbestos as drywall, insulation, ceiling and flooring materials. Though it may require some financial investment on your part, it is better to upgrade your house to better living conditions by changing all asbestos-containing parts of the house. There are many fire-resistant materials developed and available today that won’t cause you cancer or asbestosis.