What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs, heart or abdomen. Being exposed to asbestos is the only known cause of malignant mesothelioma.

Asbestos fibers can be easily inhaled, then become embedded in organ linings. Its fibers may cause irritation and mutation of the mesothelioma cells, resulting in the development of mesothelioma cancer. However, research continues to find possible causes and risk factors that can make individuals more vulnerable to having mesothelioma cancer, but asbestos is still a proven link to 90% of all cases.

Symptoms and signs of mesothelioma vary depending on where the cancer takes place.

Peritoneal mesothelioma, which takes place in the abdomen tissues, causes symptoms and signs that might include:
Weight loss
Abdominal pain and swelling

On the other hand, pleural mesothelioma, which occurs in the tissue that surrounds the lungs, causes symptoms and signs that might include:
Weight loss
Chest pain
Shortness and difficulty of breath

Who is under the risk of getting Mesothelioma?

The following factors may cause a person’s risk to getting mesothelioma:
Genetics. About 1% of people who have mesothelioma may have inherited mesothelioma, which means the risk of transmitting the disease was passed from parent to child within the family. It is usually because of the gene changes or mutation called BAP1.
Asbestos exposure. About 70% to 80% of people diagnosed with mesothelioma may have been because they were exposed to asbestos.
Smoking. It does not actually increase the risk of mesothelioma, but combining smoking and exposure to asbestos can increase the risk of certain types of cancer in the lungs.
Radiation exposure. Radiation exposure may cause mesothelioma, especially when a patient has recently received radiation therapy for lymphoma.

Being exposed to asbestos is the primary cause of malignant mesothelioma. Mostly, but not everyone, people with the disease have worked or lived in places where they may have been inhaled or swallowed asbestos particles. Smoking does not primarily cause this disease, but it’s a supporting factor and increases the chance of getting the disease as well.

Between 2 to 3 people with malignant mesothelioma are of the age 65. The disease is four times more common to men than women.

Even though there are people who have mesothelioma that has no known risk factors, there are some who develop mesothelioma that may have been exposed to asbestos. Moreover, it is important to wear protective gear and follow safety measures when asbestos is involved.

Don’t smoke, if you ever do, quit. Research shows that smoking increases the risk of having mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer.
If you feel like that there is asbestos in your home, hire a professional asbestos contractor for an observation and any repair work. Never move or cut any item that could possibly contain asbestos, such as ceiling or floor tiles.
If you have a history of being exposed to asbestos, you are more likely to be at high risk for the disease. Talk to your doctor on early screening, and ensure to watch for any symptoms.

Where to turn for help if you work in a high-risk zone

In the early 1970s, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) created regulations to protect workers from developing asbestos.

In addition to monitoring asbestos risks, OSHA also requires everyone (especially in the workplace) to:
Provide asbestos awareness training
Provide medical surveillance to workers who are exposed to asbestos
Communicate asbestos measures to workers

Being exposed to asbestos is the biggest risk aspect for mesothelioma, so the best option to reduce the risk is to limit your exposure to asbestos at work, at home and in public buildings.

People who can be exposed to high levels of asbestos at the workplace include factory workers, plumbers, ship builders, railroad, and construction workers. If there’s a big chance of on-the-job exposure, such as renovating old buildings, you should follow safety precautions and use protective gears uniquely designed for working with asbestos and ultimately surviving mesothelioma.

Older homes might have asbestos or other harmful materials. You can contact a professional to check your home to find out if there is any risk factor for mesothelioma. This could also mean testing the environment for levels of asbestos. Just because asbestos exists in a home does not actually mean you have to get rid of it. As long as the material is not disturbed or harmful, for instance by remodelling or drilling, asbestos fibers won’t be released into the air. If asbestos is needed to be removed from your home, you should hire a knowledgeable expert to handle this to avoid causing any exposure to your family members or the workers.

Also, asbestos can be found in some public and commercial buildings where the same basic measures apply. Generally, undamaged materials involving asbestos does not pose a health risk. However, they might be a risk if they are damaged in some way, and could release asbestos fibers in the air any time. By law, all educational institutions are required to inspect materials with asbestos and must have a plan ahead on how to manage them.