Mesothelioma Case 101: All You Need to Know

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer caused by asbestos exposure, and it affects the lung and the thin tissue layer that surrounds the lung and different vital organs. This thin layer of tissue is called mesothelium, which gives mesothelioma its name. Mesothelioma normally develops after a person is exposed to asbestos.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral with very thin, heat-resistant, and strong fibers. It is typically used in products such as tiling, insulation, roofing, etc. While asbestos is banned in the States, different occupation workers such as electricians, miners, millers, pipefitters, plumbers, military workers, insulators, and construction workers are at a high risk of asbestos exposure. The higher the amount of exposure, the higher the risks of developing mesothelioma.

Unfortunately, mesothelioma has no set cure, which makes it a highly dangerous and deadly type of cancer. Hence, mesothelioma has a higher mortality rate as compared to other types of cancer. On average, three out of four cases of this cancer begin in the mesothelium around the lung. The survival rate after the original diagnosis extends to about a year. Considering the high mortality rate of mesothelioma, awareness and prevention are your best bet against it.

1. Asbestos Exposure

As asbestos exposure is the main cause of mesothelioma, awareness regarding it is crucial for safety. Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral that can get suspended in the air upon disturbance. These disturbances can be caused by mining, construction, plumbing, or even military work. In fact, thousands of military veterans who served till the 1980s were most likely exposed to asbestos. This puts them at a higher risk of exposure, and as a result, there is a higher concentration of veterans mesothelioma cases at present. Keep in mind that the symptoms of mesothelioma raise their head at least a decade after the initial exposure. This is the reason why it is so hard to catch mesothelioma in its early stages.

2. Symptoms Of Mesothelioma

As mentioned before, the latency period between initial exposure till the symptoms emerge can be decades. The symptoms of mesothelioma are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • The fluid inside the lungs or around the lungs
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing dry cough
  • Respiratory issues

The only issue is that the symptoms of mesothelioma are so mild that they don’t raise any red flags. But if you have a history of exposure, then consult your physician as soon as any of these symptoms develop. To confirm the diagnosis, your physician will conduct a blood test, take tissue and fluid samples and do imaging to determine if it is mesothelioma or not.

3. Mesothelioma Treatments

There are several different types of mesothelioma treatments currently used to help patients who have been diagnosed with this type of cancer. They are:

  • Traditional Treatments

Traditional treatments are the ones that have been used for a long time, such as chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, etc. These treatments are used individually or in combination with other treatment types. This creates a multimodal treatment plan which is customized to suit each patient’s needs. In most cases, radiation and chemotherapy treatments are used prior to or after surgery to kill or shrink the remaining cancer cells which were not removed during the surgery.

  • Emerging Treatment

With the rapid progress in cancer research, new technology, and scientific advancements, new treatments are bringing hopeful results. These new treatments include Gene therapy, which is focused on modifying the cells and the viruses to control cancer’s spread, or Cryo-therapy, in which they freeze the cancer cells using nitrogen gas. Photodynamic therapy is another kind of treatment that includes injecting light-sensitive drugs into the body to kill the cancerous cells.

  • Prevention

It is possible to prevent mesothelioma with adequate awareness and necessary precautionary steps. You must learn about the places you can get exposed to asbestos and what you can do to prevent exposure.

Since asbestos is mostly found in construction material, there is a high chance that any old building built before the 1970s has traces of asbestos in it. Hence, even in the present, asbestos is surrounding us in the form of construction material used for building schools, homes, factories, and offices. Workers can also get exposed to asbestos while working in power plants, shipyards, chemical plants, auto mechanic shops, and railroads.

4. Preventative Measures

Some preventative measures you can take to avoid asbestos exposure are:

  • Avoid disturbing insulation products as asbestos can disturb the air easily.
  • Check for material that contains asbestos before you demolish or renovate a building if the home or building was built before 1980.
  • If you are working with material containing asbestos, make sure you follow the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations.
  • Ask your employer about the asbestos present at the workplace and if it poses a risk.
  • Avoid sawing, cutting, drilling, or scraping any material that contains asbestos without wearing protective gear first.
  • Discard the clothes and shoes that were contaminated with asbestos before going home.
  • Don’t dust, vacuum, or sweep the asbestos debris, as this causes the fibers to disperse in the air. Use a wet cleaning method or use a vacuum that comes with a HEPA filter.
  • Dispose of the material that contains asbestos according to state regulations.

For decades people had no idea that they were being exposed to asbestos in tasks as simple as home renovation. Moreover, there was a major gap in awareness about asbestos exposure and mesothelioma. In fact, some companies tried to hide these risks from their workers so that they don’t scare anyone away instead of implementing measures and policies to prevent asbestos exposure.

Mesothelioma is a dangerous and fatal type of cancer that has no proper cure yet. The cancer cells often tend to emerge or travel to other vital organs and affect their functionality. For this reason, you must learn about the risks and preventative measures to avoid asbestos exposure and undergo proper treatment once diagnosed. Proper treatment and measures can improve prognosis, and if caught early, the diagnosis can improve the patient’s chances of survival.

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