Last Friday, September 26th marked Mesothelioma Awareness Day, and to recognise this Mesothelioma.com got in touch a while back, asking if I'd like to help them raise a further awareness of Mesothelioma, the dangers of asbestos and other asbestos-related diseases. 

Below is a summary as to what the day's all about:

Mesothelioma Awareness Day (MAD) strives to inform others about this rare cancer caused by asbestos. 

The ramifications of asbestos exposure have lasted far past its first connection to mesothelioma. It continues to affect people who come in contact with locations, products, or appliances that still contain this fibre. The U.S. continues to allow one per cent of asbestos in construction and other commodities today, though many countries like Australia and the United Kingdom have made complete restrictions. Even though these countries have bans in place, asbestos exposure is still an unfortunate possibility. Asbestos is the leading known cause of mesothelioma and MAD honours those impacted in hopes of completely expunging asbestos use while teaching about this deadly toxin.  

Mesothelioma: What is it?

The ​World Health Organization reports 43,000 people around the world die annually due to mesothelioma, and the UK is one of the countries with the highest rates of mesothelioma diagnoses. Asbestos becomes dangerous when it is inhaled and the fibres lodge inside the inner lining of the heart, lungs, and abdomen. Once embedded in these tissues tumours form overtime. Mesothelioma is known to have an extended latency period and cannot be detected for up to 50 years after initial asbestos exposure. 

Generally, people are most likely to be diagnosed with Pleural Mesothelioma. However, there are four kinds​ of which to be aware:

  • Pleural mesothelioma: This type forms in the lungs, and it is most common because when asbestos surfaces, it becomes airborne and is then inhaled. It may be confused with lung cancer. The symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, and coughing.
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma: Occurs in the abdomen and accounts for roughly 15-20% of all mesothelioma cases. The symptoms associated are loss of weight, stomach pain, bloating, and excess fluid in this area.
  • Pericardial mesothelioma: This kind of mesothelioma affects the lining of the heart. It is one of the rarer types and causes arrhythmia, chest fluid, congestion, and pain. Despite this, it is able to be detected quite early because of its location in such a vital organ.
  • Testicular mesothelioma: This is the rarest of them all, at only one per cent of all mesothelioma cases. The tumour originates within the testicles. Patients experience symptoms like testicular pain, unusual masses, and scrotal swelling from fluid. There may be a more optimal health recovery and life expectancy for these patients.

Who does mesothelioma affect?  

It is critical to recognize those who are affected and to understand how you can prevent mesothelioma in future situations. Primary occupations that had asbestos products or made their employees vulnerable to exposure ranged from hairdressers to firefighters. Jobs at risk include but are not limited to farmers, those in the military, miners, shipyard workers, home renovation professionals, construction workers, engineers, machine operators, industrial workers, and railroad workers. 

Keep in mind that these employees are not exclusive to contracting mesothelioma. Family and friends who are introduced by clothing that the workers might have worn could also get mesothelioma. Second-hand exposure is a potential and frightening threat. Asbestos’ ability to become airborne and stay in the air for up to 72 hours increases the chance of anyone becoming exposed. Mesothelioma is sometimes coined the “old man’s disease” for impacting men more frequently and for appearing later in life. This is a misnomer. Anyone can be exposed by second-hand or third wave exposure, which refers to the disturbance of asbestos in products manufactured long ago. 

Conclusion 

Although mesothelioma is a frightening disease, you should keep in mind that it remains a rare and preventable cancer. There are several steps you can take in order to fight for MAD. 

To start, you can always raise awareness about mesothelioma. Thankfully, asbestos is banned in many countries. However, even in these countries, there are thousands of homes, buildings, and materials where asbestos may still lurk. In a work environment, speak with your superior if you assume that you may be handling asbestos. Wear protective gear when operating machinery. When moving into a new home, check if asbestos remediation has been done before or schedule an abatement professional to take a look. Always be careful and alert in any situation. 

Additionally, there are prevailing treatments for mesothelioma patients. Radiation therapy has shown great success for mesothelioma patients. ​In a recent study​ to prove the efficacy of this treatment, Italian researchers found that 58% of patients survived past the average life expectancy for mesothelioma patients. 

Another success in May 2019, ​completed by the NovoTTF-100L System​, provides an FDA approved treatment for mesothelioma survivors. This system combines chemotherapy with the drug pemetrexed to treat malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM).” The NovoTTF-100L System represents a breakthrough in mesothelioma research because it is the first new FDA approved treatment for MPM patients in over 15 years. Studies are still ongoing, but 62% of MPM patients using this treatment have made it past the one-year survival mark. 

Bioprinting allows further hope​ for patients that may someday receive exact-match, custom-made organs from machines using their cells to fabricate new tissue. Mesothelioma patients will benefit greatly because traditional therapy does not always fully remove the tumour. 

Studies are being done to make more headway than ever for mesothelioma patients. For patients, the road to recovery is optimistic, though current patients will still need to undergo a traditional medical regimen: chemotherapy, surgery, or drugs. Mesothelioma Awareness Day leads the movement in an endeavour to end mesothelioma. Celebrating this holiday brings awareness to research and with these treatments and more coming out change is possible. 

Questions about mesothelioma? Would you like to talk to others affected by the cancer? Then join the Community's Mesothelioma group.