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Asbestos: The Cause of Mesothelioma
13.05.2017 10:26

If your loved one has been diagnosed with asbestos related cancers such as mesothelioma and asbestosis, you may think about getting legal advice. Legal settlements can often reach 5 million dollars.

 

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer in where cancerous cells are found in the lining of the lungs (mesothelium), abdomen, or heart. Mesothelium is a protective sac, which covers most of internal organs. The majority of the people who are diagnosed with mesothelioma worked on jobs that are related to asbestos.

 

What is exactly mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a disease that is caused by abnormal and uncontrollable growth and division of cells. These cells can damage nearby organs and tissues. The cancer cells can also spread from an area into the other parts of the body. Most of the cases of mesothelioma started in the peritoneum or pleura.

 

What is the mesothelium?

It is a membrane that protects and covers most internal organs in our body. Mesothelium contains of two cell layers; a layer that surrounds the organ and the other form of sac surrounding it. It produces a lubricating fluid that can be released between these layers that allows moving organs to glide easily through adjacent structures.

 

There are several names of mesothelium, depending on the location of it in the human’s body.

 

  • The peritoneum is mesothelial tissues that cover most organs in the abdominal cavity.
  • The pleura is a membrane that protects our lungs and also the wall lining of the chest cavity.
  • The pericardium protects and covers the heart.
  • Mesothelial tissues surround the male reproductive organs, which are called the tunica vaginalis testis.
  • The reproductive organs in female are covered by the tunica serosa uteri covers.

 

Is mesothelioma common?

Even though many reports revealed that the incidence rates of mesothelioma have increased tremendously in the past 20 years, it is still categorised as a rare cancer. Around 2000 mesothelioma cases are found in the US each year. It occurs more often in men rather in women and the risk increases with age. However, mesothelioma can appear in either women or men at any age.

 

Risk factors of mesothelioma

Asbestos is one of many causes of mesothelioma. The history of asbestos exposure at workplace is reported in around 70-80% of all cases. Though, mesothelioma has been reported to affect people who have never been exposed to asbestos before.

 

Asbestos is a group of mineral that is occurring naturally as flexible, strong fibres that can be divided into thin woven and threads. It has been widely used in many housing material products and also industrial products such as roof shingles, brake linings, cement, textiles, flooring products, and insulation.

 

If asbestos particles become airborne, especially during the manufacturing process of it, the fibres can be swallowed or inhaled, thus causing severe health problems. Besides mesothelioma, exposure to this toxic material can increase the risk of asbestosis, lung cancer, and other cancers such as kidney and larynx cancer.

 

Several reports stated that smoking does not increase the risk of mesothelioma. However, the combination of asbestos exposure and smoking can significantly increases an individual’s risk of developing lung cancer.

 

How asbestos causes cancer?

Mesothelioma often develops after people are being exposed to asbestos in their workplace – in shipyards, industrial settings, repair shops, schools, public buildings, and old houses. While it often takes long term exposure for an individual to be at risk of mesothelioma, one time and short time exposure are also known to cause it.

 

Asbestos may cause health complications when activities or work duties disturb asbestos materials and thus generate fibres into the air. When we swallow or inhale these tiny fibres, our bodies struggle and try to get rid of the fibres from the body. Over many decades, the fibres within the body trigger biological changes, which cause scarring, inflammation, genetic damage that can lead to cancer. The time between exposure and diagnosis is called the latency period.

 

The fibres are most often become trapped in the pleura, which is the lining of the lungs. They can also be trapped in the linings of the heart (pericardium) and the abdominal cavity (peritoneum).

 

How is it diagnosed?

Biopsy: If the cancer is suspected, doctors will often take tissue samples, which are also known as biopsy. They use the tissue sample to confirm the presence of cancer cells within the body.

Imaging scans: Most of the people undergo a basic x-ray test to check for abnormalities. If abnormal growth is found, doctors will perform a detailed imaging scan such as by using CT scan, MRI, or PET scan.

Blood tests: Blood tests however cannot confirm the presence of mesothelioma cells. Research is underway to determine if blood tests can help in early diagnosis for former asbestos workers.

Staging: There are more than 5 staging systems used by doctors to stage mesothelioma. The most commonly used is the IMIG staging system. There are no universal staging system for other cancer’s types. 

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