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Dangers of Asbestos and Mesothelioma

The Dangers of Asbestos and Mesothelioma
What is Mesothelioma?
Malignant mesothelioma is a rare cancer that develops in the mesothelium, the protective
linings that cover various organs.
This type of cancer most commonly affects the linings of the lungs (pleura) or abdomen
(peritoneum). In rare cases, mesothelioma tumors can grow in the linings of the heart
(pericardium) or testes (tunica vaginalis).
Only around 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year. The most common
type of this condition is pleural mesothelioma, accounting for 80% of all cases. Peritoneal
mesothelioma accounts for 10% of all cases, whereas pericardial and testicular mesothelioma
make up a very small percentage of cases.
What Causes Mesothelioma?
Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma. Asbestos is a naturally-occurring
mineral that resists exposure to fire, sound, water, and chemicals. It is composed of millions of
fibers, which bind together to create a light yet virtually indestructible material.
When asbestos products are disturbed, the fibers may be inhaled or ingested. Then, the
asbestos fibers may lodge themselves into the tissue linings of various organs. Once the fibers
become stuck, they damage healthy tissue. In some cases, this tissue damage causes
cancerous tumors to form.
It can take 20-50 years of irritation from asbestos fibers before the symptoms of mesothelioma
become noticeable. By this point, the cancer may have spread throughout the body.
Most cases of mesothelioma are not diagnosed until after the cancer has spread to other areas
in the body, making it harder to treat. However, if mesothelioma is caught early on, patients may
be able to live several years after their diagnosis.
From the 1930s to the early 1980s, asbestos was widely used in several industries and the
military. Therefore, many mesothelioma patients are U.S. military veterans or blue-collar
workers. Loved ones of those exposed to asbestos were also at-risk of developing
mesothelioma due to secondhand exposure.
Mesothelioma Treatment Options
The two categories for malignant mesothelioma treatment include curative and palliative
treatment. Curative treatments are given to help extend a patient’s lifespan, whereas palliative
treatments manage symptoms and reduce discomfort. Doctors generally use the same
mesothelioma treatments to achieve curative or palliative goals.
The three most common types of mesothelioma treatment include chemotherapy, radiation, and
Mesothelioma specialists will often prescribe multimodal therapy, which is a combination of
multiple types of mesothelioma treatment. Customized treatment plans are designed to help you
live as long as possible.
Researchers continue to study new ways to treat mesothelioma through clinical trials including
immunotherapy, gene therapy, target therapy, and more.

About 30% of annual mesothelioma claims come from veterans.

The military employed the widespread use of asbestos between the 1930s and 1980s. Many valued the material for its heat-resistant properties. Asbestos was present in everything from insulation to shipbuilding. Each branch of the military used asbestos.

Those in the Navy were particularly at risk. Shipbuilding and maintenance required large quantities of asbestos. Veterans who worked in shipyards faced significant asbestos exposure.
Epithelial or epithelioid mesothelioma cancer is the most common of this cancer’s three cell types. The epithelium is a protective layer of cells that line the outer surface of organs, blood vessels and cavities. Asbestos fibers irritate these cells and are the primary cause of epithelioid mesothelioma.
Epithelioid mesothelioma symptoms often include cough, shortness of breath and lack of appetite. As the disease progresses, more severe symptoms may surface. Many symptoms depend on tumor location and size.
Best cancer centers for veterans: The Veterans Administration network includes hospitals on par with the nation’s top facilities focusing on mesothelioma treatment. Top mesothelioma cancer centers offer multidisciplinary care from experienced mesothelioma specialists who provide personalized care to each patient. Many centers have dedicated mesothelioma programs. Patients who get treatment at mesothelioma cancer centers report better outcomes.