Mesothelioma is a cancer that develops within the mesothelium of the body. The mesothelium is the protective covering in the body. It covers various organs, including the lungs. The mesothelium is made up of two thin layers. When cancer develops in the mesothelium it is between these layers. The narrow space makes it very difficult to diagnose mesothelioma in the early stages.
Mesothelioma is a difficult cancer to treat. Once a diagnosis of mesothelioma is made, the majority of patients will not live longer than eighteen months. There are a variety of reasons for this, including the advanced nature of the disease once it is diagnosed and the lack of an effective surgical method of removing the tumors.
While most cases of mesothelioma occur around the lungs, it can also occur in the abdominal mesothelium, called the peritoneum, or the pericardium. While mesothelioma is most common in the lungs, it is important to differentiate between mesothelioma and lung cancer. They are two very different types of cancer and require different types of treatment.
How Does Asbestos Exposure Occur?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that has been used for centuries in various products. Asbestos has many attributes that make it valuable, including fire resistance. Asbestos was used in many products that were made for protection from heat and flame. This included actual clothing, such as gloves, to stuffing asbestos insulation into electrical conduit, to using asbestos to make fire proof cloth for use in power plants or petroleum refineries.
Asbestos also has excellent insulation and noise deadening qualities. This meant that asbestos was used in many construction products, including floor and ceiling tiles and wall board. Any home built before 1978 probably contains asbestos somewhere.
Asbestos exposure occurs when the asbestos that is in the products becomes damaged. Once damaged, the asbestos fibers are released into the air. The fibers are microscopic, smaller even than a grain of pollen, and invisible to the naked eye. The asbestos fibers, if inhaled or ingested, can become lodged into the body where it can create severe medical problems.
What is Asbestosis?
Asbestosis is a chronic inflammation of the lungs. The inflammation is a direct result of exposure to asbestos. Asbestosis is a progressive disease with no cure. The inflammation causes shortness of breath, which will get progressively worse as the disease progresses. Physicians can treat some of the symptoms of asbestosis with auxiliary oxygen, but it will not cure the disease. Death due to asbestosis occurs by respiratory failure.
Your Long Term Health
Asbestos related diseases, including asbestos cancer, do not show up until decades after exposure. Because of the long latency period between exposure and illness it can be hard to determine if you will suffer from asbestosis or mesothelioma. While asbestos exposure is the only way to develop these health problems, you may reduce or delay their development by taking care of your lungs today.
To protect your breathing:
* If you do smoke, stop. In addition to mesothelioma and asbestosis, there is research that indicates that those who suffer from asbestos exposure and smoke are at a greatly increased risk of developing lung cancer.
* Stay physically fit. Everyone’s definition of physical fitness is different, but up to thirty minutes of activity most days of the week will provide the most benefit. Physical fitness is important for healthy lungs.
* Eat well. While there is no direct correlation proven between diet and mesothelioma or asbestosis, filling your meals with leafy and fibrous vegetables as well as whole grains has been proven to reduce the risk of other types of cancer.
What to do if you Think You May be at Risk?
If you think that you may have been exposed to asbestos at any time, it is important to share your concern with a physician. While asbestosis has no cure, early intervention can slow the progression of the disease. Mesothelioma is a very aggressive form of cancer, and one of the reasons that it has such a low survival rate is because it is not typically diagnosed until the disease is fairly advanced.
If you worked in an industry that has a high rate of asbestos exposure, you should consider yourself at risk of developing an asbestos related disease. Some occupations that had high rates of exposure include ship builders, petroleum plant workers, power plant workers and construction workers.
If you are concerned about asbestos in your home you should research the best remediation methods or hire an experienced contractor to do it for you. Although the remediation is not difficult, you must be careful and follow specific guidelines to reduce the risk of suffering from accidental exposure.
Asbestosis and mesothelioma are both serious conditions that can be a death sentence. While you may not be able to undue previous exposure to asbestos, you can commit to reducing your risk of exposure in the future, and take care of your body so that it will have the best chance of battling any disease that you may develop.