The Rise of Asbestos-Related Illness
Have you lived in a home built prior to 1980? Or attended a school built prior to 1980? How about a work place? Are you a veteran or have you worked in manufacturing, building or construction? Asbestos has been mined and used commercially in North America since the late 1800s, with increased use particularly during World War II and later many industries such as building and construction prior to 1980. Chances are, either you, a friend or family member have encountered asbestos at some-point in your life and there are numerous often-oblivious ways to be exposed, making it particularly crucial to your health, to be aware of asbestos and know how to prevent its exposure.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has acknowledged asbestos as a known human carcinogen, however, asbestos is not yet banned in the United States and its overall awareness remains limited. Asbestos related illness in the form of mesothelioma cancer accounts for 3,000 new diagnoses each year, not counting the diagnoses numbers linked to lung cancer, laryngeal cancer, ovarian cancer, asbestosis and other asbestos-related illnesses.
A recent report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has even unveiled that asbestos-related illness mortality rates are on the rise. The report studied the over 45,221 deaths among diagnosed patients aged over 25 years in the United States, between 1999-2015. White, non-Hispanic males between the age of 55 and those over the age of 85 are among the demographic with the highest malignant mesothelioma mortality rates.
Mesothelioma Causes, Signs & Symptoms
While considering mesothelioma causes and asbestos exposure, work history, duration of exposure and types of asbestos increase the risk of developing illness. Asbestos is the only, scientifically proven cause of mesothelioma cancer, but what is asbestos?
Asbestos is classified as a group of naturally occurring, silicate minerals. Sounds safe enough. A naturally occurring mineral, like the many rocks and minerals we studied as children in earth science class. However, due to the fibrous nature of these minerals, fibers can be easily inhaled and ingested leading to lodged asbestos fibers in the lining of the abdominal cavity, or in the lungs or heart, causing inflammation and scar tissue that can eventually lead to tumors and life-threatening illness such as mesothelioma, up to 10-50 years after exposure. Therefore, it is likely that symptoms may not arise until then.
Occupational risks of mesothelioma include common industrial occupations that come in contact with asbestos containing materials such as insulation, electrical wiring, piping materials, paint, roofing and flooring and vehicular materials like brake pads. Veterans, firefighters, mechanics, construction workers, mechanics, shipyard workers, boiler workers, machine workers, demolition crews and pipefitters or those who have worked on shipyards, construction sites, steel mills, railroads, power plants, auto shops, oil refineries, mines or with the manufacturing of asbestos products are at high risk of experiencing signs and symptoms.
Signs & Symptoms
Mesothelioma symptoms can often be confused with warning signs of other diseases, which is why it is important to be aware of your potential and actual history associated with asbestos exposure. Additionally, signs and symptoms of mesothelioma vary depending on cell type and location of the tumor(s) in the body and often times, most people in the early stage of mesothelioma will experience little to no symptoms or hardly notice them, if at all.
The most commonly diagnosed type of mesothelioma, is pleural mesothelioma affecting the pleura or linings of the lung. Patients may experience chest pain fever, dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), Pleural effusion (fluid buildup), and dyspnea (shortness of breath).
Many pleural mesothelioma patients show no symptoms until a late stage of the cancer and early symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath may be dull or slight and are often ignored or thought to be due to aging or other disorder. Common misdiagnoses include influenza, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and even lung cancer.
The appearance of symptoms for peritoneal mesothelioma varies from patient to patient. Most common symptoms experienced by peritoneal mesothelioma patients are abdominal pain and swelling, significant weight loss and fluid buildup in the abdomen (ascites). Nausea, fever and signs of anemia may also be experienced. Common misdiagnoses include inguinal hernia and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Commonly, patients with pericardial mesothelioma experience chest pain, fluid build-up around the heart (Pericardial effusion), heart murmurs, shortness of breath, an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), fever and night sweats. Depending on which symptoms are most dominant, pericardial mesothelioma can be mistaken for heart failure, coronary heart disease, inflammation of the lining of the heart (pericarditis) and muscle (myocarditis).
If you have been exposed to or if it is likely that you could have been exposed to asbestos and have experienced any of the above symptoms, talk to your doctor to determine whether mesothelioma or a different disease may be the cause of symptoms.