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Mesothelioma Cancer - A Slow and Silent Killer

  • Synopsis: Published: 2011-06-15 - Mesothelioma a once rare type of cancer primarily caused by exposure to asbestos is becoming a household name - Dallas W. Hartman P.C..

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Although asbestos has been banned from widespread use in the United States, the extremely long development period of mesothelioma has resulted in a boon of diagnoses.

Mesothelioma, a once rare type of cancer - primarily caused by exposure to asbestos - is becoming a household name.

The medical industry journal, Environmental Health Perspectives, recently released the results of a groundbreaking study that for the first time directly links a geographical area's prevalence of asbestos use to mesothelioma-related deaths. Not surprisingly, the countries in the world with the highest use of asbestos - America, Russia, the United Kingdom, Japan and Germany - report the highest number of fatal asbestos-related cancers among their citizens.

Due to the decades-long period between prolonged asbestos exposure and the onset of symptomatic mesothelioma, it is difficult to determine a truly accurate estimate of the number of deaths linked to this invasive type of cancer. However, the Environmental Health Perspectives study indicates that for every four-to-five cases of mesothelioma that are detected, at least one other case stays unreported. This means that thousands of people have likely died from a disease they didn't even know they had.

What is Asbestos

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), asbestos is the generic name given to a group of minerals used in numerous industrial settings for the purposes of fireproofing, temperature regulation and preventing corrosion. Its various purposes were first realized in the early 1900s, and it was subsequently used in nearly 100 countries around the world for the greater part of the twentieth century due to its easy availability, low cost, durability and versatility. Asbestos was used in a number of different industries, including vehicle manufacturing, construction and oil drilling.

The wide range of uses for asbestos means that millions of people were exposed to it during the heyday of its industrial presence, including people working in such varying occupations as:

  • Mechanics
  • Custodians
  • Car builders
  • Construction/demolition workers
  • Shipyard workers responsible for the construction, renovation or demolition of shipping vessels

What Are the Consequences of Asbestos Exposure

Until recent years, the most frequently diagnosed asbestos-related ailment was asbestosis, a condition in which the inhalation of microscopic asbestos fibers caused scarring in the lungs of the affected person. Asbestosis results in symptoms similar to those suffered by miners affected by so-called "black lung": chronic cough, lowered blood oxygen levels and gradual loss of lung function. It often results in disability and sometimes advances to the point of death.

As both science and time have progressed, however, mesothelioma is rapidly becoming the most prevalent asbestos-related illness. Although asbestos has been banned from widespread use in the United States since the early 1970s (and much of the world has followed suit), the extremely long development period of mesothelioma - the disease can take between 20 and 50 years to fully manifest itself - has resulted in a boon of diagnoses.

There are three main types of mesothelioma:

  • Pleural - primarily affecting the lung and chest regions, pleural mesothelioma is the most common type, accounting for about 60 percent of all cases
  • Peritoneal - thickening of the peritoneal lining in the abdominal cavity, affecting the abdominal region and internal organs
  • Pericardial - affecting the pericardial sac (the protective covering of the heart), this type of mesothelioma causes a thickening of the lining of the pericardium and fluid buildup inside the sac

What Kinds of Symptoms Does Mesothelioma Cause

Depending on the location of the cancer, the symptoms can vary, but the following have been reported by pleural mesothelioma victims:

  • Night sweats
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Lumps in the chest area
  • Spontaneous weight loss
  • Persistent chest/rib pain, often worse when taking deep breaths
  • Chronic non-productive cough with accompanying shortness of breath

Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma are primarily felt in the abdominal/intestinal area and include:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Lumps in the torso area
  • Abdominal swelling and/or pain
  • Significant, unexplained weight loss
  • Unexplained nausea and/or vomiting
  • Significant change in bowel habits including sudden-onset diarrhea or constipation

Pericardial mesothelioma is still relatively rare, accounting for only about five percent of all diagnosed cases, and less information is known about symptoms that are specific to this disease.

Diagnosed patients have reported a number of common ailments including:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Pain in the chest
  • Irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
  • Shortness of breath when resting made worse by activity

Workers who currently work in or have worked in shipyards, refineries, chemical plants, power-generating facilities, mines and factories are at risk of exposure to asbestos. Because of that, they are at risk for developing asbestosis, mesothelioma or other asbestos-related occupational diseases. If you or a loved one has suffered prolonged asbestos exposure and are now dealing with irreparable health damage, contact an experienced defective products attorney in your area to learn more about your legal rights and options.

Article provided by Dallas W. Hartman P.C. - Visit us at

Related Information:

  1. Pleural Mesothelioma
  2. Peritoneal Mesothelioma Information
  3. Smoking and Mesothelioma Risks

Information from our Mesothelioma: Symptoms, Signs & Information section - (Full List).

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