Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos and asbestos-related substances. Asbestos fibers irritate the mesothelial cells that form the mesothelium that lines the chest cavity, the sac the surrounds the heart and abdomen. Mesothelium is a protective sac that makes it easier for the organs to move. Mesothelioma is a disease in which malignant cancer cells are found in the sac lining of the chest (pleura), the abdomen (peritoneum) or the heart (pericardium). These cells become abnormal and divide without control or order. They metastasize and divide and damage nearby tissues and organs.

When asbestos fibers are released in the air and inhaled or maybe even swallowed, these fibers stay in the lungs indefinitely causing an abnormality in the cells of the organs. Mesothelioma patients will experience chest pain and shortness of breath and other related symptoms. But not too many physicians have the expertise on asbestos-related diseases and could mistake the symptoms to be that of pneumonia or less serious diseases.

Working with asbestos is the major risk factor of mesothelioma. The following are locations with very high presence of asbestos:

  • Asbestos product manufacturing (insulation, roofing, building, materials)
  • Automotive repair (brakes & clutches)
  • Construction/contractors
  • Sand or abrasive manufacturers
  • Shipyards / ships / ship builders
  • Maritime
  • Miners
  • Offshore rust removals
  • Oil refineries
  • Power Plants
  • Railroads
  • Steel Mills
  • Tile Cutters

The following are occupations with high exposure to asbestos:

  • Auto Mechanics
  • Boiler makers
  • Bricklayers
  • Building inspectors
  • Carpenters
  • Floor coverings
  • Furnace workers
  • Glazers
  • Grinders
  • Hood carriers
  • Insulators
  • Iron workers
  • Laborers
  • Longshoremen
  • Maintenance workers
  • Millwrights
  • Operating engineers
  • Painters
  • Plasterers
  • Plumbers
  • Roofers
  • Sand blasters
  • Sheet metal workers
  • Steam fitters
  • Tile setters
  • US Navy veterans
  • Welders

An exposure of as little as one month to two months can cause mesothelioma which is full blown after 30 to 50 years. Sadly, those exposed to asbestos from 1940 to 1970 are now being diagnosed with the disease. A very alarming discovery after so many years since the latency period of this disease is indeed very long. This makes mesothelioma one of the deadliest forms of cancer known today. Symptoms only appear two to three months before the cancer is diagnosed, and the prognosis is very often poor especially when verification of the illness was done too late already. Survival time of mesothelioma patients range from six months to a year. Only less than ten percent of patients survive five years or more.

Studies show that about 70 to 80 per cent of mesothelioma cases were caused by exposure to asbestos. This deadly disease claims about 3,000 lives each year and the numbers are disturbingly increasing. Another reason that makes this cancer deadly is that it is often mistaken as a general disease such as pneumonia since its symptoms are almost identical (non-specific) to that of mesothelioma. Unless the patient subjects itself to rigorous and virtually exhaustive medical tests a correct diagnosis cannot be made at all.

So victims of this form of cancer are persuaded to be vigilant and seek the most effective options of treatment available to them. This vigilance must also be extended in their intentions to file claims from their employer and from manufacturers of the asbestos substance they have exposed themselves to during their employment.

The risk of developing cancer due to asbestos is greatly increased with heavier exposure to the mineral and longer exposure time. Those who directly expose themselves to asbestos are not the only ones who develop mesothelioma. There is also evidence that family members and others living with asbestos workers have a great risk of developing this form of cancer. This is a result of exposure to asbestos brought home in the clothing and hair of the asbestos worker.

There are three types of mesothelioma cancer: pleural mesothelioma or cancer in the chest cavity and considered to be the most common of the three; peritoneal mesothelioma or cancer in the abdomen and pericardial mesothelioma or cancer in the lining of tissue that surrounds the heart.

As mentioned earlier, 70 to 80 per cent of mesothelioma cases is a result of exposure to asbestos many seem to have misconstrued that cigarette smoking increases the incidence of the illness when in fact it does not. It does however significantly increase the incidence of lung cancer which is also a result of asbestos exposure.

Signs and Symptoms include: ·

  • shortness of breath

  • chest or abdominal pain

  • cough

  • difficulty swallowing

  • hoarseness

  • blood in sputum coughed up from the lungs

  • significant weight loss.

The life of a person with mesothelioma is forever altered. Methods of treatment vary from person to person. There are three traditional kinds of treatment for patients with malignant Mesothelioma. There are times that it takes a combination of two methods to treat a mesothelioma patient:

  • Surgery (taking out the cancer) ·

  • Chemotherapy (using drugs to fight cancer) ·

  • Radiation therapy (using high dose x-rays or other energy rays to kill cancer

Before your physician decides on which treatment could work for the victim there are certain factors that must be taken into consideration: the victim’s age, current health status, stage of the disease at the time of diagnosis and the location and size of the tumor. So it is clear that different types of treatment options work for different types of people. The family is also encouraged to participate and understand all available options for their loved ones suffering from mesothelioma. The patient and his family is also advised to seek the assistance of a mesothelioma specialist.

Coping strategies among patients also vary. When coping and medical treatments work well together there will be an improvement of energy level as well as promotion of healthy cell growth y getting adequate rest and relaxation, good nutrition, and some exercise.

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