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Mesothelioma and Asbestos - A Guide

Asbestos is a known carcinogen, and many old buildings include asbestos
in the walls, ceilings, and floors. It is a dangerous substance that can
cause serious illness when inhaled

Overview

When intact, asbestos is not especially hazardous. However, when asbestos materials break apart, asbestos fibers are released into the air. When these fibers are inhaled, they become lodged in the lungs and cannot escape. Excessive accumulation of these fibers can lead to abrasions on the lung wall, which will eventually become scarred. Over time, this damaged wall tissue can result in the formation of cancer.

Workers at the plants and factories that made asbestos products were often the victims of this deadly material. The asbestos fibers got in the air and when inhaled produced lung diseases such as asbestosis, malignant mesothelioma, and lung cancer. The occupational health diseases caused by asbestos fibers affected the lives of tens of thousands. Workers at foundries, power plants, refineries, and construction sites were exposed to asbestos. Asbestos was widely used in naval vessels and many sailors were exposed.



Diagnosis

Mesothelioma can be difficult to diagnose as its early symptoms are similar to those of many other diseases. Further complicating diagnosis, is the amount of time between asbestos inhalation and the manifestation of malignant mesothelioma. In many cases, the disease does not surface until decades after exposure. This long latency period often means that patients are unaware of their high risk for contracting mesothelioma.

Symptoms

Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma may include shortness of breath (caused by expanding pleural effusion), chest pain, and persistent dry cough; symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma may include abdominal pain, increased abdominal girth, distention of the abdomen, ascites (fluid in the abdomen) and digestive disturbances. Less common symptoms of both may include fatigue, night sweats, and weight loss.

Once a diagnosis of mesothelioma is confirmed, treatment options may vary according to the age, overall health status, stage of the cancer, and the patient's wishes.

If you worked around asbestos at any point in your life, remember that asbestos diseases remain a possibility for you as you get older.

Importance of Identifying Pleural Mesothelioma Symptoms

Pleural mesothelioma is a difficult cancer to treat. The majority of patients do not survive more than 12 months following diagnosis. As such, it is important to identify symptoms as early as possible, so that an early diagnosis can be made. If caught quickly enough, the patient may have more favorable treatment options available to him or her.

Furthermore, if an individual has a known history of exposure to asbestos, it is recommended that he or she undergo routine examinations to check for the illness. In some cases, the disease may be identified before any noticeable symptoms have occurred.

Resources

Learn About Mesothelioma Symptoms and Treatment

www.mesotheliomaweb.org

Mesothelioma Web is a comprehensive, patient-focused website that explains the causes, symptoms, and treatments for the cancer mesothelioma.The editors keep up with medical research and include links to on-line resources for more information. Our coordinators are available to answer questions by phone or email and to help patients find treatment centers. The site also is certified by the Health on the Net Foundation as meeting their criteria for accuracy and ethics.



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