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Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is one of the deadliest diseases known to man; the average life span of an inflicted person from the time of diagnosis until death is less than 24 months. It’s a disease that strikes approximately 3,000 United States citizens each and every year; hard working people who have labored for a lifetime to provide for their families, doing the work that keeps this country running and a great place to live. They worked in factories, at shipyards, in mines, for the US military, as engineers, as pipefitters, as steel workers, as auto mechanics, and in so many other professions. They came home to their loved ones exhausted and covered in dirt and dust; tired, but content that they had a job and were providing for their family. Content that they were putting food on the table and a house over their loved one’s heads. Content that they were working to make a better life for their families in this generation and the next...

But what they didn’t know was that while they were working so hard, they were not only slowly killing themselves, but those that they were working so hard to help; their family, their loved ones.

Mesothelioma is a disease that is almost 100% preventable; the only known cause is via exposure to the deadly mineral Asbestos. It comes from inhaling the particles of dust as the asbestos degrades; eating away at the lining of your lungs and developing into a deadly cancer. Dust that was inhaled in clouds of white powder, dust that was carried home on the clothes of the men who built this country, dust that was cleaned from the clothes by the wives and children who supported their sole provider at home, dust that was packed around the heating systems in houses and offices and schools, dust that carried a deadly price; and dust made a fortune in blood money for the companies that produced it.

Mesothelioma is a cancerous disease that is becoming more and more common. Affecting the mesothelial cells that make up the mesothelium – the outer lining that protects the body’s major organs such as the heart, stomach and lungs – this form of cancer is a direct result of regular and unprotected exposure to asbestos. The symptoms and the latency period of this disease mean that it is difficult to diagnose. Treatment for mesothelioma is still being investigated through clinical trials and research, but as a rule it responds poorly to the treatments that are currently used.

There are also other people at risk from the disease; namely those who have had regular contact with a person who has worked with asbestos. Because these workers regularly carried dust and fibres on their clothes, skin and in their hair, they fibres and dust could be ingested by family members, who were then at risk of developing mesothelioma, respiratory problems or another asbestos related disease.

The organs most affected by mesothelioma are the lungs and the surrounding tissue. Pleural mesothelioma, which is the type affecting the lining of the lungs, is the most common variation of this cancer with symptoms which include breathing and swallowing difficulties, coughing, shortness of breath, fever and weight loss. The abdomen is another area affected by this cancer, and this variation is known as peritoneal mesothelioma. This type of mesothelioma is not as common as pleural mesothelioma. Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma can include nausea and vomiting, weight loss and loss of appetite, fever, bowel obstruction and pain or swelling of the stomach area. The last variation of the cancer is pericardial mesothelioma, which is where the cancer affects the heart and the tissue surrounding it. This variation is a rare one, and symptoms can include palpitations, breathing difficulties, and persistent coughing.

The symptoms of mesothelioma are very common to a number of other diseases which are more well-known in society. Therefore, it is not unusual for the patient to be misdiagnosed when he or she goes in displaying any or all of these symptoms. People who have worked with asbestos should always let their doctor know this so that the doctor is more aware and more conscious of the possibilities in the event that the symptoms do manifest. A speedy diagnosis is important to the effective treament, and without being aware of the facts your doctor may not be able to make the diagnosis as quickly as he would if he is aware of the situation.

Although there are treatments for mesothelioma, they do not have a high success rate particularly on patients in whom the cancer is in its later stages. The faster the mesothelioma is diagnosed and treated, the more chance of success, which is why it is important to get as fast a diagnosis as possible.

Current treatments for mesothelioma include surgery, radiation therapy, palliative therapy and chemotherapy. The National Institute of Cancer along with a variety of other organizations and sponsors are currently conducting research into mesothelioma and carrying out trails to try and find a treatment that will not only be more effective but will enable the successful treatment of the disease even in its later stages.

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