What is mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a cancer that can occur in the layer of tissue covering your internal organs, called mesothelium. It is an aggressive form of cancer. Treatments can be offered, but a cure has not been developed. Mesothelioma most commonly affects the tissue around the lungs, but can also affect the organs of the abdomen.
What are the risk factors?
Asbestos exposure is thought to be a common risk factor for mesothelioma. Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral, and its fibers are resistant to heat, making them useful in a variety of applications. Asbestos is often used in insulation, brakes, and flooring. When it is broken up, it forms a dust. If the dust enters the lungs or stomach, it causes irritation that will lead to mesothelioma. Doctors and other medical professionals aren’t sure why this happens, but it usually takes upwards of 20 to 60 years for mesothelioma to form. However, many people who inhale asbestos do not develop mesothelioma.
As is the case with other illnesses, the probability of developing mesothelioma can be inherited. If a parent, grandparent, or sibling developed mesothelioma, you may be at an increased risk.
Radiation therapy to the chest
If you had radiation therapy for cancer in the chest, there is a chance that you have an increased risk of developing mesothelioma.
Symptoms vary depending on where the cancer is.
Pleural mesothelioma occurs in the lungs, and symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Painful coughing
- Shortness of breath
- Unexplained weight loss
- Irregular lumps of tissue under the chest
Peritoneal mesothelioma occurs in the tissue of the abdomen, and symptoms include:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal swelling
When should you see a doctor?
If you see any of these signs or symptoms, be sure to consult your doctor. Mesothelioma is an extremely rare disease, and any symptoms can be caused by other conditions. It is also important to consult your doctor if you’ve had asbestos exposure. Addressing symptoms as soon as possible can greatly increase life expectancy with mesothelioma and help your doctor treat you more effectively. The sooner symptoms are identified and treated, the more likely you will benefit from a better quality of life.
What you can do to reduce your risk
There are many ways you can take caution to prevent exposure to asbestos and subsequently reduce your risk of developing mesothelioma.
Find out whether or not you work near asbestos
Many people undergo asbestos exposure while working. Some professions that work with asbestos include:
- Home remodelers
Follow your employer’s safety regulations
Safety regulations in the workplace are given for a reason. Make sure that if it is required, you are wearing protective equipment and practicing proper hygiene. You can also ask your doctor about other ways you can limit your exposure.
Practice caution around asbestos in the home
Do not try to remove asbestos if you are not a qualified professional. Breaking up asbestos causes the fibers to go airborne, which can be inhaled and cause mesothelioma. Consult trained experts to remove asbestos.