Asbestos and Mesothelioma- A Deadly Disease
Asbestos mesothelioma is a rare but dangerous cancer caused by exposure to asbestos particles suspended in the air. Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring silicate minerals. It is made up of strong and durable fibers that are resistant to heat and fire. Thin long and flexible structure of asbestos fibers allows you to weave them even into cloth. These inherent qualities of asbestos prompted the manufacturers of industrial, automotive, maritime, scientific, building and consumer products to use it widely during 1890-1970.
Asbestos mesothelioma affects the lining of lungs, abdominal organs or heart. Asbestos mesothelioma affecting lining of lungs or pleural membrane is called pleural mesothelioma. Peritoneal mesothelioma affects the lining of abdominal organs or peritoneum. When this disease shows its effect in the lining of heart or pericardium, it is known as pericardial mesothelioma. Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma are pain and swelling in abdomen, weakness, loss of weight, loss of appetite and nausea. In most of the cases, fluid accumulates in the peritoneal space. Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma are persistent cough, difficulty in breathing, weakness, loss of weight, loss of appetite, chest pain, lower back pain and difficulty in swallowing. In most of the cases, a fluid accumulates in pleural space.
Most unfortunate thing about the asbestos mesothelioma is its long latency period. Any individual, who had asbestos exposure even 20 to 50 years back, may have asbestos mesothelioma lying dormant in his body without any appearance of aforementioned symptoms. By the time, symptoms become noticeable, it is already too late. The average survival time of all types of mesothelioma patients is not more than 24 months.
Diagnosis of Asbestos Mesothelioma
Diagnosis of asbestos mesothelioma involves x-ray, CT-scan, peritoneoscopy and bronchoscopy. After finding any abnormality doctor may suggest biopsy. In biopsy, we send a tissue sample for pathological examination. After examining tissue sample an expert pathologist can confirm about the development of disease.
Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery are some treatment options available for the patients suffering from asbestos mesothelioma. People suffering form asbestos mesothelioma can filer lawsuits to recover damages for the persons or industries responsible for their asbestos exposure.
Asbestos and Mesothelioma – The Killer Connection
Mesothelioma and asbestos are so much linked that many people call it by the name of mesothelioma asbestos. While mesothelioma is a serious cancer, asbestos is its main cause. While one may approve of things that remain of use for a long time, their effect on the surroundings decides the worthiness of that product in the end. The same holds true with asbestos. The 1940s and 1950s saw a surge of asbestos as the next best thing to happen after cement in the construction industry. Due to its high degree of stability and resistance to very high temperatures, asbestos was applied greatly in insulators and ceiling tiles in homes, schools and factories.
However, this product is a harmful contaminant. Asbestos has the tendency to break into small particles and remain suspended in the air for longer durations. Any individual that comes in contact or inhales it becomes vulnerable to serious diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer or the mesothelioma lung cancers.
Mesothelioma, asbestos related cancer, acquires its name from the mesothelium cells that are responsible for protecting and enabling easy movement of our vital organs such as lungs, heart and the abdomen in the body. Mesothelioma is generally of three types, pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma and pericardial mesothelioma.
If a person is suffering from hoarseness, difficulty in breathing, loss in weight, coughing, blood in sputum, chest pain, weak muscles, reduced tactile sensitivity, he may be suffering from Pleural mesothelioma or the cancer of lining of the lungs. This is the most common type of mesothelioma and almost two-thirds of the mesothelioma patients suffer from pleural mesothelioma. The Peritoneal mesothelioma or cancer of the lining of the abdomen causes impaired bowel motion, bloating, swelling in feet, and nausea. This is less common among mesothelioma patients and it affects one-third of the mesothelioma patients. Pericardial mesothelioma is of the cancer of lining of the heart. It is also caused because of asbestos exposure. However, its prevalence is rare. Pericardial mesothelioma manifests in the form of chest pain, palpitations, cough and dyspnea.
Lawsuits Related to Mesothelioma and Asbestos:
The hazardous consequences of long term contact with asbestos and its linkage to mesothelioma cancers has led to several lawsuits against its manufacturers. The mesothelioma or asbestos attorneys claim that the asbestos manufacturers were aware of the harmful affects of asbestos exposure and yet persisted with its use for profit motives. This is the reason why juries have ordered stringent awards in many mesothelioma and asbestos related lawsuits.
The internal organs of the human body are encased in a protective sac called the mesothelium. Examples of mesothelilial membranes are the peritoneum (abdominal organs), pleura (lungs), and pericardium (heart).
Under specific conditions, the cells of the protective membrane divide uncontrolled and become cancerous. This disease is termed as Mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer which is caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos dust.
The disease is found to occur among those who work in shipyards, asbestos mines and factories, industries that produce asbestos based products, and the heating and construction businesses. Approximately 3,000 cases occur each year in the US, and most patients are between 50-70 years old. Statistics show that males are commonly affected and among them whites more than African Americans.
First studied in the late 1700s in depth studies were only done in the 1960s. Tumors of the Mesothelioma can be benign or malignant. The malignant Mesothelioma are categorized into three types:
Epithelioid, accounting for 50-70% of mesotheliomas.
Sarcomatoid, accounting for 7-20%.
Mixed or bi-phasic, accounting for 20-35%.
When asbestos fibers are breathed into the lungs they travel through large air passages to reach the smaller passages and from them the pleura. In the pleura they damage: the mesothelial cells leading to cancer; lung tissue causing lung cancer; and the development of scar tissue within the lungs known as asbestosis. When asbestos fibers are swallowed they reach the abdominal cavity and cause peritoneal mesothelioma.
Research reveals that the disease only manifests 20-50 years after being exposed to asbestos dust. The symptoms are not specific to the disease but a patient may develop:
Chest pain accompanied by tightness believed to be caused by accumulation of fluid in the pleura.
Low back pain.
Swelling of face and arms.
Weight loss that is unexplained.
Persistent dry cough.
Problems with blood clotting.
Since the above are common to minor ailments, patients often ignore the symptoms. It is advisable to consult a doctor if any of the above symptoms persist or if you feel you have been knowingly or unknowingly exposed to asbestos.
A doctor will:
Take down a detailed medical history and try and determine the symptoms and risk factors.
Do a thorough physical examination and check for signs of:
o Pleural effusion, fluid accumulated in the chest cavity.
o Fluid in the abdominal cavity.
o Pericardial effusion, fluid in the lining of the heart.
Take a chest x-ray and check for thickening of the pleura, calcifications, and lowered lung fissures.
Ask for a CT scan to determine clearly the location, size, and extent of the problem if any is suspected.
Recommend tests of tissue samples and pleural fluids.
Other risk factors are cigarette or cigar smoking, exposure to radiation, exposure to zeolite a compound that is similar to asbestos, exposure to or infections caused by SV40, a Simian virus.
Those who work in a risky environment should wear protective clothing, have the surroundings tested regularly for suspended asbestos particles, and ensure that they have regular medical tests and report to the doctor any ailments that persist.
Being aware of the disease and its problems helps.