Mesothelioma is an infrequent and exceedingly dangerous form of cancer that typically originates in the mesothelium—the lining of tissue that serves as a shield for a number of vital organs in the body. Mesothelioma cancer frequently develops from exposure to asbestos filaments or fibers. The bulk of mesothelioma patients will exhibit a detailed history with–whether through employment or private handling– asbestos fibers and/or filaments.
Mesothelioma cancer exists in several forms; however, the most common cases develop in the internal cavity of the chest and the outer lining of the lungs.
Common mesothelioma symptoms include: shortness of breath (derives from a build-up of fluid between the chest wall and lungs), incessant cough and unexpected or severe weight loss.
One of the reasons why mesothelioma sufferers have such a poor prognosis is because the disease is nearly impossible to detect during its infancy stages. Mesothelioma symptoms may lay dormant for years; the slow-developing symptoms may not become evident until 15-20 years following initial infection. Because of this, the majority of patients will not be aware of their medical infection until the cancer reaches stage III or IV. When mesothelioma cancer advances to this point, the disease is deemed inoperable—only palliative measures are possible.
Similar to other forms of cancers, mesothelioma is categorized by stage. When the disease progresses the outlook—regarding survival rate–becomes utterly dreadful. The insidious nature of mesothelioma cancer works in tandem with its inconspicuousness symptoms to create a fatal disease. An overwhelming percentage of mesothelioma patients will die from the cancer within a year of diagnosis. Because most mesothelioma patients are made unaware of their condition until the cancer has already metastasized, treatment options are largely palliative in nature.
Due to these bleak characteristics it is paramount that you take the proper precautions when handling asbestos and other agents that may promote the formation of mesothelioma tumors.
Mesothelioma and Asbestos:
Mesothelioma cancer, which typically attacks the abdomen and lungs, was exceedingly rare until the commercial and industrial use of asbestos expanded in the 1900’s. After decades of medical research, oncologists and other professionals in the field have concluded that asbestos exposure is the primary culprit for fostering and promoting the development of mesothelioma.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer and Mesothelioma confirmed this sentiment in March of 2009—the institute claims that all forms of asbestos fibers can perpetuate the development of mesothelioma and that asbestos exposure is in fact, the foremost cause of mesothelioma cancer.
Where am I at Risk of Being Exposed to Asbestos?
Until the early 1980s, because of their heat resistant particles, asbestos fibers were practically everywhere, including homes and businesses. Work-related asbestos exposure was the greatest factor regarding the precipitation of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related cancers. With so many materials once created with asbestos, there are a variety of ways an individual could have experienced exposure, including:
• A person may experience asbestos exposure by living in a residential area near an asbestos mine
• People may experience asbestos exposure from working at asbestos mines or asbestos processing plants
• Individuals are often exposed to asbestos from working in high-risk occupational settings such as positions within the automotive or construction industry.
• Asbestos exposure is common when renovating homes that contain asbestos pipes
• Serving on military ships or facilities where asbestos was previously used in construction is another way to be exposed to asbestos.
Generally, it takes repeated, heavy exposure of asbestos in an occupational environment to be deemed at risk for mesothelioma cancer and other asbestos-related diseases. Once the asbestos filaments accumulate in the body, they stick to the lungs and chest cavity. The fibers then trigger a number of biological shifts that may lead to mesothelioma cancer.
How Does Mesothelioma Cancer Develop?
An individual can be exposed to asbestos fibers by ingesting or inhaling the microscopic asbestos filaments. These fibers lodge in the mesothelial lining of vital organs, such as the lungs. Over time, these fibers eat away at the organs resulting in the development of cancerous tumors.
Although the exact way in which asbestos filaments form mesothelioma are widely unknown, there are many postulations to describe the formation:
• Asbestos fibers cause the mesothelial cells to become inflamed and irritated, leading to irreversible cellular damage and cancer.
• The fibers enter the mesothelial cells and ultimately disrupt the natural functions of cellular division. This results in genetic alterations that lead to cancer formations.
• Exposure to asbestos can also trigger cellular production of oncoproteins, which disrupt the mesothelial cells natural function. When infected, the cells ignore cell division restraints and become cancerous.
The common factor which unites these theories is that asbestos leads to irreparable cellular damage, which disrupts the natural cell cycle. Once normal function of the cycle is lost, the cells will begin to divide and expand uncontrollably. These cells will then accumulate mesothelioma tumors, leading to the proliferation of the cancer.
Although asbestos exposure is the common causative agent for mesothelioma cancer, other factors may be involved during the development of the disease. These potential risk factors include the following:
• Radiation Exposure
• The Simian Virus 40 (contaminant of polio vaccinations that was commonly administered during the 50’s and 60’s)
• Other organic materials and genetic history
Although a popular belief, smoking has not been found to perpetuate the formation of mesothelioma cancer in the human body. Research; however, has shown that smoking cigarettes can weaken the body’s lungs and reduce its ability to expel cigarette fibers once they are inhaled. Smoking may also aggravate other asbestos-related symptoms or conditions, including asbestosis.
If you or a family member has been recently diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer, a second opinion is necessary to illuminate your treatment options. Mesothelioma specialists will help clarify the diagnosis and shed light on route is best for you or your loved one.