The Mesothelioma Basics
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that attacks the mesothelium, which is the inner lining that surrounds the organs. The leading cause of this disease is asbestos exposure.
The disease develops when unsuspecting workers breathe in asbestos fibers. These fibers get lodge in the lungs and remain there undetected for decades. The disease is often not diagnosed until it is in the late state, limiting life-saving treatment options. Up to 30 percent of all mesothelioma victims have served in the military. From the 1930′s through the 1970′s, the U.S. Navy required asbestos to be used in all of its vessels because of its fire, chemical and heat resistance and insulating capacities.
Railroad workers, ship and boat laborers, steel mill workers and school employees are also at a high risk. The risk is not limited to those who have direct contact with machinery or asbestos-containing products. In many cases, secretaries, supervisors and managers are exposed to asbestos. Family members are also vulnerable to asbestos through second-hand exposure. It takes between 20 to 50 years for the first signs and symptoms of the disease to develop.
Malignant pleural mesothelioma is a rare, aggressive cancer that develops in the thin layer of tissue surrounding the lungs known as the pleura. The disease is caused primarily by the inhalation of microscopic asbestos fibers. Once these fibers are inhaled, they can become lodged in the lining around the lungs. The fibers accumulate in the body, and cause cellular and genetic damage that can ultimately lead to cancer.
It’s the most common of the four types of mesothelioma, accounting for about 75 percent of all cases diagnosed annually in the U.S. More than 2,000 people are diagnosed with this pleural cancer each year.
A majority of these cases are traced to occupational exposure to asbestos, which put factory workers, shipyard workers, mechanics and construction workers at the highest risk. Keep in mind, it can take anywhere from 10 to 50 years after exposure for the cancer to develop.