Cancer caused by Asbestos
You must have heard of someone getting diagnosed with mesothelioma? Or you may have heard that asbestos causes cancer? It is true that asbestos causes a deadly form of cancer called mesothelioma but the good news is that it is rare and about 3,000 new mesothelioma cases are diagnosed each year in the United States. You can further break down that number into demographics and professions, which are more likely to be diagnosed with mesothelioma than others. You do not need to worry unnecessarily about being diagnosed with mesothelioma, as it is rare. That being said, you do however need to know what it is, what causes it and most importantly its symptoms.
Asbestos is a set of naturally occurring minerals long looked upon possessing great heat, fire and chemicals resisting properties. There are six types of asbestos:
Crocidolite asbestos which is also known as blue asbestos is considered to be the most dangerous type of asbestos. Chrysotile asbestos, on the other hand, is considered to be the safest type of asbestos because its fibers are less likely to be inhaled. It is also known as white asbestos.
Asbestos containing products have been freely used in the construction of houses like insulation materials, etc. In the locomotive industry, asbestos products have been used in the manufacturing of breaks, etc. Before asbestos’ dangerous side effects were discovered in the 1970’s, the U.S. military bases, especially the U.S. Navy, were freely using asbestos containing products. May be this is one of the many reasons why a large number of the Navy personnel have been diagnosed with asbestos related medical conditions like mesothelioma.
What you need to know about asbestos is that it is generally safe except during its break up process. So asbestos is particularly dangerous during its mining and when asbestos containing product is breaking up, etc. This is because during its break up process, asbestos fibers, which are microscopic in size, get airborne and is susceptible to be inhaled. They can travel inside a human body and can settle down in the lungs. Since they are rigid, therefore they can cause scarring of the tissue lining the lungs called mesothelium, causing mesothelioma, over a period of time. The word mesothelioma comes from mesothelium tissues.
So as I have explained above, mesothelioma is a deadly form of cancer which affects the mesothelium tissues. So how does death occur due to mesothelioma? What you need to know is that mesothelium tissues produce a fluid which is essential for the organ, it is lining, to function properly. For example, mesothelium fluid allows the lungs to move inside the chest, making the breathing process easier. If the cancer has developed, the lungs aren’t moving properly inside the chest, making breathing difficult and painful for the person diagnosed with mesothelioma. Difficulty breathing, by the way, is one of the major signs of mesothelioma but more on mesothelioma symptoms later in the blog.
It would be wrong to suggest that the mesothelium tissue lines the lungs alone. The tissue lines several other internal human organs like the heart, abdomen and the testicles as well, giving birth to different types of mesotheliomas. Mesothelioma of the lungs also called Pleural mesothelioma remains to be the most commonly diagnosed mesotheliomas of all types. About ¾ people diagnosed with mesothelioma are diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. Next, it is mesothelioma of the abdomen called Peritoneal mesothelioma. About ¼ people diagnosed with mesothelioma are diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma. It is very rare for someone diagnosed with mesothelioma to be diagnosed with mesothelioma of the heart called Pericardial mesothelioma or mesothelioma of the testicles called Tunica vaginalis. Therefore, I will be dwelling into the symptoms of mesothelioma of the lungs and the abdomen only.
Symptoms of asbestos lung cancer
Pleural mesothelioma has the following symptoms; therefore if you have experienced them, you need to see your heath care professional at once:
- Swelling of the face and arms
- Trouble swallowing
- Weight loss
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in the lower back or at the side of the chest
Symptoms of Peritoneal mesothelioma
You need to know about the symptoms of mesothelioma of the abdomen as well, since approximately 25% of the total numbers of mesothelioma affected people are diagnosed with it. The following are some of the signs of peritoneal mesothelioma:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weight loss
- Swelling or fluid in the abdomen
- Abdominal pains
Professions and trades at risk of Asbestos Exposure
I have written earlier that not everyone is susceptible to be exposed to asbestos. But in some professions getting exposed to asbestos fibers is an unavoidable professional hazard and they are listed below:
- Railroad workers
- Pipe fitters
- Navy personnel
- Merchant marine seamen
- Mason laborers
- Foundry workers
- Drywall tapers
- Construction workers
- Cement finishers
- Bulldozer operators
- Brake mechanics
- Auto mechanics
Mesothelioma is rare but some are more susceptible to be diagnosed with it than others, as listed above. Add to the list another fact that Latinos and whites are likely to be diagnosed with it than African or Asian Americans. Interestingly, men more than women, have been diagnosed with mesothelioma. This, however, does not mean that women are not diagnosed with it.
So if you have been involved in any one of the abovementioned professions and have experienced any of the symptoms listed above, I would urge you to see your health care professional at the earliest, as early diagnoses of mesothelioma may be your only way towards recovery.
Asbestos cancer treatment
One of the biggest reasons why mesothelioma remains largely untreatable is that it is often diagnosed very late; when the cancer has already spread to other organs and cannot be surgically removed. Mesothelioma may take as long as 50 years to develop. So its development is a very slow process and its symptoms often confused with something else, henceforth leaving it either not diagnosed at all or diagnosed very late. Whatever the case may be, your health care professional, depending upon your prognosis, may decide to prescribe clinical trials, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and surgery to ease the symptoms of mesothelioma and to make your life as normal as possible.
Asbestos related litigation is amongst the longest running mass torts in the US history. Many defendants have since folded, declared bankruptcy and set up asbestos victims trust funds as part of the bankruptcy deal. To find out more about your legal options contact a product liability or personal injury lawyer who has specialized in asbestos exposure cases.