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Asbestos Cancer


Mesothelioma: More About this Asbestos Cancer

By David Arnold Livingston

Cancers and other forms of diseases are usually named according to the part of the body or the internal organ where abnormal growth of malignant cells takes place. In the case of Mesothelioma, the abnormal cells grow in the mesothelium, a surface cell layer that covers and protects most internal organs. Normally, the mesothelium produces small amount of fluid in order to lubricate its layers—one of which directly covers the organ—and allow the movement of the organs, like the expansion and contraction of the lungs. A Mesothelioma cancer patient’s mesothelium produces too much of this lubricating fluid, thereby damaging nearby tissues and organs. The most common form of Mesothelioma is Pleural Mesothelioma, which begins in the Pleural or Peritoneum, the membrane that lines the chest cavity and covers the lungs.

About 2,000 cases of Mesothelioma have been noted yearly in United States. This is still a rare disease to consider, although the reported incidents have escalated in the past two decades. It has been observed and proven that heavy and long exposure to asbestos is the prime cause of Mesothelioma. Asbestos is a group of minerals in strong, flexible and fibrous form. It is used in industrial products such as cement, brake linings, textiles, electrical insulation, flooring products, chemical filters, fireproofing materials and others. This explains why most Mesothelioma patients are working in construction sites, shipyards and manufacturing companies of said industrial products. Small asbestos particles float in the air and are either inhaled or swallowed by workers or persons within the vicinity. Aside from Mesothelioma, these people can acquire asbestosis, a non-cancerous chronic lung sickness and other forms of cancer of the lungs, cancer of the larynx and kidney.

Asbestos-related Mesothelioma comprise only 70 to 80 percent of the all the reported cases of the said cancer. There are reported Mesothelioma cases wherein the patients did not have any known exposure to asbestos. Some have been exposed only for a short period of time but still developed the cancer 20 to 50 years after the exposure, like in the case of a Mesothelioma cancer patient who only washed clothes that have been exposed to asbestos. Likewise, asbestos fibers that have been stuck in the hair strands of a factory worker can also risk the health of others whom he lives with. It is therefore important for workers exposed to asbestos to change their clothes and take a shower before leaving the workplace to prevent his family members or companions from inhaling the asbestos particles and thus, from acquiring Mesothelioma.

The Mesothelioma cancer is slow-forming. That’s why one develops the cancer so many years after the exposure to asbestos. Some develop the cancer fifty years after the exposure, which makes it hard to determine whether the person has Mesothelioma or not, especially when the patient has no knowledge of the exposure to asbestos. Moreover, malignant Mesothelioma shows signs similar to those of other ailments such as pneumonia. Symptoms of Pleural Mesothelioma also evident in other illnesses include: shortness of breath, persistence of cough, weight loss and chest pain. Peritoneal Mesothelioma, which affects the abdominal cavity, is indicated by swelling of and pain in the abdomen, weight loss, bowel obstruction, anemia, blood clotting abnormalities and fever.

Complete physical examination is needed to make sure one has Mesothelioma cancer. This includes xrays of the body part where the symptoms are felt or seen, CT scan and MRI. To confirm Mesothelioma, a biopsy is also performed by a surgeon or oncologist (a physician who is specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of a cancer). The sample tissue removed by the surgeon is examined by the pathologist. Once confirmed, the doctor then finds out the extent of the cancer, which is crucial to the treatment of Mesothelioma. Although malignant, Mesothelioma when earlier diagnosed can still be treated. Most Mesothelioma patients undergo surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

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