In honor of healthy lungs month, Nurse Next Door connected with the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance to learn more about the disease. Read more below.
For most people, the thought of mesothelioma is usually tied to those all-too-common television commercials discussing financial compensation for those diagnosed with the disease. And while those commercials may be easy to ignore, the reality is that nearly 3,000 people will be diagnosed with the disease this year alone, and the number is expected to hold steady through the end of the decade.
In honor of healthy lungs month, the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance put together a few facts you might not know about mesothelioma, what causes it and who is most likely to be affected by the disease.
Mesothelioma is linked to asbestos exposure
Asbestos actually refers to six different types of fibrous minerals that are known for their resistance to most chemical reactions, are fire-resistant and incredibly durable. However, when people are exposed to the fibers through inhalation or ingestion, they may get caught in the lungs and eventually become trapped in the lung lining, known as the mesothelium, where tumors may form.
Mesothelioma can take decades to develop
For the most part, those who are diagnosed with mesothelioma are senior citizens, though doctors are seeing more middle-aged people develop the disease as well. The reason why older people tend to be at higher risk of developing mesothelioma is because the disease has a very long latency period, ranging anywhere from 10-50 years from the time of exposure.
Those who may have been accidentally exposed to asbestos fibers years ago may go for decades without showing any symptoms at all. However, by the time those symptoms do present themselves, it’s usually during the later stages when treatment options are more limited.
Anyone can develop the disease, but certain people are at higher risk
The more you expose yourself to certain chemicals or conditions, the more likely you are to develop certain diseases. For example, those who worked in the construction industries, including roofers, plumbers, electricians and carpenters are much more likely to be exposed to asbestos fibers than other professions.
Today, more do-it-yourselfers may be accidentally exposing themselves to asbestos while tearing down walls, ripping up floor tiles or repairing damage during a flood or other natural disaster. To prevent unnecessarily subjecting yourself to those fibers, have your home inspected for asbestos prior to starting any type of home remodeling or renovation project.
Mesothelioma symptoms look a lot like other illnesses, including some common ones
When you look at the list of symptoms associated with mesothelioma, it reads a lot like the list of symptoms attached to other respiratory ailments. Common symptoms like fatigue, shortness of breath, hoarseness, fever and aches and pains are all commonly associated with the flu, but those same symptoms are also attached to pleural mesothelioma.
Other common symptoms, like weight loss, loss of appetite and nausea could easily be the stomach bug, but they’re also sometimes associated with peritoneal mesothelioma, which affects the lining of the abdomen.
It’s important to remember that even if you think you can “walk off” your symptoms, it’s best to not ignore the signals your body is sending and to schedule a visit with your primary physician if they don’t subside.
The biggest lessons we can all learn are to be aware of our surroundings and make sure to listen to our bodies when they’re telling us something. Mesothelioma is preventable, and by taking the right steps, you can breathe easy knowing you’ve done your best to avoid this terrible disease.