Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer almost exclusive to asbestos exposure. This is the most serious of the asbestos-related cancers, and may develop from exposures ranging from heavy, daily exposure to minimal exposure. While the latency period of from 20 to 50 years or more is a medical fact, it is often difficult for victims and their families to imagine that this can occur after so long a period of time.
Mesothelioma originates in the sac lining of the chest (pleura) or the abdomen (peritoneum). In the advanced stages of the disease, it is possible to have both pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma. Although mesothelioma is not curable, early detection is a factor in having a choice in treatment options. Mesothelioma specialists and world-class cancer centers, as well as new surgical approaches, chemotherapy drugs and ongoing clinical research all play an important part in helping extend life expectancy and in increasing quality of life.
The early symptoms of mesothelioma are generally non-specific, and may lead to a delay in diagnosis. Sometimes resembling viral pneumonia, symptoms of pleural mesothelioma may include shortness of breath, chest pain and/or persistent cough. A chest x-ray may show a build-up of fluid called pleural effusion. Less common symptoms are fever, night sweats and weight loss. Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma may include pain or swelling in the abdomen due to a build-up of fluid, nausea, weight loss, bowel obstruction, anemia or swelling of the feet. It is important to keep in mind that these symptoms may be caused by mesothelioma or by other less serious diseases. Only your doctor can make a definitive diagnosis, and while mesothelioma may be suspected by using imaging techniques such as x-rays or CT scans, in most cases it can only be confirmed through a tissue biopsy.
Traditional approaches such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are most commonly used in the treatment of mesothelioma, however, multi-modality treatments which combine all three methods are now widely accepted. Other still experimental approaches include gene therapy, photodynamic therapy and immunotherapy. There are also a number of promising new drugs being evaluated in the clinical trial system.
Asbestos is the most common industrial substance known to cause lung cancer. When asbestos fibers break apart, microscopic particles are released into the air. These fibers are easily inhaled and can lodge in the lungs, damaging cells and increasing the risk of cancer. The risk of asbestos-related lung cancer is substantially higher for those who were, or are now smokers, as opposed to those who have never smoked.
Symptoms of lung cancer include persistent cough, coughing up blood, chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, repeated pneumonia or bronchitis, fatigue, loss of appetite or weight loss.
Options for the treatment of lung cancer depend on factors such as the size, location and type of the cancer, and the overall health of the patient. As with all cancers, early diagnosis may be the most important element in a successful treatment program.
Asbestosis is a form of diffuse pulmonary fibrosis caused exclusively by inhaling asbestos fiber. It is a chronic and irreversible lung condition characterized by scarring of the lower lobes of the lungs, leading to a decrease in healthy tissue. As a result, the lungs become stiff and do not allow for normal expansion and contraction.
Symptoms may include shortness of breath, coughing, tightness in the chest, chest pain, a crackling sound in the chest or clubbing of the fingers. Diagnosis of asbestosis is generally made through a chest x-ray, with the films interpreted by a Certified B-reader, or through a high resolution CT scan.
Since asbestosis is a progressive disease, monitoring on a regular basis is essential following a diagnosis. If the disease worsens, inhalers or oxygen may be necessary to alleviate discomfort.
Early Detection of asbestos diseases