Mesothelioma is a cancer that develops in the mesothelium.
The mesothelium is a lining, or coating, that covers the lungs, heart, and the majority of internal organs of the body.
Mesothelioma is most commonly found in the lining that covers the lungs, or separates the lungs from the chest wall.
It is most often caused by asbestos exposure, and is found more often in patients who smoke during exposure.
Smoking itself seems to have no impact unless exposure to asbestos also occurs. The correlation is thought to occur because of the fact that smokers take deeper breathes, and therefore pull more asbestos particles into the lungs.
What Is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a natural group of minerals which form fibrous strands that can be found in nature. These fibers can be pulled apart into thin strands or threads. These threads can be woven or used in the manufacturing process of numerous products.
In the early nineteen hundreds asbestos was used in many household products like flooring, wall paper, roofing shingles and the inside of heating and air unit filters.
Many people were exposed to this substance within their own home. Asbestos is inhaled when small particles of the substance break apart and start floating through the air.
Who Is at the Highest Risk?
While asbestos exposure is strictly regulated today, that was not true many years ago. It is estimated that over 27 million people were exposed between the years 1940 and 1979.
These people were exposed to asbestos when working in manufacturing plants, or in location where asbestos was used in environmental products. Ship yard workers commonly used or handled products that contained asbestos.
However, some people worked in asbestos mines before the risk factors became well known. Asbestos is still used today in small amounts, and the workers who use it are required to wear protective coverings.
While workers who handle asbestos are at the highest risk, it has also been found that their spouses and children have a higher risk rate.
Asbestos can become attached to the clothing or shoes and be carried into the home. During the laundry cycle these particles may become dislodged and transferred into the air.
Is Mesothelioma Fatal?
Mesothelioma can be treated if it is found early. However, the signs and symptoms of the disease often do not occur until the disease has progressed to a fatal level.
For this reason most people do not know they have mesothelioma until they are in the most advanced stage of the disease.
Misdiagnosis can be another problem when treating mesothelioma. Many physicians begin looking for lung cancer or other diseases before mesothelioma.
For this reason it is imperative to have regular checkups and inform your doctor if you have been exposed to asbestos.
Prevention and early diagnosis are your best tools for avoiding the development of mesothelioma and treating it.
If you become exposed and wait until symptoms of short breath or chest pain occur you will have a much lower chance at surviving and beating the cancer.